Italian rider and French tyre brand win their third joint World Championship
Rossi betters Sepang race record by 20 seconds after beating 2002 pole by 2 seconds
Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) scored his seventh victory of the year at Sepang today to secure his third-successive premier-class World Championship. The MotoGP king dominated the race from one-third distance to defeat sole title riva l Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) by two seconds. Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) took third place. Michelin riders filled the first nine finishing positions and currently monopolise the top ten places in the World Championship.
Rossi's 57th career win also brought Michelin its 12th successive premier-class crown. Michelin's technical expertise has won the company unmatched domination of bike racing's biggest, fastest World Championship over the past decade or so. All in all, Michelin has won 23 premier-class titles. This year also marked the company's 300th GP win in the 500/MotoGP category.
"Valentino has proved that he is one of the greatest riders of all time, he knew he was faster than the other guys and won the race the way he wanted," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "Today also proved that Michelin is ahead, whatever the conditions. In this morning's wet warm-up the fastest non-Michelin rider was 2.3 seconds slower than our quickest guy, and the next non-Michelin guy was 3.8 seconds off our pace. In the race we beat our own race record by 20 seconds and our own qualifying record by two seconds, which underlines the progress we continue to make with out tyres. This was definitely one of our best GPs of the year so far."
The race -- run in cooler conditions than qualifying with cloudy skies persisting after an overnight storm -- wasn't the closest of the year. Rossi got an average start from pole position, ended the first lap in fourth place, moved into second next time around and established a new lap record on lap three as he set off in pursuit of Gibernau. The Spaniard didn't give in easily, however, and it was another five laps before Rossi snuck into the lead. Gibernau, who ran medium-compound Michelins front an d rear to the winner's hard front/medium rear combination, kept up the pressure in second place, never letting Rossi gain enough of an advantage to relax.
"I'm very, very happy for the race and for the championship," said a delighted Rossi. "It's been a tough fight with everyone, but I've won a few races, enjoyed myself and been quite consistent, so in the end we won it. My thanks to everyone in the team, at Honda, at Michelin and also to my fan club."
Gibernau, who has won four GPs so far this year, was the first to congratulate Rossi after the race. He then vowed that he will try and beat him in the remaining two races. "I've tried to push Valentino all year but he's been the strongest guy overall, so my congratulations to him," said Gibernau, who's favourite to take second overall in the championship. "It's been a great year, my thanks to Honda and to Michelin who've been great to me. Now I'll try and beat Valentino in the next two races--"
Biaggi ended the race 7.6 seconds down on Rossi after a poor start had put him out of the running. "My engine felt a little lazy from the warm-up lap, so the other guys ended up being faster," admitted the Roman who won here last year. "Also I chose a softer rear tyre to the guys in front of me and it didn't quite work out to my liking."
Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) confirmed his strong form with a storming ride to fourth, the young rookie getting the better of a thrilling battle with Carlos Checa (Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) by just 0.056 seconds. Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) ran with them for a while, eventually crossing the line seven seconds down on them and three ahead of Tohru Ukawa (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin).