Motorcycling: Rossi magic puts heat on Hayden

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Valentino Rossi yesterday demonstrated why he is a motorcycling legend despite being under 30 by wresting victory in the German MotoGP in Berlin from a situation that had looked desperate at the end of qualifying.

Dani Pedrosa, the 20-year-old Spaniard who won the previous round in Britain two weeks ago, had qualified on pole for the fourth time this season on his Repsol Honda, and looked set to record his third victory. Rossi had to start from the fourth row after his technicians had been unable to find a good set-up on qualifying tyres for his Camel Yamaha. But he attacked the 2.284-mile Sachsenring circuit with typical aggression and needed less than half the race distance to capture the lead from Marco Melandri on his Fortuna Honda.

Melandri, Pedrosa and his team-mate Nicky Hayden, the championship leader, maintained pressure on Rossi, and Melandri passed him on the 27th of the 30 laps. But none of Rossi's rivals can match his street-fighter qualities, and he re-took the lead on lap 28, to win by less than two-tenths of a second from Melandri. Hayden finished third, with Pedrosa in fourth place from Marlboro Ducati's Loris Capirossi.

The American rider Kenny Roberts Jnr, who had qualified second on his British-built KR 211V, crashed and also took out Makoto Tamada on the Konica Minolta Honda. But the British rider James Ellison picked up championship points for riding his Tech 3 Yamaha to 13th place.

"We made a modification to the bike for the warm-up session and another for the race, and the bike was good," said Rossi.

Hayden was less happy with his eighth podium position of the season. "Today I had a good shot, but I couldn't get the job done," he admitted.

Rossi has now moved into second in the championship, just 26 points behind Hayden with seven races remaining. Pedrosa and Melandri are contenders but Capirossi has probably seen his chance slip away.

Former champion Shane Byrne scored his first victory of the season when he won one of two races in the Bennetts British Superbike series at Knockhill yesterday. Leon Haslam closed the gap to 11 points on championship leader Gregorio Lavilla, his Ducati Airwaves team-mate, with two third places.

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