Catalunyan GP: Michelin race report

Rossi wins again in sweltering Spain, MotoGP dominator Rossi beats Ukawa after Checa and Yamaha M1 dominate early stages Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) stamped his authority on today's Catalan Grand Prix, winning a tense ...

Rossi wins again in sweltering Spain, MotoGP dominator Rossi beats Ukawa after Checa and Yamaha M1 dominate early stages

Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) stamped his authority on today's Catalan Grand Prix, winning a tense end-of-race shootout with team-mate Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin). The pair dominated the second half of the 24-lap event after Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) had done all the running until mid-distance. Local hero Checa delighted the 90,000 fans with a strong-third place finish, well ahead of team-mate Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin). Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500-Michelin) was the first non-four-stroke finisher in fifth place, the first nine men home all using Michelin tyres. The race was 32.4 seconds faster than the previous Catalunya 500 record.

Rossi looked as masterful as ever as he sped to his fifth win of the year, dexterously controlling wheelspin in the closing stages to give him the edge over his hard-riding team-mate. With a track temperature of over 45 degrees, tyre performancewas always going to be a crucial factor at this circuit, which is equally demanding for both front and rear tyres. But all the frontrunners chose the same compound Michelins -- Rossi, Ukawa, Checa and Biaggi all going for a medium front/medium-hard rear combination.

"All the top four-stroke riders made a good choice, with input from our engineers and their teams, and the bikes used their tyres well," said Michelin Grand Prix manager Emmanuel Fournier. "Like Mugello, Barros chose a very, very soft rear that allowed him to beat the previous 500 race record by over ten seconds. I think the S4's larger contact patch allows him to use that compound, plus a very good machine set-up."

Rossi, who yesterday failed to take pole position for the first time this year, started the race from fourth on the grid. "The high temperature makes it difficult for the riders, the bikes and the tyres," he said. "We made a big step with settingsin warm-up, so a big thank you to my team. Checa had a good rhythm early on and when I went ahead after half-distance, I couldn't leave Tohru behind. But my braking was good, so I knew I could win if I didn't make a mistake. I was sliding around at the end, but we were going very fast so it was okay. With these bikes it's sometimes impossible to use 100 per cent of the performance, you must ride sweetly, otherwise it's like rallying!"

Rossi crossed the line just 0.880 seconds ahead of Ukawa, who lost his chance to repeat his Welkom defeat over the Italian at the start of the final lap. "I pushed too hard into turn one and ran wide, so then I was a little too far behind to attack," said Ukawa, who now trails World Championship leader Rossi by 48 points. "We were both sliding but the tyres felt good, the machine also, I just need a little more performance from myself."

Checa ended the race eight seconds down on the two RCV riders after leading the first 12 laps, then slipping to third. "The bike was working well and I was able to run a good pace," he said. "When Ukawa came by I could pass him again, but when Rossi went ahead I couldn't keep the pace, it was too risky."

Biaggi, who started from pole, ran with the leading group for a while before slipping to fourth. "I managed to make a good start but I quickly realised that it was going to be a tough race," said the Italian. "I was racing my second bike because we had a problem with my number-one machine in warm-up, so we lost all the work we'd done in practice. I did the best I could in the circumstances."

Barros and team-mate Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500-Michelin) finished fifth and sixth after a busy race. "I used the same strategy as Mugello, fitting a very soft rear Michelin, which worked very well," said Barros. "Now we must keep working to close the gap on the four-strokes."

Capirossi beat Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki GSV-R-Michelin) despite running off the track in the closing stages. Daijiro Kato (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR500-Michelin) and Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3 YZR500-Michelin) completed the top nine. All Michelin riders will stay at the track for tyre testing tomorrow, with the exception of Ukawa, Kato and Barros who head to Japan for Suzuka Eight Hours tests.

-michelin-

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Alex Barros , Tohru Ukawa , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Olivier Jacque
Teams Repsol Honda Team