Valentino Rossi snapped his longest spell without a Moto GP win since his debut top-class season by winning the Chinese Grand Prix yesterday.
The five-time world champion drew away in the final laps on his Fiat Yamaha to finally shake off the challenge of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who was second ahead of reigning world champion Casey Stoner of Ducati Marlboro.
Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo was fourth on his 21st birthday, putting in a brave showing after having chipped his left ankle bone and badly bruising his right leg in a spectacular crash in Friday’s practice.
It was Rossi’s first win since Portugal last season. The seven-race drought was the longest spell without a win for the Italian since his first eight winless races in 2000 — his first season in 500cc, the forerunner to Moto GP.
“I’m very, very happy, as it’s been a long time without victory,” Rossi said. “This was a difficult period. We changed tires and we had to work very hard. I knew that we had good potential and we felt good from Friday.”
He and Pedrosa broke away from the pursuing pack and looked set for a battle to the line before the Italian pulled away with three laps to go. Rossi set a new circuit record in the closing stages — 1 minute, 59.273 seconds.
Pedrosa declared himself happy with second place after the demanding battle with Rossi.
“In the end I just slowed down because I saw that I couldn’t get Valentino, and just decided to keep the engine alive and finish second,” Pedrosa said.
Stoner was less satisfied, left to mull over the choice of a soft compound tire on a track that was wet for the 250cc and 125cc races but was all but dry by the time of the main event.
“I don’t know if we would have been better with a harder compound,” the Australian said. “The team worked hard as always, but we have room to improve and I’m not entirely satisfied with this result.”
Stoner passed pole sitter Colin Edwards in the charge off the grid, but the American regained the lead after the first bend. As Rossi and Pedrosa fought out the lead, Edwards settled into third position but cost himself a podium finish by running very wide on one corner, dropping back to seventh.
Pedrosa’s second place gave him the outright lead in the championship in which the four races have been won by four different riders.