Joker Rossi wins at home to delight his fans; Championship leader wins his fourth MotoGP victory, Michelin riders fill first seven spots. Fun-loving Italian hero Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) took a finely judged gamble on...
Joker Rossi wins at home to delight his fans; Championship leader wins his fourth MotoGP victory, Michelin riders fill first seven spots.
Fun-loving Italian hero Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) took a finely judged gamble on tyre choice at Mugello this afternoon, choosing a softer rear Michelin than his immediate rivals to win his fourth victory of the year in fine style. Compatriot and arch-rival Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) took second, with Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) third, just ahead of Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin). Rossi chose a medium-hard 16.5in S4 slick, while the next three men home all went for hard compound S4s. Michelin monopolised the top seven positions and currently hold the top eight places in the MotoGP World Championship.
In 30-degree heat and at one of GP racing's most demanding circuits, Rossi knew that he would need the best-possible machine/tyre combination if he was to defeat team-mate Ukawa, who beat him in April's South African GP, and the ever-improving M1sof Biaggi and Checa. After tumbling during morning warm-up, his plan worked to perfection. He led the early stages from pole position, then slipped to second, followed Biaggi for several laps before moving back ahead. During the last 11 laps he upped the pace, artfully controlling some impressive wheelspin in the closing stages to win by 2.4 seconds.
"I made a mistake this morning, which put me under some pressure, so I tried to ride the bike more sweetly for the race," said Rossi after his first home-race win in the premier class. "I used my second bike which worked quite good. I chose asofter rear than the other four-stroke guys, so I knew it wouldn't be possible to push 100 per cent all race. In the later stages I had a good rhythm and enjoyed myself."
Ever the joker, Rossi delighted the 65,000 crowd by stopping immediately after the finish line, where two friends dressed in polizia uniforms booked him for speeding. "It was a great race, only spoiled by the big trouble with the police," he joked."They told me I'd exceeded the speed limit, so I told them who I am and they let me off, but when they saw I had no registration plate, they booked me!"
Michelin Grand Prix manager Emmanuel Fournier was as impressed as ever with Rossi's fourth win from five rides. "His tyre choice was a little more risky than the others but it worked well for him," said Fournier. "He was still going fast at the endof the race and we've now checked the tyre; it had good wear, though a little more than the harder tyres that his rivals chose."
Biaggi, who like team-mate Checa ran a new chassis this weekend, was happy enough with his best result of the season. "Second isn't first but I'm totally satisfied because I did my best and because we weren't so far away from winning," said theRoman, who had qualified second quickest. "I started well, but when Rossi was behind me, I felt like he was just waiting."
The final podium slot went to Ukawa after a lengthy battle with Checa. The Japanese rider had a straight-line speed advantage over his Spanish rival and used that to firm effect in the final laps. "It all came down to the last two laps," he said."I'm happy with third because I've never had luck at this track."
Checa was disappointed with fourth because his bike was down on speed. "We had some problems in practice which lost us valuable time in preparing for the race," he said. "I got away well and managed to pass Max and Ukawa a few times but in the endI couldn't stay with them."
Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500-Michelin) had the honour of finishing top 500, four seconds behind Checa. He did the same here last year, winning the last-ever Italian 500 GP. "We made a good tyre choice," said the Brazilian, who chose asoft-compound S4, just like team-mate Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500-Michelin), who he beat by 4.6 seconds. Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha-d'Antin YZR500-Michelin) rode a good race to seventh, six seconds down on Capirossi.
Rossi wasn't the only one going super fast today. Mugello produced the fastest-ever MotoGP speeds, Ukawa's RCV clocking 324.5kmh. Biaggi's M1 was second-fastest bike of the weekend at 322.9kmh. Rossi managed 321.1kmh.