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Rossi Levels Title Fight with Hat-Trick of Wins World Champion Rossi destroys Assen race record by a massive 37.6 seconds Michelin riders dominate fastest MotoGP event of all, filling top 11 finishing positions Valentino Rossi (Gauloises ...

Rossi Levels Title Fight with Hat-Trick of Wins

World Champion Rossi destroys Assen race record by a massive 37.6 seconds

Michelin riders dominate fastest MotoGP event of all, filling top 11 finishing positions

Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) scored a brilliant last-lap victory over title-rival Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) at Assen today, putting the pair level on points with six of the year's 16 GPs run. Marco Melandri (Fortuna Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) won an intense battle with Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) for third place.

Michelin men monopolised the top 11 finishing positions at the fastest MotoGP track of all, the best non-Michelin rider almost 40 seconds behind Rossi at the flag, a difference equivalent to more than two seconds a lap. Both Rossi and Gibernaubroke the lap record time after time, producing their fastest times on the penultimate lap, Rossi eventually bettering the previous lap record by 1.5 seconds. The Italian also broke the two-year old race record by a massive 37.6 seconds. Today's event was a real challenge for riders and teams, since poor weather had given them just one dry qualifying session in which to work on set-up and tyre choice.

"That's great, an improvement of two seconds a lap," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "That proves that our 16.5in front and new-profile rear work perfectly here, even with very limited dry practice. With solittle dry time we limited our riders' race choice to just three rears. All of them worked because the first three guys chose three different rears. Valentino and Sete were on the limit out there. Both said they came close to falling, but that's what happens. Whatever tyres we give them these guys will find the limit and then ask for more! That's the game and we always try to give them more."

Rossi's fourth victory of the year and his third consecutive success made him the first rider to win three back-to-back premier-class wins for Yamaha since Eddie Lawson (Marlboro Yamaha Team Agostini YZR500-Michelin) in 1986. The reigning WorldChampion rode a canny race, shadowing Gibernau throughout, making his successful last-lap attack at the De Bult left-hander and holding on to win by just 0.456 seconds. Alex Barros (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) ran with the pair during the first half of the race but slid off at half-distance. The Brazilian was battered and bruised in the fall but otherwise unhurt.

"That was a great battle," grinned Rossi who started from pole position and chose a slightly harder-compound rear Michelin than his great rival. "I made one mistake when I lost a foot off the footpeg through a fast section which lost me some time,but I didn't give up and was able to get Sete on the brakes during the last lap. Then at the next corner I lost the front and nearly crashed, I was lucky! It was a great race for me but for sure Sete is a little angry!"

Gibernau led all the way -- from turn one to eight corners from the flag -- but was philosophical about his third successive runner-up finish. "We both pushed really hard and in the end he won, there's nothing else to say, except congratulations toValentino," he said. "Two laps from the end I rode a very good lap but then I got some chatter and nearly crashed, so Valentino could come back at me. We're getting some great help from Michelin, it's just up to me to keep working."

Melandri had been chasing the leading pair when he ran off the track with six laps to go but the youngster recovered well to secure his second consecutive third-place finish. He beat Biaggi by one tenth of a second, Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda TeamRC211V-Michelin) and Colin Edwards (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) a further few tenths down at the flag. "Before the race I thought I might get sixth or seventh," said Melandri, who underwent an operation for an 'arm-pump' problem just ten days ago. "I didn't get any arm-pump so I went harder to chase the leaders. My bike was a little nervous but I got to grips with that as the race went on."

Ruben Xaus (D'Antin MotoGP Ducati Desmosedici-Michelin) had another good ride to seventh on his year-old Duke to edge out Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP4-Michelin) by a fraction. Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha TeamYZR-M1-Michelin) and World Superbike champ (D'Antin MotoGP Ducati Desmosedici-Michelin) completed the top ten.


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Carlos Checa , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Alex Barros , Sete Gibernau , Ruben Xaus , Eddie Lawson , Marco Melandri
Teams Repsol Honda Team