Elias wins as Hayden crash gives advantage to Rossi2006-10-15 09:48
Only on the rarest of occasions could anything overshadow this season's stunning 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. As a result of the controversial incident, Valentino Rossi now leads the MotoGP World Championship for the first time this season.
A truly breathtaking bwin.com Grande Premio de Portugal started with Rossi on pole, alongside team-mate Colin Edwards and series leader Hayden. After an epic duel between the leading three and Pedrosa in the early stages, the Spaniard pushed too hard and lost the front going into a left-hand hairpin. The rookie 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 to claim the championship lead 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 powerslid his bike through the corners. 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 third 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 passed on the chicane as Elias tried to hold 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 MotoGP class by 0.002 seconds, leaving Rossi eight points ahead of Hayden in the standings.
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.
The teams will be back in action again in two weeks time, for the all-important final race of the seventeen-round season in Valencia.
The scene has also been set for a final race showdown in the 250cc class, with Andrea Dovizioso taking victory at Portugal with an inspired ride. The Italian's consistency in the category has never been in doubt, but he firmly established himself as a big race rider when the chips were down.
Needing victory to give himself the best possible chance of edging out Jorge Lorenzo for the title this season, Dovizioso proved himself up to the task to take his second victory of 2007. He was given a tough time in the final stages by Hiroshi Aoyama, who was looking for consecutive victories in the quarter-litre category and exchanged a series of daring overtaking manoeuvres with the Humangest Honda rider before finishing second by just 15 thousandths of a second.
Alex de Angelis, still looking for his first victory, stalked the front two waiting to pounce on any mistake, but finally had to settle for yet another podium spot. He came in ahead of Roberto Locatelli, who had led for seven laps after a flying start from pole.
Jorge Lorenzo, who could have crowned himself champion today, wasn't able to achieve the result needed to clinch the crown after coming in fifth, meaning the gap now stands at 12 points. If he is to lift his maiden title this season, then it will come in his homeland at Valencia in two weeks time.
Alvaro Bautista stormed to his eighth victory of the 2006 season with a dominant performance in the final race of the afternoon. The Spaniard who already had the championship title under his belt now becomes the rider to have scored the most points in one season (325) and the most podiums (14).
Over fifteen seconds behind there was a photo finish for second place, with Bautista's teammate Hector Faubel snatching third place on the line from Mika Kallio. The Finn was content nonetheless, as an earlier crash for Mattia Pasini means he is guaranteed as the runner-up in the championship with the battle now on for third place between the Italian and Faubel.
Source: Dorna Communications
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