Rossi wins controversial GP at Jerez

Valentino Rossi won the opening round of the 2005 season at Jerez. The Italian set pole position on Saturday, almost a half-second faster than second place and bitter rival, Sete Gibernau. Third-fastest went to former 250cc World Champion, Marco...

Valentino Rossi won the opening round of the 2005 season at Jerez. The Italian set pole position on Saturday, almost a half-second faster than second place and bitter rival, Sete Gibernau. Third-fastest went to former 250cc World Champion, Marco Melandri, while Nicky Hayden, Shinya Nakano and Loris Capirossi qualified on the second row; all the ingredients to make a juicy opening round.

As the lights went out, Rossi and Gibernau fought for turn one. Rossi stayed on the brakes longer, winning him turn one, but quickly losing at as Gibernau squared off the turn and gained the lead. Four turns later and Hayden made his move, diving on the inside of Rossi as the two entered turn five. Melandri tried a similar move, but the Doctor was not taking any more clients. Further back, the "Green Machine", at the hands of Nakano, quickly made its move on Troy Bayliss for fifth place, just behind Melandri.

One lap on the books and the top-ten order was Gibernau, Hayden, Rossi, Melandri, Nakano, Bayliss, Capirossi, Carlos Checa, Alex Hofmann and Toni Elias.

The pace-setters quickly emerged and the leading four began to open up a gap Nakano who led the rest.

Lap three and the lap record from 2003 was already broken by 1.5 seconds. You could see that Rossi was suffering from exit speed, his M1 no as powerful as the mighty V5. The Italian appeared to have problems staying with the Hondas and few could blame him, considering the next M1 was seven places behind. As Rossi tried to close the gap on Hayden, he out-braked himself, a similar incident to Catalunya 2003 except he kept it in the tarmac. The incident was enough to invite Melandri for a visit, but Rossi quickly squared off the turn, placing the two riders side-by-side on the exit. Rossi chose not to back off and kept third place, but the pace at the front was high. The first victim of Jerez was Ruben Xaus, who pitted his Fortuna-Yamaha which was apparently suffering from some sort of mechanical ailment. Xaus later returned to the race, but by then it was pure testing time.

Rossi's new lap record only lasted one lap, as Hayden responded to the challenge and set a 1:40.960, half a second slower than his qualifying session. In the past, Melandri has been criticized for not being patient, but at Jerez, the young-gun showed signs of maturity, when he realized he was not going to stay with the men at the front and began to slow down. Nakano's pace was nothing to sneer at, while the Japanese may not have had the pace of the front-three, he maintained a good lead from sixth place, Bayliss.

Five laps of 27, and Rossi made his move on Hayden at the end of the back straight, the American left with no response as Rossi gained the inside line. Rossi's move was no mirrors and smoke, rather pure speed; his lap-time a 1:40.596, more than two seconds faster than the current lap record.

For the Max Biaggi fans wondering where he was, the Roman Emperor had struggled all weekend to get his bike to work. This saw Biaggi struggling at the back of the pack in 16th place.

With 19 laps to go the top-eight had shuffled; Gibernau, Rossi, Hayden, Melandri, Nakano, Checa, Tamada and Bayliss. Rossi continued to struggle exiting corners and Gibernau took advantage of the situation and opened up a one-second gap to the Doctor. But by the tenth lap that advantage was cut in half.

Though the order remained the same for the top-five, it was another story for the rest. Tamada took over sixth place, while Barros relegated Checa to 8th, who in turn relegated Bayliss to 9th, followed by Colin Edwards in 10th. Edwards made his move for 9th the very next lap.

And then there were two. By the 12th lap, the pace at the front proved too much for Hayden. Something Kenny Roberts which would have happened to him instead of the mechanical failure that caused him to retire from the race.

Back in fifth place, Nakano had his hands full keeping the hounding Hondas of Barros, Tamada and Bayliss at bay. The Japanese rider tried, but with 11 laps to go got overtaken by Barros.

Max Biaggi's racing pedigree is often overlooked, but the Italian reminded us and especially Edwards, why he's a four-time 250cc World Champion as he climbed from 16th place in the opening laps to ninth by the 18th.

Not only did Hayden fall back more than two seconds, sadly for the American, he also crashed out of the race on the 20th lap. The number 69 lost the front-end and ditched the V5 into the gravel. Hayden tried to pick and restart the bike, but it was too late.

Last year, when Ducati fired Bayliss for Checa, many fans felt betrayed as Bayliss is perhaps one of the few riders in the current paddock all fans admire. When the Australian announced he'd be switching to a Honda, everyone rejoiced and could not wait for the former WSBK Champion to show everyone what he was capable of, however, as the pre-season tests go underway, Bayliss had trouble coming to grips with the V5. Thankfully for Bayliss and all MotoGP fans he seemed to be getting along with the Honda as he passed Honda veteran, Tamada, for sixth with only six laps to go.

Three laps to go and the time for Rossi to lead had come. Rossi made his move on the brakes on the entry into the last turn, a move which would be reused two laps later.

As the 25th lap got underway, Rossi led Gibernau for the first time. Rossi's plan, to go as fast as possible and try to break the Spaniard. In one lap, Rossi's advantage had grown to three tenths of a second. But the Italian made a mistake at the end of the back straight, the same place where he had successfully passed Hayden previously. Rossi out-braked himself and ran wide, opening the door to Gibernau. Rossi tried to recover as he did with Melandri, but it was too late, on the exit both men were side-by-side. Gibernau got a better launch out of the turn and gained the advantage into the next left-hander.

Within four turns, Gibernau's Honda and Rossi's Yamaha looked like one bike. Rossi again tried to gain the lead, but again, ran wide on the exit. Rossi had two more turns in which to make his move, but he would require one of them to catch up to Gibernau which left only one turn, the right left-hander that leads into the front-straight.

When one first sees the move, it seems Rossi simply kamikaze'd himself into the turn. However, after careful review, you can see that both riders are side-by-side entering the last bend. Rossi has the inside line and Gibernau the race-line. Being the last turn of the last lap, few would fault either rider for not giving way to the other, and this is exactly what happened, both riders went into the turn at the same time. The result, a collision and simple physics, which caused Gibernau to run wide and into the gravel trap.

Gibernau kept the Honda on its wheels and with such a huge advantage to third place, returned to take second.

Barros took fourth, followed by Nakano, Bayliss, Biaggi, Tamada, Edwards, Checa, Hofmann, Elias, Capirossi, John Hopkins Roberto Rolfo and James Ellison taking the last point.

The MotoGP circus returns next week at the Portuguese GP in Estoril.

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Troy Bayliss , Colin Edwards , Sete Gibernau , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts Jr. , John Hopkins , Ruben Xaus , Marco Melandri , James Ellison , Roberto Rolfo , Toni Elias , Alex Hofmann