Stoner nips Rossi for Catalunyan victory

Casey Stoner -- at the wheel of his works Marlboro Ducati -- scored a fantastic victory today in the Catalunyan Grand Prix after a head-to-head fight to the finish with Valentino Rossi on the Fiat Yamaha in the seventh round of the FIM Road...

Casey Stoner -- at the wheel of his works Marlboro Ducati -- scored a fantastic victory today in the Catalunyan Grand Prix after a head-to-head fight to the finish with Valentino Rossi on the Fiat Yamaha in the seventh round of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP).

"Today was another great race for us, I'm still not thinking about the championship, maybe later in the season we can really start aiming for that," Stoner said.

The podium was completed by Dani Pedrosa, who also fought for the victory in the Repsol Honda in his home Grand Prix.

Stoner won by just 0.069s over Rossi after 25 laps of a hard fight that included Pedrosa, third at the chequered flag, adrift of the Aussie by 0.390s on the Circuit de Catalunya. The drama was witnessed by a crowd of more than 110,000 spectators present in Barcelona, Spain.

"There were some nice passing maneuvers going on everywhere," commented Stoner on the three-way battle. "All three of us had our strong points and our weak points around the circuit, I was just trying to minimism my weak points and cover my lines, and it worked out."

The Australian rider produced one of the best performances of his career in the hot Spanish afternoon, closely contesting the race lead with five-time former premier class world champion Rossi in an enthralling duel.

"It was such a close race, no one could go away, it was very, very enjoyable to be racing that close," expressed Stoner. "The way the team has set up the bike for me is fantastic, and the Bridgestones worked great again, at a circuit where they've struggled in the past, so they've really changed things around."

In the first part of the competition it was all between Stoner and Pedrosa while Rossi was recovering from a bad start, after taking the pole position yesterday.

Once the Italian managed to catch up with the young riders, Rossi indicated his attack to take the lead, which he would finally achieve, but was never able to build a difference over Stoner.

"It really was an amazing battle to the end with many wonderful overtaking manoeuvres by both of us in all different parts of the track," said Rossi. "It was a great fight and honestly I couldn't have tried harder to win, but (Stoner) was a very hard rival."

Indeed, Stoner took good advantage of the Ducati's engine on the long straight on the Barcelona circuit to pressure Rossi and jump to the lead on several occasions.

The Ducati Marlboro would finally pass Rossi for good with two laps to go. That would be the last change for the leadership in Catalunya, despite the attacks of the five-time MotoGP world champion until the chequered flag. ""It was really good because our bike was set up quite well for the braking points, so for Valentino to pass us he usually had to run wide and we were able to pass him back immediately a lot of times."

Pedrosa gave it his all to notch the victory at the end, but the Spaniard always seemed to need a little more of speed to jump, at least, over Rossi's position.

There was another decent points haul for Rizla Suzuki's John Hopkins who repeated his fourth place from Catalunya last year, while a brave ride from Kawasaki's injured Randy de Puniet saw him secure his best-ever MotoGP result in fifth as the top five comprised riders representing five different constructors.

Current world champion, Nicky Hayden, had another frustrated journey after he crossed the line 11th, after qualifying seventh yesterday.

In the championship Stoner now leads with 14 points over Rossi, 140 to 126. Third place belongs to Pedrosa with 98 units.

Next round for the Continental Circus will be on June 24th with the British Grand Prix in Donington Park.

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