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Rossi closes gap on Hayden

Motegi MotoGP result puts Hayden under pressure

VALENTINO Rossi stormed to a second place finish, taking valuable points off Nicky Hayden's championship lead in today's Japanese MotoGP at Motegi.

Capirossi, who put his Desmosedici on pole, took an unrivalled lights to flag victory with a flawless race.

From the start it was Capirossi, Melandri and Rossi at the front end, championship leader Hayden got off to an awkward start, launching his RCV into a premature wheelie which took him down to 14th at the first turn. Pedrosa ran wide within three corners, where he was then mobbed by the chasing pack.

Melandri showed a wheel to Capirossi more than a few times in the first lap, the pace almost as hot as any good last lap finale. Rossi kept in touch, with the top three eeking out a lead over Gibernau, Stoner, Elias, Nakano, Hayden and Roberts tight-knit in the chasing pack.

Caprossi carved out a one second advantage within five laps, Rossi looked like he was losing touch with the front pair, until Melandri tried to out-brake Capirossi in an almost fateful manouevre where the only rider to capitalise was Rossi as he sunk a couple of claws into Melandri.

Stoner, who'd previously stuffed Gibernau, ran wide on lap eight dropping five positions to rejoin behind Hayden, he then made steady progress but unfortunately the MotoGP rookie lowsided braking deep into a turn on lap twelve, ending his race.

On the same lap Rossi pounced on Melandri and set about reigning in Capirossi who was just one second ahead. Rossi chipped out a tenth with 8 laps to go and it looked like he'd soon have Capirossi in his clutches, but Capirossi and his Desmosedici responded to Rossi's pressure and he set about putting on a third of a second the next lap, gapping Rossi to two seconds and then two laps later the win looked all but impossible for Rossi as the gap increased to over four seconds.

Hayden was struggling down in sixth place with a couple of laps to go. Nakano had gapped him lap after lap and was looking to pounce on Gibernau, however a fateful late-breaking effort in exactly the same place Melandri almost clashed with Capirossi, saw Nakano square off the corner in a desperate bid to get one up on Gibernau, but the Kawasaki rider went down, tagging Gibernau's rear wheel on his way into the gravel. A real waste of a race effort.

Capirossi stormed to the win, picking up a huge wheelie to the line, while Rossi's one-handed wheelie over the line showed he was a little more than happy with his race result.

In the post-race interview, a beaming Capirossi said: "We finally got the rythm, I start well and try to make my rythm. Before half race I see Valentino coming and I have to push really hard for the win".

Valentino Rossi, also clearly happy with the result said: "This 20 points are so importanrt for the championship. Our M1 work very well from the begnning. I got some problems at the beginning and I watch Loris go very fast but lap by lap the bike go very well, but not enough to keep with Loris".

Rossi closes the gap to JUST 12 POINTS behind Hayden, and this result possibly puts him in the driving seat for championship glory with just two races to go.

Championship Points after Motegi

1. Hayden 236

2. Rossi 224

3. Melandri 209

4. Capirossi 205

5. Pedrosa 202

6. Stoner 119

7. Roberts Jr 110

8 Edwards 104

9. Hopkins 101

10. Gibernau 95

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