World champ completes MotoGP hat trick to go well clear in the 2003 points standings #Michelin riders fill all but one of the top 15 places in fastest-ever Rio Grand Prix
Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) rode to his third successive victory this afternoon at hot and sunny Rio, consigning his midseason slump in results to distant memory. The World Champion was in scintillating form around this bumpy, slipp ery, high-speed track, comfortably defeating title rival Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin). Makato Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) took his first GP podium in third, chased by British GP winner Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211 V-Michelin). Michelin riders dominated the event, filling all but one of the top 15 points-scoring positions.
"That was the fastest race ever here, but maybe not as fast as we'd expected," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "Valentino was the only guy who seemed able to run the same pace as he ran on race tyres yesterday, though conditions were pretty much the same, with track temperature around 45 degrees. Most of our riders chose the same tyres -- all our Honda guys were on the same, Capirossi too and most of the Yamahas."
The race was somewhat processional, with pole-sitter Rossi shadowing Gibernau in the early stages before moving ahead on lap nine and dominating from then on. At half distance just five seconds covered the top five riders, but Rossi's pace began to tell as the race went on. At one point he had stretched his advantage over Gibernau to more than four seconds, though he eased his pace in the final lap to cross the finish line 3.1 seconds ahead.
"I've had very good results here on big bikes," said Rossi, who won his first dry-weather success here in 2000 and wrapped up last year's MotoGP series here. "You need to be very gentle with the throttle because this track is bumpy and slippery, so it's easy to get too much wheelspin. Over the last three or four races we have made some good improvements to our rear suspension, so I think the bike was perfect today."
Gibernau, now 51 points behind Rossi with four races to go, was feeling the effects of a big crash in yesterday's final qualifying session. "I felt really bad this morning," said the Spaniard, who received pre-race treatment from the Clinica Mobile. "Valentino had a little more than us today, so I just rode my own race."
Biaggi spent the second half of the 24 lapper fending off impressive American MotoGP rookie Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) who equalled his best GP result in fifth. The Roman explained: "I think my engine management wasn't set up right, I was getting too much wheelspin."
Hayden started well and maintained an excellent pace throughout, crossing the line less than two seconds down on Biaggi. "I got an awesome start and I was right up there," said the 22-year-old. "But it was difficult to keep the pace once Valentino started to stretch the pack."
Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) finished sixth, troubled by a minor engine-braking glitch but still comfortably ahead of Tohru Ukawa (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) and Shinya Nakano (D'Antin Yamaha YZR-M1-Michelin). Troy Bayliss (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) rounded out the top ten, then found out immediately after the race that wife Kim had given birth to their third child -- a baby boy named Oliver -- in Monaco earlier in the day.