Winner Gibernau Back in The Title Hunt Gibernau wins red-hot race to close points gap after title leader Rossi crashes out Spaniard praises Michelin as French tyre brand dominates first Middle Eastern GP Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar...
Winner Gibernau Back in The Title Hunt
Gibernau wins red-hot race to close points gap after title leader Rossi crashes out
Spaniard praises Michelin as French tyre brand dominates first Middle Eastern GP
Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) reignited his World Championship hopes with a faultless ride to victory in blazing hot conditions at Losail this afternoon. The Spaniard led a team one-two ahead of Colin Edwards (Telefonica Movista r Honda RC211V-Michelin) while MotoGP rookie Ruben Xaus (D'Antin MotoGP Ducati Desmosedici-Michelin) scored his first premier-class podium in third spot. Michelin riders dominated at the brand-new and super-slippery Losail track, filling the top seven posi tions as ambient temperatures soared to 38 degrees and track temperatures to 56 degrees.
Gibernau's 25-point haul was in stark contrast to series leader Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) who crashed out after starting from the back row of the grid. Before today's race Rossi enjoyed a 39-point lead over Gibernau, now the Italian has only a 14 points advantage with just three races to go.
"Congratulations to Sete and condolences to Valentino - the last few races are going to be very interesting," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "Overall it was a good day for us. This has been a challenging weekend because the grip has improved with every session, so this morning Colin was fastest on race tyres, running the same pace the fastest guys ran yesterday on qualifiers. When the pace keeps improving like that it's not easy to get the right tyre choic e for the next outing. But the fastest guys maintained a very quick pace throughout the race, so we're really happy our tyres could cope with that pace in this heat."
Track conditions did indeed improve dramatically throughout the weekend, today's lap record a massive 7.9 seconds quicker than Friday morning's quickest lap. But while grip improved on the racing line, the rest of the track remained treacherously sandy, dozens of riders forced into the run-off during practice and racing as they strayed off the grippier tarmac. It was for this reason that Rossi's mechanics attempted to scrub clean his grid slot yesterday evening, an act which race direction punished by demoting the series leader to the back row of the grid. Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) suffered the same punishment for a similar crime. Rossi nevertheless made an amazing start, running eighth after one lap, then falling five laps later after running wide and onto the Astroturf that lines this desert venue.
Meanwhile Gibernau was building a good lead out front after passing pole-sitter Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) on lap one. The title challenger never relinquished his advantage although the hard-charging Edwards closed to within 1.5 seconds after overpowering Checa before half-distance. At the flag Gibernau was just 1.3 seconds up on his team-mate.
"Winning is never easy, sometimes it's difficult to finish sixth," grinned Gibernau who could only manage a sixth-place finish in Japan two weeks ago. "It's been a tough weekend but Michelin were able to give me back the feeling I had a few weeks ago, so they've proved once again that they make the best tyres."
Edwards was delighted with his second MotoGP podium. "I got a bad start and the first few laps screwed me," said the Texan. "But after that it was an awesome race, I just kept pushing and pushing."
Xaus held onto third under some pressure from Alex Barros (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), while Barros finished comfortably ahead of team-mate Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin). Biaggi finished an impressive sixth despite an off-track excursion on the last lap.