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MotoGPSpainMay 2, 2004
MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 2
Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez

Honda Riders Back in Control in Soaking Spanish Showdown

Under leaden skies and on a soaking track Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) took a home win, Max Biaggi (Camel Honda RC211V) scored a solid second and Alex Barros (Repsol Honda RC211V) stepped up onto the third tier of the podium. It was a dominant performance in front of 125,000 saturated race fans. And as the season unfolds, this was a timely reminder that Honda has a tradition of winning which it is keen to maintain.

Gibernau excels in the wet and with the track awash since the morning and with even more rain falling as the day went on, he was clearly the man best equipped to shine on this dull, dank day. After his fall here last year this was precisely what the Spanish star needed. He now heads the World Championship points table.

Gibernau qualified second on the front row and led the pack into turn one from the lights. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who qualified on pole was right behind him with Biaggi in close attention and Carlos Checa (Yamaha) who also started from the front row was up with the leaders.

But by lap four a pattern to the race was emerging. Sete and Max were the fastest men out there and their RC211Vs were clearly in a class of their own in the appalling conditions. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) was riding an excellent race and was now running third after starting from the fourth row of the grid.

But this was to be the Sete and Max show and as they duelled in the deluge setting fastest laps they opened a gap on Melandri that grew to nearly 13 seconds before their pursuer fell off on lap 19 of this 27 lap contest. Max had lead Sete for one lap before he ran wide and allowed his rival through on lap 17 and then Sete began to stretch his advantage.

As the race closed Sete worked a one a half second lead to a 5.453 second advantage at the flag and at this early stage of the season Max was not about abandon a relatively secure second place in a vain attempt to attack Gibernau.

Alex Barros finished a full 52 seconds behind the winner while Rossi came in fourth. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) worked his way up to 5th at the finish after languishing in tenth during the opening laps.

“I knew my setup wasn’t perfect,” said Gibernau. “But the rain compensated for that and the crowd were so good that I felt like I an extra gear. I didn’t want to make a mistake like last year and I could feel the pressure Max was putting me under. I had to push where I was strong and this is a good result for us.”

Biaggi was happy enough with second. “I gave my best until almost the end,” said the Roman. “Then I decided to accept second with two laps to go after a big slide when I lost so much ground I couldn’t recover it. I want to congratulate Sete who rode superbly and deserved this win. This is my best start to a season since 1998 and I’m really looking forward to Le Mans now.”

And for Barros this result was a big lift. “It seems a long time since I’ve been on a podium. The winter was difficult and now I’m healthy again. I knew I couldn’t ride at Sete and Max’s pace so I just rode my own race. When I saw Marco crash I tried to keep things safe and take the podium. I look forward to being even more competitive as I get stronger through the season.”

For Hayden, in only his second ever wet Grand Prix, fifth place was a fair result. “We made some changes after the morning warm up and the bike felt good straight away in the sighting lap. I got my head down and decided there was no point just riding around. I caught Valentino at the end and showed him my front wheel but I couldn’t make the pass stick. Anyway a good end to a hard weekend.”

Colin Edwards (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) finished seventh. “The cold was a big problem for me. I had to see the doctor at the end because I was freezing and in a bit of trouble. But the main trouble was trying to get a feel for the limit of grip at the front end. I’m still a bit gun shy.”

Makoto Tamada (Camel Honda RC211V) riding on Bridgestone tyres was short of feel and pitted to find a solution. “These conditions were appalling,” said the Japanese. “I decided to pit because I had no feel from the rear at all. But it was just as bad when I tried another tyre. I knew the race was finished for me but I went out again to gather information.”

The World Championship points table looks like this with two of the 16 rounds completed: Gibernau 41 points, Biaggi 40, Rossi 38 and Barros 29.

The 250 race was packed with incident, but sadly not much racing. Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) won by 8.7 seconds from Randy de Puniet (Aprilia) with Fonsi Nieto (Aprilia) second – a full 23.8 seconds behind de Puniet. The track was soaking and it was controlled consistency that brought rewards in the conditions.

Pole man Sebastian Porto (Aprilia) could do nothing to catch the rain men and the Argentine could only manage a distant seventh. But two of the other front row starters had an even worse time of it. Manuel Poggiali (Aprilia) fell on lap one and could not restart, while Danny Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) went down without injury on lap six while lying fourth.

The surprise man of the opening laps was Hiroshi Aoyama (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) who looked like he was capable of matching Rolfo’s speed until he parted company with his machine on lap four. There were 11 fallers in a 32 rider field.

