LAGUNA SECA, CALIFORNIA // Honda's Dani Pedrosa won the US MotoGP Grand Prix on Sunday, the Spaniard's first victory in over a year, by holding off a late challenge from the world champion and current leader Valentino Rossi. The Italian rider Rossi, the five-times Moto GP world champion, extends his lead in the standings to nine points after finishing ahead of his closest rival, Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
Lorenzo of Spain, who took pole position despite crashing and partially dislocating his collar bone in qualifying on Saturday, bravely pushed Rossi hard but had to settle for third. Rossi ended 0.344 seconds behind Pedrosa, with Lorenzo 1.582 off the winning pace. Ducati's Casey Stoner was fourth. The Yamaha pair battled with each other for second place for most of the race after Pedrosa got in front early to complete the challenging course in 44 minute 01.580 seconds.
Pedrosa had not won since his victory in the Catalan Grand Prix in June 2008 and despite being a good distance in front throughout, he had to fend of Rossi late in the final lap. With Pedrosa easing off in the final stages, Rossi sensed the chance for a dramatic victory at the final hairpin but the distance was just too far. "I was comfortable, doing great, laps and just in the last lap I relaxed a little bit too much," Pedrosa told the BBC.
"I saw almost two seconds (on the board) when I passed for the last lap and then at the last corner I saw Rossi's bike. Fortunately it was the last lap and I could win the race. It's a good feeling to be back winning for me and also for my team," he added. Rossi said he had held back from a full challenge given the risks involved and the low chance of success. "It was a risky place and I was not close enough to Dani to try. I came down the hill on the last lap like a crazy man and I arrived behind him but it was too risky, there was a risk to touch Dani or go wide together.
"In the end, second place and 20 points is important," said Rossi, the pre-race favourite. Fellow Italian Loris Capirossi crashed out in the fourth lap and Britain's James Toseland was disqualified after a jump start. Lorenzo, who had an ice pack treatment straight after the race and had to be helped up to the podium, said he had suffered pain throughout the race. "I did a bad start, things were so difficult but with the bad start it was more difficult. I did the best I could, the pain was terrible," he said.