Valentino Rossi took his first win of the season at the Gran Premio bwin.com de España on Sunday, beating Dani Pedrosa to the line by a 2.7s margin in front of a huge Spanish crowd of more than 123,000 fans in Andalusia.
Pedrosa led for the first half of the race having made one of his trademark strong starts from second on the grid, but Rossi took the lead with ten laps to go and did not look back there and his triumph gives him an 11 point lead in the general standings.
The rostrum was completed by Casey Stoner, who trailed Rossi by 10 seconds – the Ducati Marlboro rider moving into second place in the championship. It was the Australian’s first podium appearance at the southern Spanish track on any category.
As was the case in the 250cc and 125cc races, the Spanish rider who got underway in pole position crashed out in MotoGP. Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo lost control riding in fourth place with three laps to go, losing ground in the championship race after coming into the weekend as the series leader.
An excellent performance from Randy de Puniet, meanwhile, saw the Frenchman bring his LCR Honda satellite machine home in fourth place, having qualified in fifth, to give himself a confidence boost ahead of his home GP at Le Mans in two weeks time.
Another fine run from Marco Melandri gave the Italian another good points haul in fifth, improving upon his good result from last weekend in Japan for the Kawasaki-equipped Hayate Racing team.
Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi rode steadily from sixth on the grid to maintain the position meaning that five different manufacturers were represented in the top six.
Monster Tech Yamaha’s Colin Edwards crossed the line seventh, whilst Andrea Dovizioso did well to finish eighth in his third ride for the factory Repsol Honda team -having left the track at one stage due to a lack of grip. Toni Elías was the second best Spaniard in ninth for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team, with the top ten completed by Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen.
Sete Gibernau -on his return to Jerez for his first race at the track since 2006- could only manage 11th for the Grupo Francisco Hernando team, whilst former World Champion Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro) crossed the line 15th.
There was a brilliant battle between four riders at the front of the 250cc race, with Scot Racing team’s Hiroshi Aoyama ultimately emerging on top, holding off the advances of Álvaro Bautista right at the death.
The lead changed hands continuously throughout the race between Aoyama, Bautista and Metis Gilera’s World Champion Marco Simoncelli – the Italian falling away slightly in the final laps to eventually come home third.
Aoyama outfought Bautista on the very last corner, the Japanese rider beating the Spaniard in his home race just as the Aprilia man had done to the Honda equipped Aoyama last week at Motegi. Aoyama now holds the championship lead by four points from Mapfre Aspar rider Bautista.
As the front four crossed the line within three seconds of each other, Simoncelli completed the podium ahead of fourth placed Héctor Barberá (Pepe World Team Aprilia), the Italian finishing 0.063s ahead of the Spaniard. A close battle for fifth place was won by Thomas Luthi (Emmi – Caffe Latte) who beat Mattia Pasini (Team Toth Aprilia) to the line by 0.004s.
Bancaja Aspar’s team Bradley Smith earned his first ever win on the 50th time of asking in the 125cc class.
There was heartbreak for poleman and home rider Julián Simón who suffered a nasty highside on lap five when running in second place and an accident on the first lap for series leader Andrea Iannone (Ongetta Team I.S.P.A) meant Smith went unchallenged en route to victory.
Behind Smith there was a superb race-long battle for the podium with his team-mate Sergio Gadea eventually edging out Marc Márquez (Red Bull KTM) to make it a great day for the Spanish team and for those two Spanish riders in front of the home fans.
The top five comprised only British and Spanish names in fact as Scott Redding (Blusens Aprilia) and Efrén Vázquez (Derbi Racing Team) crossed the line fractionally behind Gadea and Márquez.
The World Championship returns to action at the Grand Prix de France in a fortnight’s time.