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MotoGPQatarOctober 2, 2004
MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 13
Grand Prix of Qatar, Losail

Sete Sets His Sights on Title as Rossi Falters

In one of the most riveting MotoGP showdowns of the season sensational Sete Gibernau (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) put his title challenge back on track with a resounding win in searing heat here in Qatar. His team-mate Colin Edwards (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) was second and Ruben Xaus (Ducati) third.

Sete GIBERNAU (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)

Colin EDWARDS (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)

In front of a modest crowd of nearly three thousand people at Qatar’s inaugural race, Gibernau and Edwards showed their rivals precisely how to master 22-laps of this sinuous 5.4km track. World Championship title race points leader Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) showed how to gift 25 points to a rival by falling on lap six as Gibernau stamped his authority on the contest.

Today was packed with drama – on and off the track. Before the race began Honda lodged a protest against Rossi’s crew for tampering with his grid slot by burning rubber from a paddock scooter onto the tarmac to enhance grip at the start.

Yamaha then made a tit-for-tat protest about Biaggi’s crew who had swept his grid slot clean. Both were upheld and Rossi and Max Biaggi (Camel Honda RC211V) were each given a six second time penalty before the start. This relegated them to the back of the grid.

Carlos Checa (Yamaha) got a lightning take-off and led into turn one with Gibernau in hot pursuit. Sete then made short work of his Spanish rival and led across the line after lap one. Ruben Xaus was third with Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) in the hunt in fourth. Rossi was already eighth and was holding nothing back in his bid to get on terms near the front.

Edwards was lying sixth in the opening laps but the Texan was getting into a rapid rhythm and began to close down the front runners. First he took care of Xaus and Alex Barros (Repsol Honda RC211V) on lap two for fourth place, then he inherited third on the next lap when Nakano’s engine expired.

Rossi was now through to fourth but his bid to snatch an unlikely victory in adversity foundered when he made one of his customary wide exits on a fast left-hand turn before the final corner onto the straight. On grass he might have got away with it, but the Astroturf laid trackside here to counter drifting sand caught him out and he fell heavily.

Gibernau was now in total control out front by four seconds and Edwards was working on depriving Checa of second place. He made his move on lap eight and then had his team-mate as a target. Try as he might Edwards could not catch Gibernau and although he reduced the gap to 1.6 seconds in the closing stages, Gibernau ran out an easy winner in a hard, hard race.

“When is a win ever easy?” said an exhausted but buoyant Sete. “Sometimes it’s hard just to finish sixth like in Japan two weeks ago. This was difficult and the team did a great job. They gave me a great bike and I really enjoyed riding it here today. I’ve got the best team and factory in the business behind me and it showed here today.”

Edwards was generous to his team-mate and said, “After the first three laps Sete was away and gone. I got past Carlos but that was as much as I could manage. That was an awesome race and it’s great for Sete to get maximum points. As far as any team efforts go – this is as good as it gets.”

Barros finished fourth. “I got a bad start,” said the Brazilian. “I passed Xaus and then Valentino touched me and I went off line into the dirty section of the track and lost a few places. Then I was right behind the smoking Kawasaki and I had to brake and ran off track. I had a chance to fight with Sete today and we missed the opportunity.”

His team-mate Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) was fifth and said, “My first few laps were so slow it was embarrassing. When the front tyre got more scrubbed in I got back into a decent rhythm and if I try to look positively at this we got a top five finish. And this is the first time we’ve scored any points since Donington in July.”

Max was sixth. “What can I say about the starting penalty?” he said. “The result of it is that for the third race in a row our plans have been ruined. But I don’t ever give up and even though the rear tyre was sliding in the dirty part of the track I finished the race. Rossi was in the cleaner part of the track at the start and got away better than me. But I’ll be riding as hard as ever in Sepang.”

Makoto Tamada (Camel Honda RC211V), riding on Bridgestone tyres, had a troubled weekend and finished tenth. “The trouble was a lack of feel at the front-end and I just couldn’t be as aggressive as I needed to be in the turns. I’m not worried too much about Sepang next weekend because although the conditions might be similar we have a lot more data from there.”

The World Championship points reckoning has now tightened considerably. Rossi still leads with 229 points from 13 races. But Gibernau is back in business with 215, with three races and 75 points still up for grabs. Max lies third with 168.

The 250cc race followed almost the same pattern as the earlier 125cc race where three riders made a break and pulled away from a field that just couldn’t make the same progress. Sebastian Porto (Aprilia) won from Dani Pedrosa (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS250RW) with Hiroshi Aoyama (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS250RW) third.

Dani got the holeshot but Porto edged ahead on lap two to dominate the race from the front while Pedrosa and Alex de Angelis tried all they could to reel him in. Title hopeful Randy de Puniet (Aprilia) fell on lap five while struggling in eighth while Aoyama and Franco Battaini (Aprilia) were just beginning a race-long tussle for fourth.

