The highly anticipated duel between Fiat Yamaha’s Rossi and Ducati Marlboro’s Stoner lasted only seven laps before Stoner crashed out at the Masaryk Circuit in Brno, Czech Republic.
The two racers continued their battle from their previous race at the Laguna Seca U.S. Grand Prix. Stoner started the Brno race with his sixth consecutive pole position with Rossi second. Stoner was fighting a fever and Rossi suffered from an ear and sinus infection, yet the pair was able to record the top two qualifying times in wet conditions.
Stoner jumped to an early lead from the start of the 22-lap race with Rossi battling Kawasaki Racing’s John Hopkins for second. By the end of the first lap, Stoner extended his lead to 1.1 seconds.
“I lost about half a second getting past Hopkins at the start and Casey was incredibly fast at that stage, like he’d already done ten laps,” says Rossi.
After setting the fastest lap of the race in lap five, Stoner had extended his lead to 1.3 seconds and looked to put more distance between him and Rossi before lowsiding into the gravel on lap seven.
As he did at Laguna Seca, Stoner lost control and spilled into the gravel. Unlike the USGP however, Stoner’s Desmosedici GP8 could not restart, handing the 2007 World Champion his first Did Not Finish since joining the Ducati team.
“Obviously we are all disappointed with this result because our pace in practice was good, everything went very well this morning and we felt we could push out in front. Things were going according to plan until the crash,” says Stoner. “I was doing the same lap time over and over and I was quite happy with the pace I was running. The crash came out of the blue, that corner was an easy one but I lost the front and it happened very quickly, very suddenly and I didn’t manage to save it. It’s a hard one to explain and we will look at the data but sometimes this kind of crash happens at this level of racing and it was my mistake!”
Stoner’s misfortune gave Rossi the lead and, with a 12-second lead over the rest of the field, his fifth win of the season.
“I had closed a little bit already and gradually the red bike was becoming a bit bigger in front of me, and I think this is when he started to push harder and made his mistake,” says Rossi about Stoner’s spill. “I was anticipating a very hard battle if I did catch him, so when I saw the red bike slide out I could hardly believe it - this made things a lot easier for me.
“Of course I can’t count this as a complete victory because Casey fell, and I am sorry for him, but this is racing and I have to be happy with this result.”
Though Stoner did not finish the race, there was another Ducati rider on the podium. Toni Elias of the Ducati satellite Alice Team finished second for his first podium of 2008 despite starting the race 13th on the grid. Stoner’s 2007 teammate, Loris Capirossi, also made his first appearance on the podium of the season, finishing third for Rizla Suzuki.
Also recording their best results of the season were San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Shinya Nakano in fourth and Kawasaki Racing’s Anthony West in fifth.
The MotoGP season will continue Aug. 31 at Ducati’s home circuit at Misano, Italy for the San Marino and Rimini’s Coast Grand Prix.
|MotoGP top five standings|
|1st||Valentino Rossi||Fiat Yamaha||237|
|2nd||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro||187|
|3rd||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||172|
|4th||Jorge Lorenzo||Fiat Yamaha||120|
|5th||Andrea Dovizioso||JiR Team Scot MotoGP||110|