ROSSI IS THE MAN AT LE MANS World Champion beats Gibernau by a fraction in enthralling French GP encounter Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Sete Gibernau (Movistar Honda MotoGP-Michelin) fought another thrilling duel...
ROSSI IS THE MAN AT LE MANS
World Champion beats Gibernau by a fraction in enthralling French GP encounter Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Sete Gibernau (Movistar Honda MotoGP-Michelin) fought another thrilling duel at Le Mans this afternoon, the reigning World Champion beating his arch-rival by just 0.382 seconds after a nail-biting final few laps. Colin Edwards (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) finished in third posiotion after leading for two-thirds distance.
The race, run in the dry after a mostly wet two days of practice, was another record breaker, 10.5 seconds faster than last year's French GP. Gibernau and Rossi broke the lap record time and again, with Rossi quickest of all on the very last lap, 0.41 seconds inside the old record. Michelin riders ruled the race, filling the first five positions, with the first non-Michelin runner 24.6 seconds behind Rossi, a difference of almost 0.9 seconds per lap.
"That was a great race for us," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycle competitions. "It was a difficult weekend for everyone because we didn't have much dry-track time to help us choose the right tyres. But most of our riders were fast, especially Valentino and Sete. Valentino's last lap was amazing, though Sete had more laps in the 33s. And it was great to see Colin up front, confirming the pace he'd shown in winter testing."
Valentino and Alex (Barros, Camel Honda RC211V-Michelin) chose a slightly harder rear than Sete, Colin and Max (Biaggi, Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) who all chose the same, while Marco Melandri (Movistar Honda MotoGP-Michelin) went even harder, maybe a bit too hard. Sete struggled to find a good set-up during practice but he listened to our advice on tyre choice which gave him a very strong pace." Rossi didn't have the easiest of days. With two wins and a second place from the first three GPs, he started in confident mood but a poor first lap left him down in sixth.
From there he worked hard to move forward, moving into second place on lap nine and taking another nine laps before he could attack Edwards. His first assault, at the Chemin aux Boeufs chicane, went awry and allowed slow-starting Gibernau to snatch second place at the next corner. It took Rossi another four laps to work his way back into the lead. From there he kept it tight to deny Gibernau enough room to make a pass.
"I lost some time at the start and had to make some good overtakes to recover," said Rossi, who now holds a 37-point championship lead over fourth-place finisher Melandri. "When I arrive behind Colin I saw that Gibernau was catching us very fast, so I tried to overtake and push at my maximum. I made every lap better and finally I won. I think it was a great show for the fans."
Gibernau also had a tough day. Down in eighth after five laps he eventually found the pace to make a remarkable comeback. "During practice we struggled to find the right set-up and tyres, so we had to gamble for the race," said the Spaniard. "Michelin helped me choose the best tyre, so my thanks to them and the team. Eventually my pace was very good, so I could catch Rossi. I had a chance to pass on the last lap but I made a mistake and couldn't get close enough after that."
Edwards was happy enough with his first MotoGP podium for Yamaha. "I didn't have either the luck or the spark at the first three races, so I came here angry," he said. "And the bike worked right straight out of the truck, so I thought this was it. Valentino and Sete had the pace on me in the late stages. After they got past I had a couple of moments, my rear tyre had got pretty slick, so I went for third."
Melandri took fourth place from Biaggi by just four tenths, Biaggi racing in some pain after a heavy spill during morning warm-up. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) finished sixth after running with Edwards during the early stages.