As Hayden-Pedrosa collision gives advantage to Rossi
Only on the rarest of occasions could anything overshadow the MotoGP title chase, but an incredible maiden victory for Toni Elias might just have done it.
The Spaniard's unbelievable win went against everybody's
expectations, in a race that saw Nicky Hayden's title hopes dented by a crash with team-mate Dani Pedrosa. Valentino Rossi now leads the Championship for the first time this season.
A truly breathtaking race started with Rossi on pole, alongside team-mate Colin Edwards and series leader Hayden. After an epic duel between the leading three and Pedrosa, the Spaniard pushed too hard and slipped under his fellow Repsol Honda rider, taking him out of the race and giving him his first DNF of the season.
A fuming Hayden cursed to the skies as his normal laidback manner went out of the window. Pedrosa made a hasty exit with the backdrop of stunned faces in the Honda garage looking on.
It then seemed a relatively straightforward task for Rossi, as he set about trying to establish a gap. However, Elias stuck with the Italian and passed him on lap 20 as he slid his bike through the corner. A few laps later, the reigning World Champion came back, and Elias lost more ground as Kenny Roberts Jr passed him.
The American, who eventually came in second behind Elias and Rossi, even took the lead on lap 26, but as he battled with the Camel Yamaha rider, Elias burst through from nowhere.
With Rossi eager to take a win, he ran wide on the chicane as Elias held him off, then just ran out of tarmac on the finishing straight as he attempted to clinch victory.
A photo finish confirmed Elias' first win in the Premier Class, leaving Rossi eight points ahead of Hayden in the Championship.
Edwards finished a comfortable fourth, ahead of Makoto Tamada in the Japanese rider's best performance of the season. John Hopkins took sixth, ahead of Carlos Checa on the Spaniard's 34th birthday. Marco Melandri, Chris Vermeulen and Randy de Puniet completed the top ten.
Alongside the Hayden-Pedrosa incident, there were also crashes involving Sete Gibernau and Casey Stoner, who collided early on causing a shoulder injury to the Ducati rider, and Shinya Nakano, who was stretchered off after failing to complete the first lap.
Garry McCoy earned Ilmor their first MotoGP point on their debut performance, despite having to come into the pits on two occasions.
DORNA / CAPSIS International