After setting a blistering lap time to take pole position for the German GP, Max Biaggi rode the wheels off his Camel Honda to take his first victory of 2004 at the tight and twisty Sachsenring course. Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau had the pace to hang with Biaggi, and were expected to give the Roman a run for his money, but destiny had already been written and Biaggi was the protagonist.
Biaggi counterattacked on the next corner and regained first position from Rossi. By the beginning of the next lap, Roberts Jr., was relegated to fourth; as Gibernau overtook him going into turn one. Farther back Nicky Hayden, who had qualified ninth on the grid, was running outside the top ten in 12th place.
Gibernau continued to shadow Rossi, setting the fastest lap of the race on the second lap. Behind Gibernau, Roberts Jr. fell victim to Carlos Checa as the Spaniard overtook the American into turn one. On the next lap, Checa was past Gibernau on his way up the race ladder. However, to Checa's dismay, his time on the spotlight only lasted a few corners as Checa lost the rear-end of his Yamaha M1; crashing out of third place.
Checa's crash gifted Hayden a race position, as the number 69 made his way through the field from 12th to sixth, and then to fifth as he out-braked Roberts Jr. into turn one at the start of the sixth lap. By the next lap, Roberts Jr. was again out-braked into turn one, this time by Hayden's teammate, Alex Barros.
The eighth lap would prove to be the first of many surprises to come. As Rossi began to close the gap on Biaggi, Gibernau sat back waiting to pounce. Suddenly, Gibernau's V5 was tumbling out of the television camera's view and out of the race. Within seconds of Gibernau's crash, Ducati Corse rider, Loris Capirossi was too out of the race.
One man's misery is another's man's glory, and that man was Hayden who now ran in third position.
Farther back, the battle for seventh place raged between Makoto Tamada and Colin Edwards, as Tamada tried overtake his fellow Honda rider into turn one at the beginning of the 11th lap. However, the Japanese rider ran wide, allowing Edwards to keep seventh. This lap also completed a miserable day for Ducati, as their second Corse rider, Troy Bayliss, crashed out of the race.
Did I mention Roberts Jr. was getting passed going into turn one? Just in case I haven't, Roberts Jr. got passed by Tamada for sixth with 17 laps to go.
The battle for third between Hayden and Barros did not last long, as Barros come away victorious. After passing Hayden, the Brazilian got to the task of closing the gap between himself and Rossi, a gap of over two seconds. With a clear track in front, Barros quickly got the gap down to 1.3 seconds within one lap. Hayden tried to stay close to Barros, but the pace of the Brazilian was too fast for Hayden and a gap began to appear.
Rossi knew Barros was on the charge and quickly reacted by passing Biaggi into turn one with 14 laps to go. Rossi knew he had to put together a string of fast laps to try to break away from his chasers and for the next few laps he did just that.
With Barros being held up by Biaggi, Hayden was allowed to catch up to the leading four. But the real battle was behind these four, for fifth place. Colin Edwards led the second group, followed by Tamada, Norick Abe, Marco Melandri and Shinya Nakano.
Up front, Rossi managed to open up a half a second gap, but this only lasted one lap, as the chasing trio caught up to the Italian with 10 laps to go. Rossi's eventual demise poke its ugly face, as Rossi's tires began to buck and slide.
As if this race had not brought us enough crashing, Melandri and Abe took care of that. On the 20th lap of the race, Melandri led Abe for seventh place. On Melandri's exit into the back straight, his rear tire stepped out into the grass. As Melandri tried to compensate, his rear tire was already coming around; this time moving to the opposite side causing an incredible high side which threw Melandri several feet into the air and down the gravel. Reacting and trying to avoid hitting Melandri, Abe's evasive maneuvers unsettled his M1. This was enough for the bike to high side in similar fashion, sending Abe to accompany Melandri on gravel. Melandri quickly got up and appeared to be ok, but Abe, the real hero, laid on gravel in obvious pain. Abe was taken to the local hospital for what was reported to be a broken rib.
With eight laps to go, roles were exchanged between Rossi and Biaggi, as the Roman was now the one applying pressure on the number 46. Biaggi's pressure was effective enough to overtake Rossi going into the last corner that leads into the front straight.
Rossi's tire problems became obvious after he got passed by Biaggi, as Rossi lost the front-end of his M1 causing a huge wobble that saw him run wide; enough for Barros to take advantage and take over second place. His problems continued, and with five laps to go Rossi was relegated to fourth place.
Race positions remained unchanged to the end. Barros applied pressure on Biaggi, but the Roman held strong. Hayden took his second podium of 2004 and Rossi's fourth place (and Gibernau's crash) handed him the championship lead. However, he only leads the championship from Biaggi by one point.
Next race will take place in England at Donington park. Be sure to check back.