Rossi Crowns 2004 With Ninth Win Italian hero ends remarkable season with Michelin's 14th victory from 16 races Season finale watched by 122,000 fans including basketball legend Michael Jordan Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team ...
Rossi Crowns 2004 With Ninth Win
Italian hero ends remarkable season with Michelin's 14th victory from 16 races
Season finale watched by 122,000 fans including basketball legend Michael Jordan
Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) crowned a remarkable 2004 campaign with a hard-fought victory in this afternoon's season-ending Spanish GP. The Italian overcame a determined challenge from Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pons RC211V -Michelin) who fought off Troy Bayliss (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP4-Michelin) for second place. Michelin riders monopolised the podium for the 13th time this season, Rossi's ninth win of the year bringing the French tyre brand's win rate to almost 97 per cent over the past ten seasons. Rossi sealed the World Championship -- Michelin's 24th title success of the past 29 years -- in Australia two weeks ago.
"We're very happy with the consistency of our tyres here," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "They were strong throughout, so Max could do a 33.9 on his last-but-one lap. Valentino controlled the race in terrific style and Troy was great too, cutting a 33.7 on his 16th lap. Conditions have been strange this weekend, this was the only dry race of the year that wasn't faster than last year, but while MotoGP was three seconds slower, the 250s were eight seconds down a nd the 125s 18 down. Overall we've had a great season, taking 14 wins from 16 rounds, including a clean sweep of the top four positions at the last four events."
The race was one of the most enjoyable of a thrilling season, Rossi fighting back and forth with Makoto Tamada (Camel Honda RC211V) who shone well in the early stages but slipped back as tyre wear took its toll. Rossi finally dealt with the Japanese rider on lap 15 and got his head down to put some distance between himself and the chasing pack: Tamada, Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), Biaggi, Bayliss and Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin). With eight la ps to go he was 2.1 seconds ahead of Biaggi, who'd come through to second after passing Tamada and Hayden (who later slid off) but Biaggi cut the champ's advantage to just 0.425 seconds at the flag.
"To win nine races, same as I did last year with Honda, is unbelievable," grinned Rossi, premier-class king for the fourth year in a row. "And to win the last three races is perfect, although today was more difficult than Sepang or Phillip Island because this track is always hard work for me. It was tough with Tamada at first but after he slowed I could get ahead and find my rhythm, though I had to fight 100 per cent to keep Max behind me."
Biaggi, who lost time in the early stages after being forced wide by Gibernau, set the fastest lap on his way to his ninth podium of 2004. "The first few laps were very hot and I was lucky not to crash when Gibernau got in too deep at turn two," said the Roman. "After that it was an uphill fight. I found a good rhythm even though in MotoGP it's the last ten laps that count, when the bikes aren't so easy to handle."
Bayliss was in stunning form in his last ride for Ducati, storming through from the second row to challenge Biaggi and end the race just 3.133 seconds down on the winner. "It's been a tough year for me," said Bayliss after his first podium of 2004. "But after we tested some new stuff at Phillip Island it's felt like a new bike. I was a little cautious at the start, while Sete and Tamada were up the inside like crazy."
Gibernau had a difficult ride, slipping to sixth at one point, finally crossing the line fourth, three seconds down on Bayliss. Alex Barros (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) finished sixth behind Tamada.
The race was watched by a noisy crowd of 122,000 people, including basketball legend Michael Jordan. The six-time NBA champ is such a huge MotoGP fan that yesterday he rode a handful of laps on the Michelin-equipped Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici two-seater, usually piloted by Randy Mamola.