THE SKIES opened as soon as the qualifying sessions got under way in Istanbul, which produced a surprise first ever pole position for ‘rookie’ Australian Chris Vermeulen.
The 2005 Superbikes vice-champion, zipped his Suzuki around the rain inundated circuit in two minutes 04.61 seconds, to see off the challenges of Nicky Hayden and Sete Gibernau in second and third. The wet conditions were not to blame for defending champion Valentino Rossi’s poor 11th place on the starting grid, but problems with his new Yamaha YZR-M1, which is still in need of some fine tuning.
The race proper was led for a long way by Gibernau, who was gradually reeled in by the chasing trio of Casey Stoner, Marco Melandri and Hayden. Rossi struggled to find his line at the back of the field and Gibernau dropped away to eventually finish 11th, but Pedrosa made significant headway until he misjudged a bend on the final lap and slid into the gravel. At the death, Hayden was the first to give way, leaving Stoner to lead into the home straight where Melandri made his decisive move to repeat his 2005 win here. The last 12 races in this class have now been won by Italian riders. This season’s very open contest will continue at China’s Shanghai circuit next weekend, where Rossi should be seen to better effect in the fifth race of the year.