Alex Debon (Wurth Honda BQR RS250R) rode to a fine fifth place while his team-mate Eric Bataille crashed. Tony Elias (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) will be disappointed with his eventual 12th place – the Spaniard never looking comfortable in the deluge.

“The conditions were really dreadful,” said Rolfo. “And we had a bit of trouble getting the bike right this weekend, but as ever the team put in 100% effort and we eventually got the bike right for the conditions. I tried to concentrate and enjoy the race. We still have work to do but this result proves we’re going in the right direction.”

Randy de Puniet leads the overall points standings with 40 points while Rolfo is in close contention with 32 and Pedrosa is in touch in third with 25 sharing that position with Fonsi Nieto and Sebastian Porto also both on 25.

In a saturated 125 race runaway leader Casey Stoner (KTM) threw away almost certain victory when he fell on standing water while finding a way through backmarkers. The Aussie was eight seconds ahead of second placed Marco Simoncelli (Aprilia) when he slipped up, handing the lead and the win to the Italian.

Sixteen-year-old Simoncelli still had to work hard for his first win. He had qualified on pole but made a very average start to lie sixth on the opening lap. Stoner, on the other hand, scorched to the front at turn one and was never headed until his mishap. Steve Jenkner (Aprilia) was second and Hector Barbera (Aprilia) third.

Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) was in the hunt for a rostrum spot at mid-distance but the current series points leader faded as the race went on to finish an eventual fourth. Jenkner fully deserved his second place after saving what looked like a certain highside on lap nine. The German worked his way back after the resulting off-track excursion and might even have snatched the win as Simoncelli’s extravagant celebrations across the line slowed him. The margin of victory was 0.7 seconds.

“I have to be happy with fourth,” said Dovizioso. “The cold was a problem because my engine temperature was low and the finger I broke earlier hurt a bit. But the real problem was the surface water on the track – that was a bit dangerous. But the main thing is I leave here with a 10 point advantage in the Championship.”

Julian Simon (Angaia Racing Honda RS125R) finished 11th with Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) coming home 12th. Dovizioso still leads the points standings with 38 from Jenkner and Roberto Locatelli (Aprilia) both tied on 28 with Stoner on 27 as Le Mans looms in two weeks time.

Sete Gibernau Position: 1st
"Winning here is just the best. It was one of the toughest races of my life because it was here at Jerez and I crashed last year. I wanted to give something back to the fans who have always shown their support for me.I know that they suffered a lot because of the weather so this win is for them because my heart was stronger than my rivals today and the fans have carried me to victory. I have always wanted to take on the responsibility people have handed to me and I think I am meeting the objectives we set at the end of last season. I knew I had improved but I surprised myself again today with my level of riding. The set-up of the bike is still not where it needs to be – we are struggling to understand all the data but I am confident that this will improve. I have to keep calm and find the solution to these problems, which will hopefully emerge in the tests we have planned here for Monday and Tuesday."

Max Biaggi Position: 2nd
"We’re at the second race of the year, and since 1998 I’ve never been as well placed in the standings. It’s a statistic which just shows the determination with which we’ve begun this season. This morning in the warm up we had some slight issues and so we changed the set-up to find a solution. Hats off to the team, they worked exraordinarily and it’s enabled me to be competitive in the race. During the race the gap kept increasing and decreasing and I was always close to Sete. Only two laps from the end, after a dangerous skid, I decided to content myself with second. I had lost ground and tried to make it up. Congratulations to Sete, a great race."

Sito Pons – Camel Honda (Team Principal)
"I’m very satisfied, we’ve finished the second race of the year and we’re just a point away from the championship leader. It was a difficult race, in tough weather conditions and we didn’t make any mistakes. Max worked hard throughout the race to keep the chance of victory alive, never putting a foot wrong. If he could win, then fine, but it’s best to think about working towards the title, and that’s what he’s done today. I feel for Makoto, who didn’t finish the race after starting from such a good grid position, and I hope that in the next race we can have a good result from bnoth riders. The Spanish GP has been a great event despite the rain, with 200,000 people coming throughout the weekend. A great motorcycling festival."

Alex Barros Position: 3rd
"I’m very happy. It seems a long time since I have been on the podium. The winter was difficult with the shoulder surgery and I am pleased as my doctor has given me a ‘green card’ of health now. The race was very hard and the circumstances changed throughout it but it was the same for everyone. I knew that I couldn’t ride at the pace of Sete and Max so I keep my own. I had a battle with Valentino and Carlos and then I take fourth place. When I see Marco crash I try to ride safe and take the podium. I am very happy for my team – we all work very hard and this is good news for the Repsol Honda Team. The championship is very long and I look forward to being more competitive as my strength builds. A good result today for a start."

