Gibernau Wins Brno at Record Pace
Spanish title hope makes perfect tyre choice after two days of weather-hit practice
Michelin men dominate fastest-ever Czech GP to hold top eight places in points chase
Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) scored a faultless victory at Brno today, beating Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) by 3.5 seconds to take five points out the World Champion's points lead as the 2004 MotoGP circus reconvened after its midseason break. Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) took third place, just 0.8 seconds behind his compatriot to stay third overall. Michelin riders dominated the event, which smashed the Brno race record by 15. 4 seconds, taking all but one of the top nine finishing positions. Michelin men also dominate the points standings, currently filling the top eight positions.
The lead up to today's race was complicated by showery weather that left riders, teams and tyre engineers just one dry session to work on bike settings and tyre choice. The input of tyre engineers was therefore more crucial than ever, since their expert advice had to make up for lack of tyre testing time.
"That was another very fast race and a really good result for us," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "Not only was the pace 15 seconds faster than last year but Sete was able to cut very fast lap times all the way to the finish -- even his final lap was a 1m 59.4s. And that's particularly impressive considering we had so little dry track time. In these circumstances riders have to rely on the advice of their tyre technicians more than ever. Overall we're happy -- we w ere fastest in the wet and also fastest in today's dry race."
Gibernau got the holeshot from pole position and led all 22 laps, though Rossi did twice manage to squeeze ahead, if only for a few metres. Until half distance it was a five-way fight, with Alex Barros (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) joining in the fun until Barros slid off on lap 15, followed by his team-mate five laps later. In the closing stages Gibernau upped the ante, cutting an ultra-fast series of laps to put him well clear of Rossi at the flag. This was the Spaniard's third win of the year but his first since May's French GP.
"All the rain made this a difficult weekend, so I have to say a big thank you to my team and to Michelin, who did a great job helping me with my tyre choice," said Gibernau who chose the same medium front/hard rear Michelin combination as Rossi, while Biaggi chose a medium front and rear. "Valentino rode really hard, so for all those reasons it was tough. I'm now a little closer on points but there's still a long way to go."
Rossi tried everything he knows to get the better of his biggest title rival but the two stabs he made at Gibernau on lap 17 only served to make the Honda rider push even harder, so he didn't quite have the pace in the crucial final stages. With ten races done and six to go Rossi now leads Gibernau by just 17 points.
"The racing was hard and fun," smiled Rossi, winner of five races so far this year. "But as the race went on I lost some rear-end grip, which first hurt my acceleration and then also lost me some braking stability."
Biaggi was right in the hunt until lap 19 when he dived ahead of Rossi at turn one, only to run wide and drop too far back to mount another assault on the champ. "I'm very happy with third, in fact it's a bit of a surprise," explained the Roman who had only qualified eighth quickest. "I couldn't ride as fast as Sete today, so we still have something to fix in our bike set-up."
Biaggi's team-mate Makoto Tamada (Camel Honda) was fourth, a further 12 seconds back and three seconds ahead of Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP4-Michelin). Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) just beat Colin Edwards (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) for sixth spot.