Rossi breaks more records to score his ninth victory of 2003, Michelin's 16 from 16
Michelin riders fill top nine places today, top ten positions in the World Championship
Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) ended his toughest-ever season with yet another dominant ride to victory that reminded everyone why he is probably the greatest bike racer in history. The Italian beat world number-two Sete Gibernau (Tele fonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) by less than a second, Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) coming home third a further ten seconds adrift. Michelin riders dominated the event, just as they've done at all 16 races this year, f illing the top nine finishing positions. Michelin men also monopolise the top ten places in the final 2003 points standings.
Today's race, run in cool autumn sunshine, was another record breaker, nine seconds faster than last year's Valencia GP which broke the previous race record by a staggering 65 seconds. The first non-Michelin rider crossed the line 46 seconds down on Rossi.
"Both Valentino and Sete chose the same tyres -- medium front, hard rear -- which worked very well, because it was another very fast race," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "Both guys set their fastest laps near the end, Valentino making a new record on lap 24, which proves our tyres were working really well. Loris and Max chose medium rears, which was the right tyre for their different needs. Considering the extraordinary pace of last year's GP, today's race was another good improvement. This year we couldn't have hoped for more -- we have improved lap times and race times at pretty much every circuit. I've also been very impressed by some of the newcomers to MotoGP -- both riders and bikes."
Rossi may have started from pole -- for the ninth time this year -- but victory wasn't as assured as usual because Valencia was the only track at which he had never won a race. He changed that today, shaking off a determined challenge from Gibernau who briefly got ahead at one stage. A determined late-race charge broke Gibernau's challenge, though Rossi slowed on his final lap to cross the line just 0.681s ahead. Capirossi rode hard to head off Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) for the final place on the podium.
"I always seem to have trouble here but this weekend was perfect," beamed Rossi after his ninth win of 2003. "It was a real race though because Sete was in good shape and he try very hard. I made a good rhythm early on but Sete came with me, so I tried again in the last few laps and made a gap."
Gibernau gave it everything he had in pursuit of a home-tarmac victory but he never quite had the pace to defeat Rossi. "That was a tough race because Valentino was really fast again," he said. "Everything worked perfectly -- the bike, the tyres -- but Valentino was stronger once more."
Capirossi's ride was similar to Rossi's, defending his position from Biaggi who was right on his tail pipes at mid-distance before slipping behind once more. "A fantastic result and a great way to end the year," said Capirossi after his 200th GP start. "The podium result allows me to have a bit of a party after my 200th race!"
Biaggi ended the day five seconds down on his compatriot and more than four seconds ahead of Carlos Checa (Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), whom he had passed during the early stages. Checa finished well clear of last year's Valencia winner Alex Barros (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Troy Bayliss (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin), who got the better of former World Superbike rival Colin Edwards (Alice Aprilia Racing Cube-Michelin) mid-race.
Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) had high hopes for the race after qualifying on the front row for the first time but he fell on lap four, remounting to finish outside the points. Nevertheless, the young American maintained fifth overall to take him the Rookie of the Year award. "Hayden has been tremendous," said Goubert. "He has showed what he's capable of and he'll be even faster next season."