Rossi Back On Track With Sepang Win Italian's seventh win of the year puts him 30 points clear with two races to go Michelin riders dominate Malaysian Grand Prix in burning-hot conditions Eight days after crashing out of the Qatar GP Valentino...
Rossi Back On Track With Sepang Win
Italian's seventh win of the year puts him 30 points clear with two races to go
Michelin riders dominate Malaysian Grand Prix in burning-hot conditions
Eight days after crashing out of the Qatar GP Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) got his World Championship campaign back on track with a devastating display in burning-hot conditions Sepang today. The series leader comfortably defeated Max Biaggi (Camel Honda Pons RC211V-Michelin) and Alex Barros (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) in 40-degree heat to lead a Michelin clean sweep of the top four places. With just two races of the 16-round season remaining Michelin men also hold all but one of the top 11 positions in the championship points chase.
"Valentino rode a great race today and Max and Alex also ran a very good pace," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "They were impressive because conditions were really tough with a track temperature of almost 60 degrees, and yet they were faster than last year's race which was also 20 seconds faster than 2002. In morning warm-up Valentino was incredibly quick, almost as quick on race tyres as he had been in qualifying, but it was too hot for him to go that fast th is afternoon."
Rossi was more determined than ever this weekend. His rare error at Losail last Saturday cost him dear, his series advantage shrinking from 39 points to 14 as title-rival Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) won the race in impressive style. Yesterday Rossi set a stunning pace in qualifying to take pole position by almost four tenths from nearest challenger Barros. And today he was in similarly purposeful mood, taking the lead from Barros on lap four and later dismissing a st rong challenge from Biaggi. After enjoying a tyre smokin' final lap he crossed the line 3.666 seconds ahead of his fellow Italian to break his own Sepang race record by over 12 seconds. The first non-Michelin finisher in the 21 lap race ended up 21.155 sec onds adrift of Rossi.
"This victory has come at a very important time," admitted the three-time premier-class champ who now holds a 30-point lead over Gibernau, who could only finish seventh. "After losing 25 points last weekend we arrived here very focused and determined to win. The team worked 100 per cent and the bike worked very well. But the track had less grip than yesterday, because it was very hot, so it was a tough race with Barros and Biaggi. I'm so tired that's all I can say." Nevertheless Rossi did en d the race with a typically humorous jape -- he stopped on the slowdown lap to take a broom from a fan and clean the circuit, a reference to the penalty he was given at Qatar for his crew scrubbing his grid slot.
Biaggi, who chose the same medium front Michelin as Rossi but a slightly harder rear, worked hard to attack the leader but when he got the gap down to 0.9 seconds the World Champion upped his pace still further. "My tyres worked well, though I was getting a lot of wheelspin like everyone," said the Roman who was delighted to be back on the podium after being knocked out of two of the last three races. "At least I can see some light at the end of a long, black tunnel, but I want to fight for 25 point s, not 20 points."
Barros ended the race almost six seconds down on Biaggi, running the same tyre combination as his fellow RCV rider. "We suffered with the heat today because it was so much hotter than during practice," said the Brazilian. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) came in fourth after starting from sixth on the grid.