Valencia GP Michelin race report

The amazing Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) won his second successive 500 GP victory at sweltering Valencia today, leaving the pack well behind, just as he did in Portugal two weeks ago. The little Australian's third 500 win ended a ...

The amazing Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) won his second successive 500 GP victory at sweltering Valencia today, leaving the pack well behind, just as he did in Portugal two weeks ago. The little Australian's third 500 win ended a record 22-race spell without a back-to-back 500 winner.

But just as significant as McCoy's dazzling win was a dogged ride to second by Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin). The result puts the American one step away from his first 500 crown, after hard-charging title rival Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) crashed out of second place in the closing stages. The Italian youngster was uninjured in the fall. Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) ran Roberts close in the late stages to finish a good third.

The race was another triumph for Michelin's increasingly popular 16.5in rear slick, championed by McCoy since late last season. McCoy's speed with the tyre has attracted more and more riders to the 16.5, which offers a larger contact patch at maximum lean for cooler running and extended life. In Portugal the first five men home ran the rubber and here the first nine ran 16.5s.

McCoy took the lead from Biaggi on lap four and was never again headed, leaving Roberts to fight off a whole pack of riders keen to get into second. By race end, McCoy had built a five-second lead.

"I'm happy with that, now I just want to keep doing the same," he beamed. "I guess Kenny and Valentino couldn't keep up because they had too much to lose in terms of the championship. We had a tough run of mid-season results because I was pretty much the only guy running 16.5s, and we needed to do some work on the tyre. Michelin have been great, coming up with a lot of compounds that really suit me."

The result moves McCoy to fourth in the championship but he's too far behind Roberts to play for the title. Today Roberts had to deal with race-long pressure from Biaggi, then Rossi and then Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin). Rossi did get ahead briefly before his fall, four laps from the flag, then Roberts had to fend off Biaggi again.

"I couldn't ask for more than second today," he said. "The tyres lasted great, so thanks to Michelin. I couldn't catch Garry, that's for sure, but we had a lot on our minds today in terms of the championship."

Roberts only needs to finish somewhere in the top seven at Rio in three weeks time to be crowned 500 World Champion and become Michelin's 20th 500 king. His legendary father, King Kenny, was 500 champ in 1978, '79 and '80.

Biaggi rode a determined race, attacking Roberts in the late stages but unable to match the Suzuki's front-end grip. "I did everything I could all race, that's my job!" he grinned. "I'm happy with third because it was a hard race, much harder than the last few. I got close to Roberts and tried to pass but I had a couple of big moments."

Three seconds down on Biaggi at the flag came Nobuatsu Aoki (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin), taking fourth place for the fourth time this season. Alex Barros (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin) and Regis Laconi (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) were next up in fifth and sixth, with Checa ending the race in seventh. The local hero had been running in third and looking good for his first podium since the Italian GP, until he ran off the track.

He crossed the line ahead of compatriot Sete Gibernau (Repsol Honda-Michelin), who rode conservatively after seeing team-mate and reigning champ Alex Crivill=E9 (Repsol Honda-Michelin) slide off in the early stages. Crivill=E9 remounted but was forced out due to bike damage.=

Gibernau just beat second team-mate Tadayuki Okada (Repsol Honda-Michelin) to the line. Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Rizla Honda-Michelin) was top privateer and the first man home running a Michelin 17in rear.

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Valentino Rossi , Alex Barros , Sete Gibernau , Kenny Roberts , Jurgen van den Goorbergh , Nobuatsu Aoki , Laconi Régis