Catalunya: Michelin race report

Rossi Beats Race Record by 18.5 Seconds World champ's record-breaking duel with Gibernau thrills massive Spanish crowd Michelin riders dominate, filling all but one of the top ten finishing positions Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi ...

Rossi Beats Race Record by 18.5 Seconds

World champ's record-breaking duel with Gibernau thrills massive Spanish crowd Michelin riders dominate, filling all but one of the top ten finishing positions

Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) scored another superb victory at Catalunya today, out-pacing World Championship leader Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) in a red-hot, 25-lap encounter. Watched by 102,000 raucous fans, the pair ran away from the pack, demolishing the race record by 18.5 seconds despite a track temperature of 40 degrees. Rossi's fellow Italian Marco Melandri (Fortuna Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) completed an all-Michelin podium after scoring his first MotoGP top-three finish. Michelin riders filled all but one of the top-ten finishing positions and currently hold the top 12 places in the 2004 points chase.

"The race was fast, but we expected it to be faster!" said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "I think Valentino and Sete were playing around with each other and maybe also conserving their tyres. There wasn't a big difference in the tyres they ran -- Rossi chose a very slightly harder rear than Sete, but Marco also chose the same tyre as Sete. Tyre choice is more down to the individual rider's feel rather than the type of machine. Marco's was a great performance -- he was both fast and consistent."

The race was another classic, Rossi backing up last Sunday's Mugello victory in masterful style to close to within five points of the series leader. Rossi led lap one but Gibernau took over next time around and stayed there until just after half distance when Rossi began probing the Spaniard, getting ahead when Gibernau ran wide. After that the champ got his head down and opened a half-second advantage but lost it all in one corner, which allowed Gibernau to get close enough to draft past on the main straight and retake the advantage with four laps to go. Rossi still wasn't done though, pulling off a stunning out-braking manoeuvre at turn one with two laps to go.

"That was a fantastic race -- we were a long way ahead of everyone else which shows how fast we were going," grinned Rossi who has won three of this year's five races to Gibernau's two. "When Sete started sliding around the pace slowed a little and I was faster than him in the later laps, just fast enough to win. Yamaha, the team and Michelin have done some great work here -- my bike loses a little on the straight but it is very good for turning. I'm very, very happy!"Gibernau, who won the French and Spanish GPs in May, was the first to congratulate his friend and rival. "Valentino rode a great race," said the local hero who crossed the line just 0.159 seconds down. "Tyre choice was very important here. In practice it seemed that the Yamaha had better traction, so they could use a harder tyre for the race. When I tried that same tyre I wasn't quick enough. I made the right choice with Michelin's help, but I think this race shows that Yamaha have been working very hard."

Melandri had a great ride to third, coming through from sixth on lap one to get the better of a long tussle with Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) who ended up eighth. "I've waited a year and a half for this," beamed Melandri who joined the premier class last season. "I got into a good rhythm after five or six laps and worked hard to keep my focus. My thanks to Yamaha and to Michelin for some good tyres."Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) came through from 12th on the grid to take fourth, just ahead of Colin Edwards (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) who won a frantic contest for fifth with impressive MotoGP rookie Ruben Xaus (D'Antin MotoGP Ducati Desmosedici-Michelin), riding a year-old Duke V4.

-Michelin-

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Valentino Rossi , Sete Gibernau , Ruben Xaus , Marco Melandri