Conditions were truly appalling at Assen today, but that didn't deter a 90,000 raceday crowd from enjoying spectacular, if mildly processional racing, for the podium places in the later stages of the seventh MotoGP round of the 2003 season. Spanish title challenger Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) won with Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) second and reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) third.
The first attempt at getting the MotoGP race underway was scuppered by a cloudburst on the sighting lap. Just as the riders were heading onto the back part of the track, the rain began. It worsened as the re-start was taking place - this time as a 'wet' declared race, although no one need have been in any doubt, such was the deluge.
Gibernau stormed away from the line and made the rush to turn one just in front of Biaggi and Rossi. He emerged from the chaos in front, but Biaggi began to pressure the Spaniard heavily as he tried everything to get out of Gibernau's wheeltracks and the drenching, blinding spray that came with them.
By lap two Max had made his move but Sete was having none of it and re-passed Biaggi on the next lap. The pair locked horns for three consecutive turns and Gibernau eventually came out on top, never to be headed for the rest of the race. Max opted for discretion too at that stage and played a waiting game behind the Spaniard.
But when it came to passing backmarkers, as early as the tenth lap - such was the discrepancy in speeds - Max lost out badly. As Gibernau slipped past Garry McCoy's Kawasaki, Max was badly baulked and the time he lost was enough for him to lose touch with Gibernau. The gap had been kept to a manageable 0.9 seconds but by the next lap, after the incident, it was up to 2.8 seconds.
Mindful perhaps of his crash two weeks ago in Catalunya when he fell while disputing third place with Gibernau, the Roman chose the points haul for second rather than a wet trudge back to the garage if he did the same thing here. And by the time Max had settled for a finish, Rossi was making the same plan for a solid third instead of a fretful attempt at making ground, never mind making a pass.