Lady weather decided to smile on the MotoGP paddock by allowing the Sun to get through and shine. This however, created a problem for some riders, especially for Americans Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins. Both had problems during the wet qualifying,...
Lady weather decided to smile on the MotoGP paddock by allowing the Sun to get through and shine. This however, created a problem for some riders, especially for Americans Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins. Both had problems during the wet qualifying, 7th and 21st respectively (19th on the grid since Kurtis Roberts and Shaky Byrne did not start), but during the morning warm-up both were fastest in the dry. The problem for the two was the fact that their starting positions did not reflect their dry weather performance.
Under bright Sunshine, the race got underway. Sete Gibernau took the hole shot into turn one, closely followed by Alex Barros, Max Biaggi, Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi. Troy Bayliss had a sniff on the outside of Gibernau, but was shoved wide by the chasing Hondas. Within a couple of turns, Rossi was past Edwards for fourth place. And within one lap, Hopkins crawled his way to 11th place ahead of Ruben Xaus. Up front, Rossi got to the task of passing the "King of Brno", Biaggi, going into turn 11. However, Rossi ran wide and re-opened the door back to Biaggi. Rossi's lack of dry weather practice showed when the Italian ran out of track going into the start-finish straight, stepping his rear-slick into the dirt causing a big dirt cloud and as big a wobble.
One lap on the bag and the top ten were Gibernau, Barros, Biaggi, Rossi, Edwards, Hayden, Loris Capirossi, Carlos Checa, Bayliss and Makoto Tamada. The Suzuki boys both got past Tamada, as the Japanese rider ran wide out of one of the many chicanes. Rossi saw Gibernau opening a slight gap and did not want to let the Spaniard get away. The Doctor was desperate to get past Biaggi, even trying to go around the outside, but Biaggi was too strong and held firm. Hayden must have been taking notes because he was trying the same maneuvers on Edwards. The Texan, unlike Biaggi, let Hayden go through on the brakes into turn 11. Biaggi, feeling the pressure from Rossi made his move on Barros into turn 13, overtaking the Brazilian on the inside and relegating him to third.
Barros's third place did not last very long; in fact, he only remained third for one corner, as Rossi overtook Barros into turn one of the third lap. Edwards suffered from similar luck, not only losing fifth place to Hayden, but also losing sixth to Capirossi. Gibernau enjoyed a comfortable seven tenths of a second lead that Biaggi and Rossi were poised on diminishing.
WSBK fans got the opportunity to watch one of the most popular WSBK riders, Gregorio Lavilla, who made a wild-card appearance aboard the GSV-R Suzuki. However, the Spaniard was forced to retire with a mechanical problem after only riding for four laps. Rossi's strategy to use Biaggi to tow him to Gibernau was not working as predicted, as the gap of over a half a second remained unchanged.
Barros, although running fourth, knew he had to put on a good show. His first trick of the day was setting a new world record of 1:29.302, slashing the current record by more than six tenths of second. Feeling the pressure from the Brazilian, Rossi made his move on Biaggi into turn three on his chase to Gibernau. With Rossi leading the chase, Gibernau's gap began to fall tenth by tenth.
15 laps to go and groups began to form. The first group was led by Gibernau, Rossi, Biaggi, Barros, Hayden and Capirossi. The second group, more than two seconds behind Capirossi, was led by Edwards, Checa, Hopkins and Tamada. Up front, the gap to Gibernau was down to nothing, and Capirossi began to lose touch with the leading group.
In one lap, the two leading groups had split into four; Gibernau, Rossi, Biaggi and Barros, with a gap to Hayden, who also had a gap to Capirossi. Edwards's group remained unchanged.
It could be said the HRC-Repsol riders have as much, if not more, pressure as the championship contenders. Rumors are that Hayden's contract may not be renewed for next year, the same applying to his teammate. Barros made his move on Biaggi going into turn three, as his teammate, Hayden, closed the gap to the leading group. Barros's next victim was Rossi, and with 10 laps to go Barros got past the Italian into turn five.
Farther back, Hopkins suffered from a mechanical failure while running in tenth place. The American displayed his anger in front of millions of viewers, banging on the top fairing of the broken Suzuki. Rossi regained second place form Barros going into turn three, Barros counterattacked, but it was useless.
Alex Barros has crashed out of several races while running with the lead group. Today was not different as he crashed out while exiting turn nine. This elevated Biaggi to third place and Hayden to fourth.
With only six laps to go the finishing order appeared to be settled, but you can never count out Rossi. The Italian out-braked Gibernau into turn three, however, he ran wide and into left-over dust from the fire-fighting substance used in the 250cc race. This allowed Gibernau to regain the lead out of turn four. But Rossi was too close to let Gibernau get away and he fired right back at the next turn, turn five. Much like his early overtaking, Rossi got on the inside of Gibernau, the Spaniard waited patiently and let Rossi go under him, only to counterattack with an inside move of his own out of turn six. Turn seven, a left-hander, saw Gibernau placed in perfect position to cover the inside of the turn, this did not make a difference to Rossi who was setting himself up for an inside maneuver into turn eight. The Italian attempted to go around the outside Gibernau, which momentarily saw him take the lead. Rossi tried to straighten out the bike to beat Gibernau into turn eight, only to feel the Yamaha protest with a near high-side.
The high-side scare settled Rossi, but by now Biaggi and Hayden had closed the gap to the leading pair. Biaggi had a front seat to Rossi's near high-side which indicated Rossi was having tire problems. By the next lap (four to go) Biaggi made his move on Rossi into turn one. Biaggi however, was not able to hold his line and ran wide, returning second place to Rossi. This would have been Hayden's opportunity for a podium position, but the American had other problems to worry about as he crashed out of the race into the same turn.
The remaining laps only cemented the finishing positions of the leading trio. Gibernau took his third win of the year, Rossi finished second and Biaggi third. Rossi's championship lead of 22 points was cut down to 17 points ahead of Gibernau and 26 points ahead of Biaggi. With the HRC boys crashing out of the race, Capirossi was gifted fourth place, only to have it taken away by Tamada on the last lap.
The MotoGP circus moves onto Estoril in Portugal in two weeks. Check back for a full report.