ROSSI WINS AGAIN AT NEW RECORD PACE Rossi makes it four in a row as Michelin riders dominate Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) found his old rival Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) a...
ROSSI WINS AGAIN AT NEW RECORD PACE
Rossi makes it four in a row as Michelin riders dominate Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) found his old rival Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) a tough challenger for 22 laps of the Catalunya Grand Prix, but after three astonishing final tours of the 4.727km track, Rossi took victory by over a second. Such was the prowess of his Michelin tyres that he set the new lap record, of 1'43.195, on his 23rd lap, and beat the old race record by 46 seconds.
Michelin's overall performance, from first lap to last, secured the first eight places, after an often-dramatic encounter in dry and sunny conditions. Behind the battling duo at the front, a three-rider fight for the final podium place, between Marco Melandri (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin), Alex Barros (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) finished in that order, with Melandri seven seconds back from Rossi. Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) had an eventually lonely sixth place.
"The race pace this year was just about two seconds faster than last year's event," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycle competitions. "The most incredible thing is that Valentino made his fastest lap on the 23rd of 25. That shows how good the staying power of our tyres is. To put that in perspective, the new race lap record, set almost at the finish, would have put Valentino tenth on the grid after qualifying. Even on qualifying tyres, only two riders using our competitor's tyres could go faster. Obviously the bikes are better again this year and the track surface has been improved since last time, but we did not expect to see results quite as good as these. From the point of view of the performance of the tyres, this is by far the best race of the year so far. We were very happy with our consistency."
Rossi's high pace game of wait and see was only possible after some early lap bumping and barging, with Melandri looking like he could join the front two in the battle for the lead to the end. He had to settle for only three laps at the head of the pack, before first Rossi and then Gibernau slotted past him. In front of his home crowd, Gibernau led for 18 laps, pushing hard to try and drop Rossi from his slipstream. Summoning all his powers of race craft, Rossi eased away as soon as he had passed Gibernau, with his latest race-winning effort putting him on 145 points, only five short of perfection.
"It was a great race," said Rossi, "the pace in the lead was incredible after the first laps of hard fighting. Gibernau and I got away and he was able to set a great rhythm at the front. He took advantage because I also made some mistakes at the beginning. The rhythm and pace was high right to the end. I tried hard after I made the pass and I made three amazing final laps, which gave me the win,"
Gibernau was satisfied with his performance in front of his avid home fans, if disappointed to be unable to match Rossi's final speed."We had a good race at a good rhythm. At the start of the race there was a lot of confusion, and when I passed Rossi the bike was going OK. Rossi did a very good lap and when the left side was sliding too much, I knew I would not be able to stay with him."
Melandri had a fight on his hands, but it was a fight he won for third. "I lost a lot of time trying to overtake Barros and Nicky, but I won the battle for the podium. I would like to say thank you to my team and to Michelin because they helped me a lot with the tyres."
The first six Michelin runners all made the same choice of rear tyre. Colin Edwards (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Troy Bayliss (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) completed the run of eight top Michelin runners, with Makoto Tamada Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V-Michelin) sliding out of sixth place on lap seven.