Qatar GP: Michelin race notes

ROSSI HEADS MICHELIN FIVESOME World Champ wins epic duel with Melandri after Gibernau makes mistake Michelin men Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Marco Melandri ...

ROSSI HEADS MICHELIN FIVESOME

World Champ wins epic duel with Melandri after Gibernau makes mistake

Michelin men Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Marco Melandri (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) enjoyed a thrilling duel for victory in this afternoon's Qatar Grand Prix, shattering the race record by almost 28 seconds, the second biggest improvement of the season so far. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) completed the podium after establishing his second lap record in as many races.

The gruelling desert race - run in baking 39-degree heat - was dominated by Michelin riders, the first five finishers all using the French tyres, the first non-Michelin rider 31 seconds down at the finish. With 14 races done and just three to go, Michelin riders also lead the points chase, holding the top five positions in the 2005 MotoGP World Championship.

"That was a good race for us, we're very happy," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycle competitions. "It was a big improvement compared to last year, only at Catalunya has there been a bigger improvement this year. And our guys were very fast all the way to the finish. Valentino and Marco had a very entertaining race, both setting their fastest laps on the penultimate lap, just a fraction of a second off Nicky's record, which proves that our tyres had very good consistency despite a track temperature of almost 50 degrees. I think our 2005 rear (which features a different construction to increase tyre footprint) really helped here. Congratulations to Valentino, he really wanted to win after the problems he had here last year. Marco also rode an amazing race, it's great to see him recovered from the injury he sustained at Motegi."

Rossi and Melandri were in the leading pack throughout, Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) apparently in charge most of the way. At half-distance the Spaniard had stretched his advantage to more than a second but then the Italians came back at him, Melandri sneaking ahead on lap 18, Gibernau running wide and off the track as he counter attacked. That left Rossi and Melandri going at it during the last few laps, Hayden a little too far back to get involved, Melandri attacking Rossi on the final lap but unable to make his pass stick.

"That was the best battle of the year!" grinned Rossi, who last weekend wrapped up his fifth consecutive premier-class crown with Michelin. "It was an incredible fight from beginning to end, everyone trying to overtake. I'm very happy because this race was a bad moment for me last year." (Rossi crashed out of the 2004 Qatar GP.)

Today's runner-up result was Melandri's best finish since he took second to Rossi at June's Dutch GP and his first ride up front since Rossi took him out of last month's Japanese GP, a fall that left him with a nasty gash to his right foot. "That was a wonderful race after a bad moment for me," he said. "It is almost impossible to overtake here but on the last lap I couldn't not have a go. My thanks to my team staff and to Michelin for doing a great job."

Hayden was happy with third after two difficult days of practice. "I was worried because I was so slow but we made some changes after warm-up," he said. "I rode faster than in qualifying, so I was on the edge running with these guys but it felt like I learned some stuff.

Colin Edwards (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) took fourth, Gibernau regaining the track to finish in fifth place, his first result in four races but not what he had wanted after qualifying second quickest and leading for 16 laps.

-michelin-

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