Valentino Rossi took his eleventh victory of the 2005 MotoGP championship today at the Australian GP, but it was far from a stroll in the park -- or on Phillip Island, for that matter. "Eleven wins in the year matches my own record and to do it...
Valentino Rossi took his eleventh victory of the 2005 MotoGP championship today at the Australian GP, but it was far from a stroll in the park -- or on Phillip Island, for that matter.
"Eleven wins in the year matches my own record and to do it at Phillip Island is very special for me," Rossi said. "I have won a lot of important races here, especially the 2001 500cc title and the title last year for Yamaha and it is a magic track for me -- I love it."
Rossi had already clinched the riders' championship, but the Australian victory was enough to seal the manufacturers' title for Yamaha as well.
"It has been an amazing season and today we have won the constructors' title for Yamaha in the year of their 50th anniversary, so I am very happy," Rossi continued. "Congratulations to everybody!"
Nicky Hayden made Rossi work for the win and the title, though; the American had taken the pole position in qualifying on his Repsol Honda, just ahead of the 2005 champion. Hayden took advantage of the pole, and stormed off to an early lead, followed closely by Rossi, Carlos Checa and Colin Edwards. Max Biaggi, who had started sixth, didn't manage to complete a lap, spilling out at the Honda hairpin and retiring.
By the third lap, Rossi had taken the lead from Hayden, though, while Marco Melandri had moved past Checa and Edwards into third. And Melandri had no fear of Hayden, either, passing him quickly. But Hayden would have none of it, and grabbed second back from the Spaniard, setting after Rossi.
"I got to the front after two laps and had a good rhythm so I pushed two or three times to escape," Rossi recounted. "Every time Nicky came with me so I let him pass me just to see how it was. Then some more riders arrived so I tried again and this time I managed to get a one second advantage, which was like gold!"
But Melandri was not finished, either, and no quarter was given as he and Hayden swapped positions repeatedly, but the battle allowed Rossi to inch away slowly at the front. Hayden, who claimed second place for good with five laps to go, would catch up to the seven-time champion in one corner, but then Rossi would pull away in the next. At the flag, Rossi was just 1.007 seconds ahead.
"Sometimes it's ragged and even painful to hang onto a pace like that but I felt comfortable behind Valentino today, even when he dropped the hammer down," Hayden explained. "The bike and tyres were great today, so I wanted more than a second, and I definitely want another 'W' this season!"
Behind them, Checa slipstreamed Melandri around the final corner, and was able to nip his countryman to the chequered flag by 0.017 seconds, four seconds adrift of Rossi and Hayden. Sete Giberneau took fifth, ten seconds further back, with Colin Edwards in sixth, 33 seconds off Rossi's torrid pace.
Alex Barros, who held sixth place in the closing laps, lost traction on his front wheel at Haysheds, with but four laps to go. sliding on the grass at 100 mph, and then into the air from an impact with a gravel trap. The Brazilian was conscious but in severe pain, and was taken to hospital for diagnosis.
In the points standings, Hayden is now tied with Melandri for second at 170 points, 161 behind Rossi's stunning total of 331, and eight points ahead of Colin Edwards in fourth, with just Turkey and Valencia remaining on the calendar.