Rossi Smashes Donington Race Record
World Champion chooses softer Michelin to destroy race record by 36 seconds
Michelin riders dominate as Edwards takes first MotoGP podium and lap record
Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) scored a crucial victory at cool, windy Donington Park this afternoon to put himself 22 points clear at the head of the World Championship points chase. The Italian raced away from team-mates Colin Edwards (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) and Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) to smash the race record by a massive 36 seconds. Michelin riders totally dominated, taking all but one of the top 13 finishing positions. Michelin riders also dominate the championship standings, monopolising the top nine places.
Preparing for today's race -- the ninth of 16 -- was more complex than usual since conditions were very different to what they had been during qualifying. After two days of warm sunshine, today dawned damp and cold, requiring a rethink on machine set-up and tyre choice. The race did start dry, though light drizzle fell at two stages during the 30-lap event.
"Valentino decided to go for a rear tyre that was slightly softer than his original choice," explained Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "Initially he had wanted to use the hardest rear available but he changed to something softer than what Sete and Nicky (Hayden, Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) used. Colin took a risk by going for an even softer rear but it definitely paid off for him. We're very happy with today's race because the lap times were fast and consis tent throughout. For example, Nicky's penultimate lap was only two tenths slower than the fastest of the race."
Rossi's fifth win of the year was also his first podium appearance since last month's Dutch TT. Starting from pole position, the race favourite rode steadily on the opening lap, losing the lead after two corners, then moving back ahead the next lap, once he had got a feel for the conditions. It quickly became apparent that his main challengers would be Edwards and Gibernau, but although the two RCV riders stalked the series leader for some time, they never got close enough to attack. And when the drizzle fell, brave Rossi opened the gap some more.
"I waited until I had a good feeling for the tyres before taking the lead," said Rossi, who was four seconds ahead at one stage, eventually crossing the line 2.9 seconds in front. "I knew I could run a good rhythm, and slowly, slowly, slowly I opened the gap on Colin and Sete. Thanks to Yamaha and also to Michelin, for the tyres worked all the way to the end."
Edwards was delighted with his day which gave him his first MotoGP podium finish and his first MotoGP lap record, set on lap eight and over a second inside Rossi's 2003 record. "I pushed real hard but couldn't get close enough, then I backed off too much in the rain," said the twice World Superbike champion who ended up 1.6 seconds ahead of his team-mate. "We changed our geometry for this race and now the bike does what I want it to do."
Gibernau was also happy, claiming a strong podium finish after crashing out of the last two GPs. "After two DNFs this is like a victory," said the Spaniard, now equal second on points with Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) who could only manage a 12th-place finish today. "It's been a tough weekend because we couldn't find a good set-up in practice, so we changed the settings 100 per cent last night. The bike was good, so I could push quite hard."
Hayden came through from eighth on lap one to chase the leaders and cross the line fourth, 1.6 seconds behind Gibernau. Troy Bayliss (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP4-Michelin) had one of his best rides of the year in fifth, ahead of Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP4-Michelin).