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MotoGPAustraliaOctober 19, 2003
MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 14
Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island

Rossi Wins Race of The Season Despite Ten-Second Penalty

As an onshore wind blew across the Bass Strait in southern Australia, Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) stormed to his eighth win of the season in front of an enthralled 45,000 crowd. The World Champion was unmatched in speed and determination as he decimated the field and the 10-second penalty he was given for overtaking under yellow flags. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) was second with Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) third.

There was an almost tangible intensity to this penultimate round of the 16-race World Championship, and the action never let up for a second after Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) fired his machine into the lead at turn one from the second row of the grid.

After two days of qualifying in bright sun and dry conditions, race day began with a heavy rainfall. The 125 race was run in a downpour, the 250 Grand Prix on a wet track that began to dry in the final laps, and the MotoGP showdown on a dry but dirty surface that was to cause riders enormous trouble.

No one suffered more than Aussie hopeful Troy Bayliss (Ducati) who crashed heavily on lap four and lay frighteningly motionless at the trackside before recovering consciousness in the medical centre. Later he was sitting-up and talking, but was airlifted to Melbourne for a thorough check-up, where he was pronounced fit and well.

Rossi took the lead in the chaotic aftermath of the crash, relieving early leader Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) of his second place and then early lap leader Marco Melandri (Yamaha) of first place on that same lap. But it was to cost him a 10-second penalty.

Biaggi, who relinquished the lead at turn two on the opening lap when he ran wide, also crashed when the debris from Bayliss' smashed machine temporarily obscured his vision. He was to remount and finish a distant 17th after losing two laps while struggling with his crashed machine in the grass run-off area at Honda Corner.

Rossi meanwhile was working his way through his punishment with measured speed. He reeled off fastest lap after fastest lap in his successful bid to put 10 seconds between himself and Capirossi in second. On lap seven the gap was 1.3 seconds. By lap 23, with four to go, the gap was 10.4 seconds and the champ had put in the fastest lap of the race on lap 18 at 1m 31.421 seconds.

"That race was incredible," said Rossi. "I knew I had a good rhythm, perhaps better than the others. It was dangerous because everyone was very aggressive at the start and with the strong wind the bike was very difficult to control. I saw my pit board and saw 'less 10' and didn't know what it meant. Afterwards I thought yellow flag, but I didn't see any flag. I've never ridden a race like that at 100% all the time."

Hayden was overjoyed with his achievement of a podium in his first year of MotoGP. "I really wanted a legitimate podium and now I've got one," he said. "I wanted to go with Valentino and Capirossi, but I just couldn't match their speed. But I got Ukawa and then Gibernau on the last lap. Hopefully the best is yet to come."

Gibernau was intent on wrapping up second place in the World Championship - which he did with his fourth place. "Obviously I would have liked to be on the podium," he said. "But I am very satisfied. All season I've taken each race as it comes, but here I was thinking of the bigger picture, especially as we had such a tough weekend crashing in qualifying."

Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) finished fifth after getting in among the fast men early in the race and contributing massively to the three-way dust-up for third place that captivated the enthusiastic Aussie crowd for the second half of the race.

"I had a coming together with Hayden on the last lap and that ruined my chances of a podium," said the Japanese. "I really wanted that podium, but I'm not that unhappy because my start was okay (at last) and it's been a long time since I've been able to be in contact with the front runners."

Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) finished tenth after finding it difficult adjusting to the strong wind here. "I've never ridden in a wind like that," said the Japanese rookie. "And that first bend after the start when everyone was bunched up was quite something. I chose a front tyre that was a bit too soft thinking the lower temperature would bear out the decision. But I made some mistakes in my riding and that's why I didn't do better."

Fellow Japanese rookie Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) had a tough time down in 19th place. "I knew it would not be an easy race today," he said. "I had a good set-up but the race conditions were different to qualifying. Anyway I've picked up some more experience and I gave it everything I could."

MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 14
Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island

1 Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda)
2 Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team)
3 Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda)
4 Sete Gibernau (Telef—nica Movistar Honda)
5 Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons)
6 Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Team)
7 Shinya Nakano (d'Antφ Yamaha Team)
8 Carlos Checa (Fortuna Yamaha Team)
9 Kenny Roberts (Suzuki Grand Prix Team)
10 Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda)
17 Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons)
18 Ryuichi Kiyonari (Team Telefonica Movistar Honda)

V.Rossi & N.Hayden
1 Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda)
2 Anthony West (Team Zoppini Abruzzo)
3 Fonsi Nieto (Team Repsol Telefonica Movistar)
4 Franco Battaini (Campetella Racing)
5 Alex Debon (Troll Honda BQR)
6 Naoki Matsudo (Yamaha Kurz)
7 Erwan Nigon (Equipe de France - Scrab GP)
8 Jaroslav Hules (Elit Grand Prix)
9 Manuel Poggiali (MS Aprilia Team)
10 Johan Stigefelt (Team Zoppini Abruzzo)
1 Andrea Ballerini (Ajo Motorsports)
2 Masao Azuma (Ajo Motorsports)
3 Steve Jenkner (Exalt Cycle Red Devil)
4 Alvaro Bautista (Seedorf Racing)
5 Arnaud Vincent (Sterilgarda Racing)
6 Hector Barbera (Master-MXOnda-Aspar Team)
7 Alex De Angelis ( Racing)
8 Jorge Lorenzo (Caja Madrid Derbi Racing)
9 Gabor Talmacsi (Exalt Cycle Red Devil)
10 Robbin Harms (Seedorf Racing)

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