Rossi dominates after Stoner crashes
|By Simon Strang||Sunday, August 17th 2008, 12:48 GMT|
Valentino Rossi took full advantage of Casey Stoner's misfortune in Brno to score his fifth win of the season and extend his championship lead to a formidable 50 points over the Australian.
The Yamaha star was gifted a dominant lead after the world champion fell off his Ducati for the second consecutive race, while out in front on lap seven.
Once in front, it never looked like anyone else's race and Rossi romped to an easy and unchallenged victory, while all his title rivals failed to score significant points.
For Stoner and the factory Ducati team, the race was an unmitigated disaster. Having dominated the pace all weekend, he stormed into the lead at the start, helped by Kawasaki's John Hopkins, who briefly got ahead of and held up Rossi.
Stoner then quickly established a second's cushion to the Yamaha and looked well capable of maintaining it when he fell off.
The champion, who has been feeling under the weather all weekend, had expressed his concerns yesterday at his lack of dry running and wondered publicly whether his set-up and tyres would last the race.
Whatever the reason for the fall, it ended a run of six podiums that dates back to Mugello in May, and has seriously dented his chances of recovering the points deficit that built up during Ducati's early season slump.
It wasn't all bad news for the Italian manufacturer however, as Toni Elias took a well-deserved, if thoroughly unexpected, second place.
Behind the latest episode of the Stoner/Rossi show, all hell broke loose as a host of Bridgestone-shod riders made the most of Michelin's uncompetitiveness at Brno, producing a thrilling battle for second which was won by the impressive Elias.
The Spaniard, still without a ride for 2008 and rumoured to be World Superbike-bound next year, stormed through from 13th on the grid and made short work of a gaggle of bikes that included both works Suzukis and Kawasakis to deliver the Alice (formerly D'Antin) team's best result as a privateer Ducati squad.
Loris Capirossi produced a typically feisty performance for Suzuki on his return to full fitness. The 35-year-old veteran forced his way past both Hopkins and teammate Chris Vermuelen to establish himself in third.
The Italian could do nothing to stop Elias taking second, but then again neither could anybody else.
Shinya Nakano finished fourth on the Gresini-run factory pneumatic valve-engined Honda. The Japanese had a dreadful start that initially dropped him out of the top ten from eighth on the grid, but once he got into his stride only Rossi lapped faster as he made his way through the pack.
Anthony West finished fifth and did well to maintain that position from the start. He was always a part of that gaggle for second and delivered his most convincing performance of the season.
Vermeulen faded to sixth in the end, while Marco Melandri staged a late charge to finish seventh - his best dry weather performance since China at the start of the year.
Alex de Angelis finished eighth, getting the better of Andrea Dovizioso late-on - the Italian the best of the Michelin riders in ninth.
Jorge Lorenzo recovered from his disastrous qualifying session to eventually finish tenth as Hopkins faded away towards the end of the race, his still-recovering knee no doubt causing him problems.
Of the stragglers, Dani Pedrosa's plight was the most significant. The Repsol Honda rider struggled to find any pace at all this weekend, and though his damaged wrist contributed to that, so bad was the bike on its tyres that he was forced to pit and make changes during the race.
The only person he beat to the flag was Randy de Puniet, who fell mid-race to record his fourth accident of the weekend.
Pos Rider Bike Tyre Gap 1. Valentino Rossi Yamaha (B) 43:28.841 2. Toni Elias Ducati (B) +15.004 3. Loris Capirossi Suzuki (B) +21.689 4. Shinya Nakano Honda (B) +25.859 5. Anthony West Kawasaki (B) +29.465 6. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki (B) +30.608 7. Marco Melandri Ducati (B) +36.453 8. Alex de Angelis Honda (B) +36.750 9. Andrea Dovizioso Honda (M) +38.822 10. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha (M) +39.573 11. John Hopkins Kawasaki (B) +39.610 12. Sylvain Guintoli Ducati (B) +40.892 13. James Toseland Yamaha (M) +1:11.490 14. Colin Edwards Yamaha (M) +1:21.133 15. Dani Pedrosa Honda (M) +1:37.038 16. Randy de Puniet Honda (M) +1:38.407 Retirements Casey Stoner Ducati (B) 6 laps Fastest lap, Stoner 1:57.199 on lap 5