Genius Rossi Wins First Time Out on M1 World Champ uses new Michelin front and rear tyres to destroy race record Runner-up Biaggi's new lap record as fast as last year's Welkom pole time Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team ...
Genius Rossi Wins First Time Out on M1
World Champ uses new Michelin front and rear tyres to destroy race record
Runner-up Biaggi's new lap record as fast as last year's Welkom pole time
Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) defied the doubters in astonishing style at Welkom this afternoon, winning his first GP for Yamaha after a race-long duel with arch-rival Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin). The pair dominated the 28-lap season opener, leaving last year's Welkom winner Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) all alone in third.
The record-breaking race proved the performance of Michelin's new 16.5in front tyre, which monopolised the first five finishing positions and filled all but two of the top 11 places. It also demonstrated the efficacy of a new profile 16.5in rear, developed to handle the ever-increasing horsepower outputs of the front-running MotoGP bikes, especially at this track which features some of the highest running temperatures of the season. All of Michelin's 15 riders ran the new rear today, all but one us ed the 16.5 front. Michelin men filled all but one of the top 11 finishing positions.
Michelin dominated the first MotoGP event of 2004 from start to finish: Rossi claimed pole, 0.527 seconds inside last year's pole time, Biaggi broke the lap record by 0.643 seconds and Rossi smashed the race record by 20.2 seconds. The improvement in race pace has continued an amazing trend over the past few seasons: last year's race was 29 seconds quicker than the inaugural Welkom MotoGP event in 2002, which was 24 seconds inside the last Welkom 500 GP in 2001.
"That was a fantastic race which suggests that we are in for a very interesting season," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "We're delighted with the performance of our 16.5 front, with which the riders were really happy. And the rear also worked really well, thanks to the new profile it showed very good wear. I think the fact that Max's new lap record, set on the last lap, was just three hundredths off last year's pole time says it all."
Rossi was ecstatic after his 60th GP win, which made the former Honda rider the first man in history to win back-to-back premier-class GPs on two different makes of machinery. The Italian led from pole and stayed ahead most of the race, only relinquishing the lead to Biaggi on three occasions. He rode like a true genius, pushing the Yamaha to the outer limits to win by 0.2 seconds.
"That was the best race of my career," Rossi declared. "All weekend I worked well with my team and the race was perfect: I started first, ran a good rhythm, had a great battle with Max and won. The bike was good, the tyres started moving around after seven or eight laps but they stayed constant, so it was a fun ride. But without Jeremy (Burgess, Rossi's crew chief), the rest of my team and Yamaha's big effort this wouldn't have been possible."
Biaggi harried Rossi throughout, looked like he might have the pace to win but couldn't quite manage it. "I tried 100 per cent but was having some problems in the last section of the track, so I couldn't get close enough to attack," admitted Biaggi who ran the same hard front/medium rear combination as Rossi.
Gibernau ended up seven seconds down. "I tried hard at the beginning but some chatter came with me," said the Spaniard. "Today I could only make the podium, when things are okay I can fight to win."
Alex Barros (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) recovered from a sluggish start to come through to fourth ahead of team-mate Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) who beat Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP4-Michelin) to the line by a fraction. Former World Superbike champ Colin Edwards (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) was seventh.