First win for Ducati, 299th for Michelin Capirossi makes history with first premier-class win for Ducati, 299th for Michelin Champ Rossi breaks track record after double error, despite torrid conditions Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team ...
First win for Ducati, 299th for Michelin
Capirossi makes history with first premier-class win for Ducati, 299th for Michelin
Champ Rossi breaks track record after double error, despite torrid conditions
Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) scored a momentous victory at Catalunya today -- Ducati's first in the premier class and Michelin's 299th. The Italian beat compatriot Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) in an unfo rgettable confrontation, the pair ruling the race, Capirossi assuming the advantage when Rossi made a couple of rare mistakes in the closing stages. Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) gave the 96,000 fans something to cheer about wit h a hard-fought third-place finish. Michelin riders filled 14 of the first 15 positions and currently hold the top eight places in the World Championship.
The race was run in withering 35 degree heat with track temperatures nudging 50 degrees -- conditions that required riders to choose tyres carefully and ride cleverly. But despite the ultra-tough circumstances, Capirossi's race was just one second slower than the race record, established last year in cooler conditions by Rossi.
"Usually we break race records, but today's heat made that impossible," explained Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "The race wasn't so fast because everyone was looking after their tyres, but Valentino's speed as he fought back following his mistakes showed what was possible. Maybe they would've beaten the record if he hadn't run off the track. But it's a great day for Loris and for Ducati. They've done an incredible job to win after just six races. At the last two ra ces Loris has worked brilliantly on bike set-up and choosing tyres."
Capirossi was the only one of the front runners to choose a medium-compound Michelin, while Rossi, Gibernau and Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin), who slid off in the late stages, all ran hard rear Michelins. The first half of the race was somewhat processional, as Rossi led from Capirossi, Biaggi and Gibernau, everyone saving the best of themselves and of their tyres for the later stages. But things started happening soon after halfway -- Rossi upped the pace, then ran wide on l ap 16, putting Capirossi ahead. Rossi came back the following lap, then ran off the track after narrowly avoiding a collision with the new leader. That dropped him to sixth but he fought back brilliantly, breaking the lap record as he came back to second, just three seconds down. Biaggi remounted to finish 14th.
"The race was unbelievable," said Capirossi, who is spearheading Ducati's return to premier-class GP racing after an absence of 31 years. "I had a big fight with Valentino, the rhythm wasn't so fast because the conditions were so tough, especially for the tyres. We were trying not to push too hard, and when Valentino tried to go faster he ran wide. After that I rode 100 per cent. I got signals that Valentino was coming back very fast, so I tried not to spin the rear too much."
Despite his mistake Rossi is still well ahead in the championship standings and allowed himself a smile at his blunders. "I don't know whether I'm happier about my last few laps or more angry about my mistakes," he grinned. Gibernau's result moved him into second overall. "I really wanted to be in the Loris/Valentino battle but I lacked a little speed," said the winner of the Africa's and French GPs. "I think I rode well, but we need to learn more about the set-up of my bike."
Carlos Checa (Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) made a great mid-race charge to fourth, six tenths off the podium and less than a tenth ahead of Shinya Nakano (D'Antin Yamaha YZR-M1-Michelin). Tohru Ukawa (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) led the rest of the pack home in sixth place.