Nicky Haydeni Position: 5th
"This morning I really couldn’t get the feeling I wanted in the warm up session. It seemed like a long wait to the race! We made a couple of big changes and I thank my guys for some good ideas. My mechanics and the Michelin and Showa people. The bike felt good straight away in the sighting lap. I got a good start and was right there, but at the end of the first straightaway I locked up the front wheel in braking and ran wide in the turn. I saw a load of guys just streaming up the inside! Next time I went past I saw P12 so I just got my head down and decided there was no point in just riding round. I found a good spot on the track and passed a lot of guys there. Edwards, Checa and Hodgson. I caught Valentino and right at the end got right up there showing him my front wheel but I couldn’t make a pass stick. Anyhow; a good end to a hard weekend. Only my second wet GP and last time I finished 11th! We learned a lot and we move on from here."

Colin Edwards Position: 7th
"I had a hard time in the race today. I had no feeling in my hands on the last lap and I couldn’t open the gas or brake properly – it was so hard. I need a lot more laps on this bike because I am still not riding on the limit and need more confidence to be able to do that. Hopefully we will get a few answers from the test here."

Fausto Gresini, Team Manager
"It was a tense and long race for me – probably the longest I can remember. Last year Sete didn’t get a good result and I was worried that he would be so keen to win here for his fans and his sponsors, Telefónica MoviStar, he might make another mistake. But he was fantastic – he rode with great concentration under pressure from Max Biaggi. Sete is leading the rider standings and we are also leading the teams’ championship – it’s fantastic. Colin did a great job just to finish the race in his condition."

Makoto Tamada Position: DNF
"I had a grip problem and the track conditions were terrible in my opinion. I decided to come into the pits, not thinking about the race any more but trying to find a different solution and to get some experience and data so we can improve. However the second attempt didn’t give me the necessary confidence, and I preferred to retire then."

Gianluca Montiron, Camel Honda – (Makoto Tamada Team Manager)
"We weren’t happy with the wet settings. In the rain things weren’t working well and Makoto didn’t have feeling in the rear of the bike. He came in and we tried a different tyre solution, but again Makoto didn’t have the necessary feel and so decided to retire from the race. It was material we’d used before, but the conditions on track this afternoon were the worst they’d been in three days here in Spain. So we await the next race to make up for this disappointing result."

MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 2
Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez

1 Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)
2 Max Biaggi (Camel Honda)
3 Alex BARROS (Repsol Honda Team)
4 Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha)
5 Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda Team)
6 Carlos CHECA (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha)
7 Colin EDWARDS (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)
8 Kenny ROBERTS (Team Suzuki MotoGP)
9 Shinya NAKANO (Kawasaki Racing Team)
11 Norick ABE (Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3)
12 Loris CAPIROSSI (Ducati Marlboro Team)
13 Alex HOFMANN (Kawasaki Racing Team)
14 Nobuatsu AOKI (Proton Team KR)
15 John HOPKINS (Team Suzuki MotoGP)

1 Roberto ROLFO (Fortuna Honda)
2 Randy DE PUNIET (Safilo Carrera - LCR )
3 Fonsi NIETO (Repsol - Aspar Team 250cc)
4 Anthony WEST (Freesoul Abruzzo Racing Team)
5 Alex DEBON (Wurth Honda BQR)
6 Alex DE ANGELIS (Aprilia Racing)
7 Sebastian PORTO (Repsol - Aspar Team 250cc)
8 Arnaud VINCENT (quipe GP de France - Scrab)
9 Gregory LEFORT (quipe GP de France - Scrab)
10 Naoki MATSUDO (Team UGT Kurz)
12 Toni ELIAS (Fortuna Honda)
1 Marco SIMONCELLI (Rauch Bravo)
2 Steve JENKNER (Rauch Bravo)
3 Hector BARBERA (Seedorf Racing)
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Kopron Team Scot)
5 Casey STONER (Red Bull KTM)
6 Andrea BALLERINI (Sterilgarda Racing)
7 Youichi UI (Abruzzo Racing Team)
8 Roberto LOCATELLI(Safilo Carrera - LCR)
9 Pablo NIETO (Master - Repsol Team 125cc)
10 Mirko GIANSANTI (Matteoni Racing)
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