Valentino Rossi became the first ever winner of a MotoGP event in China as he took an authoritative victory in torrentially wet conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday. Rossi took the lead from Kenny Roberts on the fifth lap after the Suzuki rider suffered from a mechanical problem, opening up a clear gap over the rest of the field and looking comfortable until a thrilling finale.
Surprisingly the man to challenge Rossi with a late charge was Olivier Jacque, returning to MotoGP as a replacement for the injured Alex Hofmann at Kawasaki to score his first podium in the class. With seven laps to go Jacque overcame Sete Gibernau in second place and closed in on the World Champion at the front, taking chunks out of the Italian's lead with every lap but running out of time as Rossi took the flag by 1.7 seconds.
"I got off to a good start in the race and I was quite surprised to be at the front so quickly," explained Rossi after the race. "There was a lot of water on the track so I had to keep my concentration at 100%. When I saw Olivier's name on my pit board I didn't understand who it was because they only put an 'O' on there. I thought "who is O?". I thought perhaps it was a Chinese rider - then I realised it was OJ!. At the end of the race he was faster than me but I managed to keep out front and win the race."
Gibernau's disappointment at losing out on second place was compounded on the last lap when he conceded third to his team-mate Marco Melandri after apparently suffering with a mechanical problem. Melandri's second podium of the season moves him up to second place in the championship, 25 points adrift of Rossi, whilst fourth place for Gibernau means he is now fifth overall behind Alex Barros and Max Biaggi, who finished eleventh and fifth respectively today.
Jurgen Van Den Goorbergh capped a day full of surprises as he clinched sixth place on his return to MotoGP as a replacement for the injured Makoto Tamada on the Honda. The Dutchman held off a late charge from John Hopkins, who previously ran off the track after leading the race on the opening lap, fighting back to take a creditable seventh. Colin Edwards, Nicky Hayden and Rubén Xaus completed the top ten.
Casey Stoner took his second successive victory in the 250cc class after a close battle with Andrea Dovizioso. Stoner made a poor start from pole position but recovered to take the lead by the end of the opening lap and never looked back. Dovizioso stalked the Australian all the way to the line but was happy to settle for a second place finish that lifts him above Dani Pedrosa to the top of the championship standings. Stoner also moved ahead of Pedrosa to second place overall, with the defending World Champion dropping to third after taking sixth place today. Hiroshi Aoyama clinched his first podium of the season in third after Randy De Puniet retired with a technical problem, with Alex de Angelis and Sebastián Porto completing the top five.
Mattia Pasini clinched his first victory in a 125cc rain delayed for half an hour by standing water on the track surface. Pasini led for the majority of the race in a close battle with fellow Italian Fabrizio Lai, taking the flag by just 0.065 seconds after overtaking his compatriot in the final corner. Gabor Talmacsi took his first podium in third whilst eleventh place for his team-mate Mika Kallio was enough to maintain the championship lead by a single point from Lai.
Source: DORNA COMMUNICATIONS
Photo: Gauloises Yamaha Team Press Office