Stoner Cruises to Chinese Win
Rossi's concerns that Ducati will outclass his Yamaha on Shanghai's long straights proved reasonable, as Stoner only needed one lap to get into the lead. As soon as Rossi overtook Hopkins for 1st place, Stoner got right behind him. And the inevitable occurred after only one lap – on the main straight – when Stoner cruised past Rossi to take the lead into the race.
Slowly, but nevertheless strong, Stoner and Rossi got away from the pack after a few laps, as only Suzuki's John Hopkins was to keep eye-contact with the leading duo. Still, despite Ducati's impressive power on the speedy sections of the circuit, Rossi kept the pressure on Stoner for most on the race. More, the Italian studied his rival's every move for 5 or 6 laps, as he finally got Stoner on Lap 11. He did not stay in 1st place too much, since Stoner overtook him immediately during the following straight.
As the two were battling for the lead, John Hopkins was slowly recuperating in the back field. Away from the future podium, Dani Pedrosa managed to secure a poor 4th place for Honda, as Melandri failed to keep the pressure on the Spaniard. Further in the back, Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet tried to keep his 6th place in front of Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen, but his efforts were soon to become useless.
As the two entered the final laps, Rossi admitted defeat and decided not to push his bike over the limit, therefore risking another run-off visit. Stoner clinched the win by a 3-second margin, while Rossi seemed pretty happy with his 2nd place. John Hopkins secured his & his teams' first podium of the season, after being denied of the same performance in Qatar and China.
Dani Pedrosa and Marco Melandri completed the Top 5 in China, as both Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen managed to overtake De Puniet by the finish line. Reigning champion Nicky Hayden ended another race in agony, as the Repsol Honda rider only came 12th at the end of the race.
“If last year someone had told me that at this point of the season I would have won three races I would have laughed! Anyway, today was another perfect day. The pace of the race was incredibly fast and we were really quick on the straights. Again we were able to take this advantage and I could just stay at the front with the lap times we were doing. I was expecting a big fight during the last two laps but after he made his mistake I was able to control the race. It was another fantastic race, like Qatar and Turkey, but we aren't changing our way of thinking. We are working hard, taking it race by race and doing our best every time”, said an overjoyed Casey Stoner at the end of the race.
Rossi, on the other hand, was not too upset with his performance on Sunday, since the Italian had stated before the race that a 2nd place would be great for Yamaha: “I enjoyed today a lot, it was a great race, a really exciting battle and my Yamaha was fantastic to the end. We knew that this track would be difficult for us so to be able to fight with Stoner at 100% for the entire race was a great feeling. Of course it's not a win, but I think second place is a very good result for us here. I didn't want to give up and just ride for second, I wanted to try to pass him and I made some good overtaking maneuvers but wasn't able to stay in front down the straight. Then I made a mistake when I hit a bump when braking, had to release the brake and ran off track. It was a pity, but when you're riding on the limit lap after lap then things like this can happen”.
Despite his joint injury, American John Hopkins managed a great run and scored his first podium in the new 800cc class of the World Championship. The Suzuki rider was thrilled at the end of the race: “I am so happy with the way the race went and I want to dedicate my first podium to my Dad! Without doubt he was watching me and he certainly helped get me through to the finish - there will be more of these to come. I was praying nothing would go wrong in the last two laps - and it didn't so I guess my Dad was looking down on me! Now I can't wait for Le Mans - I'm looking into backing this up with another podium!”.
The next confrontation between Yamaha and Ducati will take place on May 20th, at Le Mans. Rossi will then have the upper hand for the win, since Stoner will not be able to use a lot of Ducati's power on the twisty French venue.