Motorcycling: Pedrosa dominates to close in on Hayden

Dani Pedrosa, the carpenter's son hailed as the next Valentino Rossi, yesterday moved a step closer to converting hype into reality when he won the GAS British MotoGP here on his factory Repsol Honda.

The 20-year-old Spaniard built a comfortable cushion over his pursuers, and shrank the 42-point gap between himself and the championship leader, his team-mate Nicky Hayden, to 26 points. With eight of 17 races remaining, Pedrosa has emerged as a title contender in only his first year on the 990cc MotoGP bikes.

Rossi, the reigning champion, started from the fourth row of the grid after suffering set-up problems with his Camel Yamaha during qualifying and pain from bones in the right wrist fractured in the Netherlands the previous weekend. But with the tenacity and track guile that characterises his riding, Rossi punted past his rivals and survived a last-lap tussle with his fellow Italian Marco Melandri to take second place. This reduced his deficit to Hayden to a manageable 35 points. Melandri was also carrying injuries, suffering pain from the collarbone he damaged two weeks ago when he fell from his Fortuna Honda in Barcelona.

Fans swarmed on to the track on the riders' slowing down lap, forming a narrow channel - Tour de France-style - to slap Rossi on the shoulders as he cruised back to the pits. Pedrosa's mature performance merited equal credit, however.

"This was almost a perfect weekend," he said. "We set the bike up well in qualifying, and at the end of the race I was able to slow down a little."

Rossi said, "We were struggling more with the bike than with my wrist," although he was clutching an ice-pack afterwards. "After I qualified in 12th place we decided to change a lot on the bike. It was a big [gamble], but we risked it."

Australia's Casey Stoner, another 20-year-old enjoying a stunning first season, finished fourth on his LCR Honda, in front of the American Kenny Roberts Jnr on the British-built Team KR211V, a fusion of Honda engine power and Midlands chassis craftsmanship.

Colin Edwards rode his Camel Yamaha into sixth place, ahead of Hayden, who suffered a dismal weekend trying to achieve a good set-up on his Repsol Honda, and then ran on to the grass at the chicane while trying to reach the leaders.

Loris Capirossi, who was leading the championship until he crashed at Barcelona two weeks ago, was, like Rossi and Melandri, unable to shrug off his injuries and brought his Marlboro Ducati into ninth.

The 15-year-old Oxfordshire schoolboy Bradley Smith scored his first world championship points, finishing 12th in the 125cc race for Repsol Honda.

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