Melandri rides to first victory in Istanbul

Marco Melandri today scored his maiden MotoGP victory, as he took first place in the Grand Prix of Turkey, held at Istanbul Park Circuit. 2005 champion Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden completed the podium.

Marco Melandri leads the field.
Photo by Gresini Racing.
"It was an incredible day to cap a great weekend. I can't describe my happiness. I have not won since Valencia in 2002 (in the 250cc class), and since then I've had a difficult couple of years due to injury and misfortune. This win in the MotoGP class feels different to winning in the 250s", commented the winner.

The former 250cc world champion was a major candidate for the win. The Italian rider had dominated all the practice sessions and was very close to the pole position yesterday. "I liked this track from the first moment I tried it and the team did a great job. After dominating the free sessions I knew I could have a good race, but it's not always that easy", Melandri said.

Melandri showed a strong pace from the beginning taking the lead from his teammate in the Movistar Honda, Sete Gibernau. The Spaniard would later re-take first place until he ran wide on the track loosing places in the classification. "I went off after a mistake; I went into a corner too quickly and tried to brake but couldn't", would explain latter Gibernau.

Marco Melandri leads the field.
Photo by Gresini Racing.
From that point on, Melandri jumped to the lead, a position he would hold until the chequered flag, despite the pressure of Rossi and Hayden during the rest of the race.

"When I found myself on my own at the front and I just concentrated on maintaining my rhythm. I want to enjoy this moment and thank Fausto for the confidence he has shown in me, Fabrizio Cecchini, my chief mechanic and everyone at Honda and Michelin", Melandri mentioned.

Melandri made his debut in MotoGP at the Japan GP in 2003 riding a Yamaha. Last season he reached the podium two times for third and the move to Honda in 2005 has allowed him to confirm all the potential shown during his days in 250cc, where he took the championship in 2002.

With the result, the Italian now has nine points over Hayden in the battle for the sub-championship.

Newly-crowned champion Rossi again placed his Gauloises Yamaha on the podium for the 15th time this season after 16 races with just one event remaining on the 2005 calendar.

The Italian had a bad start from fifth place loosing a couple of places in the first move, yet he is the champion for a reason. Rossi had to fight all race with the setup problems in his Yamaha.

Valentino Rossi.
Photo by Gauloises Fortuna Racing.
"On Friday and Saturday we struggled to find a good setting for the bike; yesterday morning I felt like I wanted to go home! It wasn't until qualifying practice yesterday afternoon that we began to understand what the problem was", Rossi said, while he added: "We made some more steps forward in the warm-up this morning and went in a slightly different direction with the setting, which in the end wasn't so bad".

The five-time MotoGP champion recovered from his bad start to reach second place on lap eight behind Melandri. From that moment, Rossi wasn't able to put on a strong attack on his countryman.

"Unfortunately I made a big mistake at the start and conceded a couple of seconds to the leader, which proved to be a big gap to make up. Melandri was very fast throughout the race and in certain points of the track I knew he was faster than me, so it would have been very hard to pass him", explained Rossi.

Today's second place made it a total of 80 podiums for Rossi during his MotoGP career. Rossi will have one last chance in the final round to match Mike Doohan's record of 12 victories in one season.

Hayden completed the podium on his Honda RC211V for the Repsol Honda team. Third place seemed to be all the North American rider could accomplished in Istanbul from when the field received the green lights.

"That's the first time in MotoGP I've had three consecutive podiums so that's definitely a step forward but to be honest I haven't really had the pace all weekend. In the race I came through much faster than we'd managed during the practice days and for that I'm happy", Hayden stated.

The 24 year-old driver managed to keep third place in the start behind both Movistar Honda riders. When Gibernau lost the lead, Hayden was able to take second until Rossi left him on final step of the podium.

Nicky Hayden.
Photo by Repsol YPF Media.
Hayden has now only one shot to take the sub-championship -- at the season clousure in Valencia. The nine points adrift of Melandri makes it a not easy goal to accomplish.

"I'm disappointed for the points situation. With Marco having such a great ride - congratulations to him, he definitely deserves it - we now have a little gap to second place," commented Hayden who then dedicated his podium finish to a friend.

"I want to dedicate this podium to a very special friend of mine back home. We all recently found out he's been taken ill and wish him all our best. He's had a huge influence in my career I wouldn't be where I am today without him. Our thoughts are with him", he expressed.

Top six places were completed by Gibernau, Carlos Checa, and Toni Elias who his had best final result in MotoGP riding the Fortuna Yamaha.

In two weeks, the Continental Circus will return to Europe for the final round of the season to be hold on the Comunitat Valenciana Circuit, located in Valencia, Spain, on November 6th.