Battaini seemed to have the upper hand by mid-distance of this 20-lap contest, but Aoyama then led the majority of the closing laps until the Italian outbraked him at the end of the mile-long pit straight to take the initiative on the final lap.

But Aoyama stuck close to him anticipating a mistake that would allow the Japanese to slip past and claim his second consecutive podium finish in his rookie season. It happened and Aoyama o then weaved along the final straight unsure how far behind Battaini was – too far away to matter.

“It was hard to chase Porto,” said Dani. “I was hoping he might make a mistake and I could get closer to him, but it never happened. The last laps were really hard in this heat and I have to thank the team for all the hard work they put in. This is good for my World Championship ambitions.”

Aoyama was typically brief in his post-race assessment, “The team did a great job this weekend, the bike was going well in really punishing conditions and I am delighted with another podium,” he said.

The World Championship points table now shows Pedrosa out in front with 254 points to second-placed Porto’s 211, with Randy de Puniet third on 187 points. Tony Elias (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) finished sixth after starting from pitlane when he lost a knee-slider and failed to form-up on the grid while he secured a replacement to his leathers. Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) was seventh.

Jorge Lorenzo (Derbi) won a 125cc race that produced the closest finish in bike racing history – a dead heat. The final gap between him and second-placed man Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) was posted as 0.000 seconds. Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) was third.

Casey Stoner (KTM) led into turn one with Dovi right on his tail and pole-man Lorenzo with them. Stoner made all the early running until Lorenzo powered past on the mile-long straight along with Bautista who then passed Lorenzo for the lead a lap later.

Then Stoner slowed with machine problems and the leading trio of Bautista, Lorenzo and Dovzioiso were out on their own – a full 10 seconds ahead of fourth-placed man Mika Kallio (KTM).

Lorenzo came near to disaster when he ran wide and onto the trackside Astroturf, but he kept his composure to stay in the hunt. Dovi was biding his time with his main title rivals Hector Barbera and Roberto Locatelli well down the field in 11th and 15th. They eventually finished 12th and 20th.

On the penultimate lap Bautista ran wide and effectively ended his challenge for the win. It was down to Lorenzo who led the last lap – and Dovi. As Bautista hit the main straight for the final time, Dovi looked too far back to draught him. But as the line loomed he was sucked along and dived to Lorenzo’s left to broach the line at exactly the same time.

“I’m happy with the result,” said Dovi. “Obviously I wanted the win and it turned out to be a photo finish with Jorge. It was a really hard race in this heat and the track is a tough one too. But this is good for my World Championship hopes and that’s the main thing.”

The World Championship points table now shows Dovi well ahead with 228 points to Barbera’s 167 with new third place man Lorenzo on 159. Dovi now has a 61 point lead with three races to go.

Julian Simon (Angaia Racing Honda RS125R) finished seventh and Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) retired after completing 16 laps of this 18-lap race.

Alex BARROS (Repsol Honda Team)

Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda Team) & Max BIAGGI (Camel Honda)

Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 1st:
“We’ve taken a big step forward with the best possible result of a high-pressure weekend. Once again my team knew how to manage it and I am delighted. We gave maximum concentration to the job because I know that if we focus all our energy we are capable of progressing. I’m happy for the 25 points and for the great race but I don’t want to get carried away. We are back at our best and that is important. The advantage has been reduced but I’m looking at the next round in Malaysia as just another race.”

Colin Edwards, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 2nd:
“Together with the team and Michelin we have done a great job this weekend. I was sure I had a good chance at this circuit because it was new for everybody and that’s how it turned out. I didn’t get a good start because I had a clutch problem and I had to recover as many positions as I could without getting too far off line because you cannot do that at this track. I knew I had a good rhtyhm and when I passed Checa and moved up to second I just pushed as hard as I could, I don’t want there to be any doubt about that. Congratulations to Sete because he was also really strong and had a great race.”

Faustro Gresini, (team manager):
“It was a fantastic day for the Telefónica MoviStar team, a really important first and second place at this crucial time of the season. Now the championship is wide open and we have to enjoy this moment, although it is still very tough. Sete had a fantastic race and the victory will give him a lot of confidence. I am also happy for Colin because he has found a good feeling with the bike and the results he deserves are starting to come.”

Alex Barros, Repsol Honda Team, 4th:
“Really disappointed. I got a bad start and I saw Sete and Checa move away so I know I need to catch. I pass Xaus and then Valentino touched me and knocked me off line. I go in the dirty section of the track and come back a few places later. Then I see the Kawasaki smoking and I am right behind. I brake and I feel the front go so I just run off the track and come back in nearly last place I think. I then have to recover everything and we start the race again. I know I had a chance to fight with Sete today. We had a great opportunity and we missed the opportunity. The machine felt good and I need to look positively forward. I need to win. I want a victory. We have three races left this year.”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team, 5th:
“The first few laps I just couldn’t get any feeling from the front of the bike. My fist few laps were so slow it was embarrassing. I kinda’ got the feeling back in the front when the tyre was more scrubbed in and it felt much better. I managed to get going and get into a decent sort of rhythm. If I try and look positively we got a top five finish and this is the first time we’ve scored any points since Donington. It was nice to actually finish. I’m definitely not happy with how the race went. It wasn’t pretty and I can only think about moving onto Malaysia and starting all over again next week.”

