Alex Barros (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin) won a hectic German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring this afternoon, the Brazilian getting the better of a breathtaking six-man battle for victory. The first five men home were separated by just 1.6...
Alex Barros (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin) won a hectic German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring this afternoon, the Brazilian getting the better of a breathtaking six-man battle for victory. The first five men home were separated by just 1.6 seconds, with Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) a heroic second, a fraction ahead of World Championship leader Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin). Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) was fourth and Tadayuki Okada (Repsol Honda-Michelin) fifth. The first 13 finishers in today's nerve-wracking encounter ran Michelin tyres and Michelin riders currently hold the top 16 places in the 2000 series, with ten of 16 rounds done.
Barros' success was his second of the season and came after a gruelling 31 laps of GP racing's slowest and most tortuous track. In the early stages he quickly moved to the front, taking the lead from Roberts on lap five and staying there until four laps from the flag when Rossi got ahead. Barros timed his counter-attack perfectly, retaking the Italian on the penultimate lap.
"Tyres were the big thing this weekend, the changes they made to the track for this year mean there's so many left-hand corners, so it's a hard job for the tyres," said Barros, who used a medium-compound 17in front and a hard 17in rear to maximum effect. "After I passed Kenny the pace wasn't so fast, high 1m 24s and low 1m 25s, because I didn't want to push too hard, I wanted to save my tyres for the end. When Rossi got me I stayed behind to see where it would be best to pass and I got him at the same place he got me, turn one. After that I just kept the door shut."
Rossi rode a remarkable race. Two weeks after his debut 500 win, the Italian was fastest on Friday, despite suffering from 'flu, then had a big crash yesterday. His start was a disaster, leaving him way down in 18th at the end of the first lap and apparently out of the reckoning but he charged through the pack. Able to find room to pass where it seemed there was none, Rossi moved inexorably to the front, getting in amongst the leading five-man group on lap 22 and taking the lead with four laps to go. But he left the door open for Barros and was unable to retake the lead despite a super-brave, last-lap effort. Nevertheless the result moves him to third overall, 49 points off Roberts with six races to go.
"This result is great for my championship," said the 21-year-old who ran the same tyre combination as Barros. "We made a perfect tyre choice but I got a bad start. After that I tried to keep a good rhythm and work my way through. I made a stupid mistake on the last lap ? I tried to overtake Barros at the wrong place. Second is good but I wanted to win."
Early leader Roberts dropped to fourth for some while, waiting to fight back to third in the final few corners with a move that pushed Loris Capirossi (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin) onto the grass, dropping the Italian to sixth, behind Biaggi and Okada.
"My bike didn't have the muscle to get by anyone on the straight, all I could do was keep up," said Roberts, whose result increased his series lead to 38 points. "Loris and I touched in the final turns but I needed the points, I'm sure he understands!"
Biaggi's fourth-place finish equalled his best of the year. Choosing a softer front Michelin 17in front than his peers, the Italian was on the pace throughout but never put in a challenge for the lead. Okada's result was his best since taking third in April's Japanese GP. Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) retained his second place in the World Championship despite finishing ninth; the Spaniard had a huge crash on Saturday morning that forced him to sit out final qualifying.
Today's frantic action was too much for some, Tetsuya Harada (Blu Aprilia Team-Michelin) tumbling while up front, and World Champion Alex Criville (Repsol Honda-Michelin) sliding off mid-race, along with impressive privateer Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Rizla Honda-Michelin).