Rossi beats rivals & penalty for 8th win.
Even a ten-second penalty for riding offence can't beat dazzling world champ; Michelin riders dominate fastest-ever Australian GP, filling top nine positions
Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) scored one of the most remarkable victories of his incredible career at Phillip Island today, taking his eighth win of the year despite incurring a ten-second penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. The Italian beat compatriot Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) by a corrected 5.2 seconds, with first-time podium-finisher Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) taking a brilliant third-place finish. Michelin riders dominated the event, filling the first nine finishing positions, the first non-Michelin rider 49.9 seconds down on Rossi. Michelin men also hold the top ten places in the 2003 MotoGP World Championship.
Although the race got underway on a partially damp track, Rossi's pace was such that he broke the lap record by 0.8 seconds and the race record by nine seconds. The five-time world champ chose a softer rear Michelin compared to most of his rivals.
"Valentino was very impressive again," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "Once his pit board had told him about the penalty he rode some incredibly fast laps, many of them inside last year's pole position time,even though this is one of the most demanding tracks for tyres. This morning's rain made this a difficult race -- the track was still damp in places and there was some more light drizzle shortly before the start. It was only at the last moment that everyone decided to fit slicks."
The early laps were especially frantic around this spectacularly fast circuit, Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) leading lap one from Troy Bayliss (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) and Marco Melandri (FortunaYamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), pole-sitter Rossi down in sixth. Bayliss crashed three laps later while disputing the lead with Melandri, who ceded first place to Rossi the following lap. It was this move, where Bayliss had fallen, that earned the world champ a time penalty.
During the next few laps Rossi eased ahead as Capirossi, Hayden, Gibernau, Melandri and Tohru Ukawa (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) enjoyed a battle royal behind him. But Rossi raised his game to a new level once he was aware of thepenalty, disappearing to cross the line 15.2 seconds ahead of Capirossi. Hayden grabbed third place from Gibernau, who was suffering from gearbox gremlins, with a brave final-lap pass, Ukawa finishing just behind in fifth. Melandri crashed at half-distance, sustaining a dislocated right shoulder. Bayliss suffered mild concussion in his fall, the Aussie helicoptered to Melbourne hospital for precautionary checks.
"That was an unbelievable race," said an ecstatic Rossi, who lost July's British GP for an identical overtaking-under-yellows offence. "When I first saw my pit board telling me about the penalty I didn't understand -- it's not easy to see at over300kmh! Once I did understand I decided to fight very hard to beat the ten-second penalty. I had already won the championship last weekend, so there was nothing to lose."
Capirossi was also a happy man after securing second place in the constructors' World Championship for Ducati. "We came here from three difficult races, so taking second is great," said the Italian who was timed at 329.9kmh during qualifying.
Hayden was delighted to climb a MotoGP podium for the first time. The young American had been credited with third place at Motegi two weeks ago after a rival was excluded for a riding offence, but this was his first chance to share the champagneparty with Rossi & Co. "I was going to do whatever it took to get third," beamed the 22-year-old. "So I made a move on Sete during the last lap and got it hooked up out of the final turn to keep him behind me."