Max Biaggi, Camel Honda (Michelin Tyres), 6th:
“I started in last place, because of the penalty put upon my team. What can I say about that… It was the result of a complaint made by our rivals. Whatever, for the third race in a row things were tough from the start. However I wasn’t disheartened, not even when I got an awful start, with the rear tyre slipping on the sand, which was present in industrial proportions down there at the back. Rossi meanwhile was in the middle line of the straight, the cleanest bit, and he got a great start. I tried not to lose my desire and I got down to business. It was tough, very tough, because the area we had to work in was tight. But I wanted to get as far up the order as possible. On the last lap I got on Barros’ tail to try and snatch fourth place, but my front let me down, and the steering folded and I went straight on. Hayden also profited from it, but I don’t regret having tried it. All that’s happened over the last three races has been practically unbelievable.”

Sito Pons, Camel Honda (Team Principal):
“Max started this race from the back of the grid for a penalty which I feel was too severe. The team has done what you do to a new track and where the presence of sand was more than evident. To clean the position where the rider is starting from is a process which is simply for the safety of the rider a the start, a preventative measure which the organization should have dealt with especially in the area of the starting grid. I repeat, our intervention was only trying to guarantee the safety of the rider on the track. Penalized with his grid position, Max fought back hard during the race and came up close to the front runners. It’s a shame about that off-track excursion on the last lap which lost him a place.”

Makoto Tamada, Camel Honda (Bridgestone Tyres), 10th:
“The main difficulty today was with the lack of confidence in the front end of the bike, so it was hard to turn the bike into the corners with the necessary aggression. In some corners I couldn’t lean the bike properly. I’m not worried, here there wasn’t much grip whereas in Sepang things will clearly be different.”

Giulio Bernardelle, Camel Honda, (Makoto Tamada’s Technical Director):
“We tried lots of things to try and improve Makoto’s confidence in the front, but evidently we didn’t get the ideal solution. We had this problem for the entire weekend, to which a loss of grip was added during the complicated conditions for this race. Now we will analyse the data we collected to try to understand if the problems are only linked to this type of asphalt or if it is something that we will need to solve by working in another way, and it could even just be something to do with this track. We will be in similar conditions in Sepang, it’s a similar climate, but we have more experience and data there, both in the settings and with the tyres.”

MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 13
Grand Prix of Qatar, Losail

1 Sete GIBERNAU (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)
2 Colin EDWARDS (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)
3 Ruben XAUS (D'Antin MotoGP)
4 Alex BARROS (Repsol Honda Team)
5 Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda Team)
6 Max BIAGGI (Camel Honda)
7 Norick ABE (Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3)
8 John HOPKINS (Team Suzuki MotoGP)
9 Alex HOFMANN (Kawasaki Racing Team)
10 Makoto TAMADA (Camel Honda)
11 Yukio KAGAYAMA (Team Suzuki MotoGP)
12 James HAYDON (Proton Team KR)

Sete GIBERNAU (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)
1 Sebastian PORTO (Repsol - Aspar Team 250cc)
2 Daniel PEDROSA (Telefonica Movistar Honda 250)
3 Hiroshi AOYAMA (Telefonica Movistar Honda 250)
4 Franco BATTAINI (Campetella Racing)
5 Fonsi NIETO (Repsol - Aspar Team 250cc)
6 Toni ELIAS (Fortuna Honda)
7 Roberto ROLFO (Fortuna Honda)
8 Alex DEBON (Wurth Honda BQR)
9 Hugo MARCHAND (Freesoul Abruzzo Racing Team)
10 Joan OLIVE (Campetella Racing)
11 Sylvain GUINTOLI (Campetella Racing)
12 Erwan NIGON (Equipe GP de France - Scrab)
13 Taro SEKIGUCHI (NC World Trade)
14 Johan STIGEFELT (Aprilia Germany)
15 David DE GEA (Wurth Honda BQR)
1 Jorge LORENZO (Caja Madrid Derbi Racing)
2 Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Kopron Team Scot)
3 Alvaro BAUTISTA (Seedorf Racing)
4 Mika KALLIO (Red Bull KTM)
5 Fabrizio LAI (Metis Gilera Racing Team)
6 Pablo NIETO (Master - Repsol Team 125cc)
7 Julian SIMON (Angaia Racing)
8 Gino BORSOI ( Racing)
9 Mattia PASINI (Safilo Carrera - LCR)
10 Mirko GIANSANTI (Matteoni Racing)
11 Steve JENKNER (Rauch Bravo)
12 Hector BARBERA (Seedorf Racing)
13 Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix)
14 Andrea BALLERINI (Sterilgarda Racing)
15 Gioele PELLINO (Abruzzo Racing Team)
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