MELANDRI OPENS WINNING ACCOUNT
Michelin riders Melandri, Rossi, Hayden and Gibernau fill first four places
New track proves Michelin's consistency after new record set on lap 17
Marco Melandri (Movistar Honda MotoGP-Michelin) made his breakthrough maiden MotoGP victory in dominant fashion, winning by 1.513 seconds first time out at the new 5.340km Istanbul Park circuit. Even the best efforts of world champion Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) could not overcome the incredible pace of Melandri, a speed he had demonstrated throughout the weekend, and Rossi had to settle for second, albeit some five seconds ahead of Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin). Having just missed out on pole Melandri set the new lap record of 1'53.111 on lap 17 of the 22-lap race, his time proving to be less than a second from the outright lap record set in qualifying. Melandri was saved from a potentially closer battle with his pole- setting team-mate Sete Gibernau (Movistar Honda MotoGP-Michelin) after the Spaniard ran off while leading on lap six.
Gibernau recovered to finish fourth, ahead of top non-Michelin rider, Carlos Checa (Ducati). A fighting ride from Toni Elias (Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) saw him also run off track and yet battle back to overtake Colin Edwards (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) in the final sector of the last lap, earning himself a best finish of sixth in his rookie MotoGP season so far.
Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V-Michelin) and Alex Barros (Honda Camel Pons RC211V- Michelin) rounded out the top nine, while Chris Vermeulen (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) and Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) 11th and 12th respectively. Fourteenth place went to Spaniard Ruben Xaus (Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) after a race in which every Michelin rider scored points.
"Clearly we have to say that we are very happy with the results at this new circuit," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "We scored the top four positions but on top of that we are even more pleased with the consistency and outright speed of our product. Marco set his fastest lap, the new record, on lap 17; Vale his fastest lap at the same stage, and for Nicky it was lap 16. It was particularly pleasing at a circuit that we did not know at all. The first win for Marco was well deserved because he was the fastest guy almost all weekend, and although he had to fight to stay ahead of Valentino, who is very hard to beat, it is a great win for Marco. Michelin has obviously adapted very well to this new track in Istanbul, as we dominated the podium at the Formula One race as well, with Raikkonen, Alonso and Montoya. In fact, in that race we scored the top nine places. We didn't quite equal that today but we came close."
"It's been a wonderful weekend for us, even if I missed out on pole position on Saturday, but we made up for that today," said Melandri of his first ever MotoGP win. "When Sete went past me at the beginning I tried to follow to see if we could make a gap to the other riders together. But he made a mistake and ran on when he was leading. After that I tried to keep my rhythm. I saw that Valentino was not so far from me at the beginning, but I made a little bit, a little bit, lap by lap. I tried to focus as much as I could. I also want to say thank you to Michelin. They have given me very good tyres."
Rossi, unable to win but still overcoming his set-up worries from practice, said: We struggled a lot on Friday and Saturday mornings, as we did not find the correct settings. We tried a lot different settings today and we did a great job to get second position. I made a big mistake at the start and that made it very difficult. But congratulations to Marco. He was very fast today, in some parts of the track a lot faster than me."
To underline Michelin's strong recent performances in a multitude of disciplines, Se bastien Loe b (Citroen) made history at the Corsican Rally this week, by not only winning the rally itself, but every single stage - an unprecedented display of dominance.