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SHANGHAI 2008: LESSONS FROM THE DOCTOR

08 May 2008 | News

by Viki, D-Club member

Fantastic, outstanding, unique, magnificent, perfect, incomparable: these are the words for Valentino Rossi, author of a textbook race in Shanghai. Lots of people had already considered him out of the running, washed-up, on his last legs, etc. etc. etc. If he doesn’t win in China, the season’s over for him, blah, blah, blah… 
As stubborn as a mule, Vale refuses to buckle under pressure; he knows perfectly well that China will have to be the turning point in the season without hearing it from anyone else. The time trial went well, even if he missed claiming the pole position by a hair. On the other hand, it was far better that the honor went to team-mate and friend, Colin Edwards, than to Casey Stoner or Dani Pedrosa, also because Vale knows that Colin is less likely to maintain the pace for the entire race.
Vale keeps out of the race at the start, letting Edwards take the lead with Pedrosa on Stoner close at his heels. Vale is 4th, but already at the 2nd lap passes Stoner just as Pedrosa passes Edwards. This puts Rossi right behind his former team-mate blocking attacks by others as Dani increases his lead further ahead. Then Vale gets tired of staying behind Colin and passes him in order to begin pursuing Pedrosa. Edwards maintains his 3rd position ahead of the Australian, content to bide his time. A few laps later, Rossi comes up alongside Pedrosa and passes him at the 6th lap, and that’s where he’ll stay for all the remaining 16.

Bringing up the rear from Ravenna is Marco Melandri, who finally seems to have come to terms with his Ducati D16, Jorge Lorenzo, with a fractured left ankle and the other ankle nearly as bad, grits his teeth and battles with Dovizioso, who’s doing everything he can do in order to stay in the ranks of the frontrunners. Loris Capirossi also gains ground. Colin comes up short and gets passed by Stoner and the group behind him that includes Dovizioso, Melandri and Lorenzo. The two front-runners are way out ahead and just keep getting faster and faster; both Valentino and Dani make laps in less than 2' - even the fastest followers can do no better than follow with delays of 1 - 1.5 seconds - times that they hadn’t succeeded in reaching even during the test laps, in this case aided perhaps by improved weather conditions.
Three laps from the end of the race, Valentino decides to make his break and Pedrosa just can’t keep up with him. At the end, Dani just has to accept it: keeping up with Valentino Rossi in such fine is as almost as good as victory, also because Pedrosa is thinking of the points he’ll be adding to his 1st place ranking in the standings.
In the final stretch, Jorge Lorenzo heats up and claims a 4th place finish that looks more like a miracle after his spill on Friday morning. Vale wins, the only one of the contenders for the title who still hadn’t won in these first four races, and if Bridgestone continues providing him with the right guarantees Vale, we can bet that this will be one of the most hotly contested and uncertain championships we’ve ever seen.
With all four of the top ranking racers with victories under their belts and two wins a piece for the tire producers (a victory by Stoner in Qatar with Bridgestone, a victory by Pedrosa in Jerez with Michelin, another victory for Michelin with Lorenzo in Losail, and now another win for Bridgestone by Valentino Rossi), every race now promises to be a real battle.