Valentino Rossi wins Catalan GP

Valentino Rossi took his third win of the season in front of 105,000 Spaniards. The Catalan script said Sete Gibernau would take the win at his home GP after setting the fastest times, but Valentino Rossi seems to have not received that memo....

Valentino Rossi took his third win of the season in front of 105,000 Spaniards. The Catalan script said Sete Gibernau would take the win at his home GP after setting the fastest times, but Valentino Rossi seems to have not received that memo. After qualifying in the front on Friday and Saturday, not many doubted Gibernau would be in the front pack. However, just as many knew Rossi would be in it with Gibernau.

The rest was a little harder to predict. Hayden had qualified in third, but he's inexperienced in MotoGP and there was doubt he could maintain the pace. Biaggi was another volunteer to spoil the two-man championship fight, but he'd been complaining of problems with his RC211V. At the end of the day, time is the best solution for such predicaments.

Catalunya has a very long straight, not as long as Mugello, but long nevertheless. This means that power is essential. But if power is essential, so is handling.

Rossi led the first lap after going around Gibernau into turn one. Gibernau was followed by Biaggi, Tamada and Alex Barros. Catalunya is a very hard track, and it has no mercy. Its first victim was Hayden, as he could not exploit his third place position and was displaced to 15th place. The next victim of the track was Capirossi who ran off the track within a few corners of the first lap.

As already mentioned, power is very important and it was evident the Honda of Gibernau had plenty of it. Although Gibernau was not able to out-brake Rossi into turn one, the speed of his Honda was clear. Things also got a little tougher for Rossi, as he lost control of his Yamaha while braking into the famous tight left hander of Catalunya. The Italian clearly doing everything he could to regain control. At this level of racing if you make one mistake you are guaranteed to lose at least one position, and Rossi is no exception. As Rossi ran wide, Gibernau took advantage and passed the Italian on the inside of the turn. Max Biaggi would have loved to pass Rossi but he was no close enough to make his move. Alex Barros knew that with 23 laps to go, the race would be long. He also knew the top two would try to get away. On queue, the Brazilian got past Tamada to take over fourth, as he set his sights on Biaggi.

On lap three, the pressure Gibernau was under began to show as the Spaniard ran a little wide, just enough to invite Rossi on the inside; Rossi refused the invitation, but the signal was very clear nevertheless. Behind the top two, things were shuffling around. 250cc world champion, Marco Melandri, got past Tamada for fifth.

Sooner or later Barros was going to take over third, and to Biaggi's dismay it happened on lap four. As if loosing third was not bad enough, Melandri got on the inside of Biaggi after only three corners. Barros's third place would not last too long, as the Brazilian lost the front-end of his HRC-spec V5 and crashed out of the race.

Groups quickly began to form. Gibernau and Rossi started to open up a gap back to Melandri, Biaggi and Makoto Tamada. Farther back were Xaus and Checa.

With 17 laps to go, Tamada began to show problems as the Japanese rider dropped back. Checa came away victorious from his battle with Xaus as he chased Tamada for fifth place.

On lap 11, the groups had broken up once more. Gibernau and Rossi led, followed by Melandri on the second group and Biaggi in the third. Tamada had to retire due to tire failure, which handed Checa fifth place.

Back in the pack, we were reminded of the old WSBK days (race positions not withstanding); Bayliss and Edwards battling for seventh and eighth place. Behind the pair was another battle between Shinya Nakano and Nicky Hayden.

With only 12 laps to go, the race position in the front was getting stale and a change was in the script. Rossi rose to the challenge as he exploited a mistake on Gibernau's part. The overtaking was simply phenomenal. On the exit of the turn Rossi's rear tire was smoking as the Italian had his Yamaha sideways through the short right hand turn.

By the time the leading pair got to the front straight, first place was back on Gibernau's court. The crowed simply went wild as the Movie Star Honda out-braked Rossi into turn one. Rossi's and Melandri's Yamahas were not the only ones making waves, Checa managed to get past Biaggi to take over fourth place.

Nine and half laps to go dictated for another lead change and Rossi again took over the honors.

Sadly for all Hayden's fans, the AMA champion retired with only eight laps to go. His Repsol bike parked on the side of the track. Hayden's fellow American, Kenny Roberts, also had problems, but his were related to his Bridgestone tires. After witnessing the results of tire failure, Roberts was wise to come into the pits to have his rear tire replaced.

As the laps began to come down, Gibernau knew he had to establish himself if he was to win the race, and with four laps to go, the Spaniard drafted past Rossi to out-brake him into turn one. On this lap, Bayliss had a horrific crash, as the Australian tumbled out of the race. Bayliss was ok, but it was easy to see that he was shaken up.

Although Kenny Roberts was a lap down, he had the best seat in the house for the last three laps of the race. The leading two eventually caught up to Roberts, who very professionally moved aside. Just because the leaders pass you, does not mean you cannot stay with them. With a fresh rear tire, the American rode behind Gibernau and Rossi for the remainder of the race. Roberts made his point; if he were on a competitive bike and tires, the number 10 would not have a problem running at the front.

Two laps to go and Rossi took over first place going into turn one. While on the chase, Gibernau had a small moment, as his V5 stepped out onto the dirt creating a big dramatic dust cloud. The running order would remain as the Gibernau tried, but was not successful in regaining the lead to the flag.

Melandri came third, his first ever MotoGP podium. He was followed by Checa (more Yamahas than Hondas in the top five?) and Edwards in fifth.

The antics were not missing. Rossi pulled off the track and put on a doctor's overcoat as he used stethoscope to check the heartbeat of his M1.

The MotoGP circus moves onto Assen in two weeks. Check back for a full report.

<pre> 1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2. Sete Gibernau (Honda)
3. Marco Melandri (Yamaha)
4. Carlos Checa (Yamaha)
5. Colin Edwards (Honda)
6. Ruben Xaus (Ducati)
7. Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki)
8. Max Biaggi (Honda)
9. Norick Abe (Yamaha)
10. Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
11. Alex Hoffman (Kawasaki)
12. Neil Hodgson (Ducati)
13. Shane Byrne (Aprilia)
14. Andrew Pitt (Moriwaki)
15. Nobu Aoki (Proton)
16. Michel Fabrizio (WCM)
17. Kenny Roberts Jr. (Suzuki)
18. Chris Burns (WCM)

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Norifumi Abe , Colin Edwards , Andrew Pitt , Alex Barros , Sete Gibernau , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Neil Hodgson , Ruben Xaus , Shane Byrne , Makoto Tamada , Marco Melandri , Michel Fabrizio , Chris Burns