The Fiat Yamaha rider’s last victory was at Estoril, Portugal, on Sept. 16, 2007. Seven months between victories is a long time for Rossi, a seven-time world champion, including five in the MotoGP class.
The weather threatened to put a damper over the Grand Prix of China as the warm sunny conditions from the qualifying and practice days changed to a heavy rainfall on race-day morning. The rain finally stopped late in the morning and the track was eventually deemed dry enough to race.
Rossi started second on the grid but fell to fourth behind pole-sitter Colin Edwards, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa after the first lap. But Rossi surged on the third lap passing defending Ducati Marlboro’s Stoner and Tech 3 Yamaha’s Edwards. That left Pedrosa of Repsol Honda in Rossi’s sights.
Pedrosa, who entered the race with a share of the lead in the season standings, battled with Rossi from lap to lap, but Rossi managed edge out in front on the ninth lap and assumed control. Pedrosa would not let Rossi pull away however, staying within a half a second behind Rossi for until lap 19 when Pedrosa began to trail off. Pedrosa would finish 3.890 seconds off the lead.
Through their chase, the two clocked under the two-minute mark, with Rossi setting a new track record with a time of 1:59.273 on lap 18. The rest of the field was well behind, with lap times over the two-minute mark.
Defending champion Stoner finished in third, returning to the podium for the first time in three races.
Finishing behind him in fourth in a heroic race on his 21st birthday was Jorge Lorenzo, of Fiat Yamaha.
Lorenzo entered the week with a share of the lead with Pedrosa, but he chipped a bone in his left ankle after taking a huge highside during the opening practice session on Friday. Many did not expect him to race following the crash, but he surprised them by not only showing up but finishing one spot off of the podium.
“Without a doubt, this result today is like a victory for me. On Friday I couldn’t imagine being able to ride, then yesterday it was a little bit better and then finally today I was not able just to ride, but to be competitive and enjoy myself as well," says Lorenzo. "I've ridden with a lot of pain in both legs but the staff of the Clinica Mobile made it possible for me to keep going, so I want to thank them.”
Because of the morning rainfall, most racers started the race with a softer compound than the ones used in the practice sessions. Rossi and Stoner went with slick medium tires for both the front and the rear while Pedrosa went with the same tires he used on Saturday. The track temperature was 23 degrees cooler on Sunday than on Saturday.
|1.||Valentino Rossi||Fiat Yamaha||44:08.061|
|2.||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+3.890|
|3.||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro||+15.928|
|4.||Jorge Lorenzo||Fiat Yamaha||+22.494|
|5.||Marco Melandri||Ducati Marlboro||+26.957|