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MotoGPSpainJune 13, 2004
MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 5
Catalunya Grand Prix at Barcelona

Rossi Pips Gibernau for Win but Sete Still Holds Lead

Epic premier class races are becoming regular events now and this race was no exception. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) got the verdict over Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) by a mere 0.159 seconds at the line after 25 gruelling laps of the 4.727km track in front of 102,000 roaring Spanish race fans. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) was third.

Sete GIBERNAU (Telefonica Movistar Honda)

Sete GIBERNAU (Telefonica Movistar Honda)

This was always likely to be a race which determined whether Rossi’s title challenge had real substance. Gibernau was racing at home and with two wins apiece going into the fifth race both riders were aware of the importance of levering an early season advantage.

Gibernau looked strong in qualifying and his times were not bettered over two days of wrestling for grid advantage. But the Spanish idol knew that grip was a major issue here and so it proved as Rossi seemed to get better drive in the closing stages of the race – when it really counted.

The race began at a frantic pace with Sete setting a fastest lap on lap two at 1m 44.641s. Rossi had nudged past him into turn one on the opening lap after Gibernau appeared to have the advantage, but Sete capitalised on a Rossi wobble into the La Caixa turn on lap two and took the lead.

By lap five Alex Barros (Repsol Honda RC211V) had crashed out and Max Biaggi (Camel Honda RC211V) was experiencing severe grip problems, eventually finishing eighth. Melandri was holding station in third and Makoto Tamada (Camel Honda RC211V) riding on Bridgestone tyres was as high as fifth before he dropped back on lap 12 and then pitted.

Gibernau and Rossi were in a class of their own and had stretched their advantage over Melandri to five seconds by mid-race distance. And at turn four Rossi swooped to lead Gibernau as both riders’ tyres started to feel the strain of a hot pace – the total race time was a full 18 seconds faster than last year.

Gibernau was looking slightly more ragged than Rossi in the closing stages and by lap 20 Rossi had a 0.6 second lead over Sete. But Gibernau was not done and on the next lap he was right on Rossi’s tail and on lap 22 he passed the reigning World Champion on the straight. But Rossi out-braked him into turn one on the penultimate lap and held on for the win.

“I said that tyre wear would be the big factor,” said Sete. “And we knew that the Yamaha had better traction so I used a slightly harder tyre. Yamaha has done a good job here – no other Hondas were close to me. There’s only one winner here and that’s Vale so congratulations to him.”

Colin Edwards (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) was fifth after a bad start had dropped him to 15th from 11th on the grid. “I was actually doing well at the start until I hit fourth gear and then nothing happened. But then the bike got going again and I started to pass people. I got stuck behind Bayliss and his bike is so fast that he always stayed ahead on the straights. But I got a good pace going again at the end.”

Max was philosophical about his eighth place. “We’d used the type of tyre I chose before and had no problems with it, but something was not right today. The bike became unrideable and the data confirmed that. Sometimes you have bad days like this and you just have to forget about it and keep working hard. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Barros felt bad about his result. “The team did a great job and I let them down,” he said. “In the race I knew I had to push and I had no warning when the tyre just let go. Trying to look on the positive side I can see we are more competitive both here and at Mugello than we were earlier in the season.”

Tamada too is staying positive. “I had some bad vibration,” said the tough Japanese. “I couldn’t ride properly eventually and knew I had to come back to the garage. But we’re staying here to test some new rubber and I’ll be back at Assen fighting at the front again.”

Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) is looking forward too after attaining his second front row start of the season but retiring from the race. “The race was a disaster,” he said. “During the race the bike seemed to lose power and I must have lost water because when the bike eventually stopped we discovered the radiator had been holed. Onto the next race!”

The World Championhsip points table lead is still Gibernau’s territory. He has 106 points to Rossi’s 101. Max is right up there with 80 and now Carlos Checa, who finished fourth, has grabbed fourth place in the title race with 49, one ahead of Barros on 48.

The chance of a 250 home win went down to a pulsating last lap duel between homeboy Danny Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW), the darling of Spanish crowd, and French interloper Randy de Puniet (Aprilia) with de Puniet getting the verdict by 0.108 seconds. Tony Elias (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) was a distant third, 9.5 seconds behind the demon duo.

The race pattern was set by the end of the first lap with the eventual rostrum finishers rampaging away from Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW), Fonsi Nieto, Sebastian Porto and reigning World Champion Manuel Poggiaili (all Aprilia). And by the end of the fourth lap the front runners had pulled out a five second gap over Rolfo.

Rolfo’s race was to end on lap 15 when Poggiali took out himself and the Italian Honda man with what appeared to be an ill-judged move. Rolfo was generous enough to put a consoling arm around the current Champion when other riders might have opted for a gravel trap confrontation.

After those two went out of the race, the fight at the front began to get serious. Pedrosa and de Puniet were riding so close, and so cleanly, that the two bikes were often only distinguishable by their colour schemes. They swapped the lead from lap to lap until the final tour of the 4.727km track.

Then it was a nail-biting final lap. They swapped the lead four times and just when it looked like there was no way back for either rider, the pair contrived to find a way through until World Championship points leader de Puniet kept Pedrosa at bay on the penultimate turn.

“I have to be happy with second,” said Pedrosa. “The race was really hard on tyres, especially the rear and we both rode at an absolute maximum. De Puniet was too good on the brakes in the final turns and I did all I could. That was a great race for the fans.”

Elias is getting back to form and said, “That was a good result from a difficult weekend. I tried to stay with Pedrosa and de Puniet and I had to ride at 120% to do that. I couldn’t, but third is okay and race by race I’ll get closer. The next race I should be able to stay with them.”

De Puniet now heads the points standings with 98 to Pedrosa’s 90 with Sebastian Porto, who finished fourth, now getting into the reckoning with 63.

If anyone was looking for early entertainment today, the 125cc class was where it was to be found with a six rider group fighting for every inch of track on the final lap. The winner was Spanish flyer Hector Barbera (Aprilia) who was down in 23rd place on lap two having badly fluffed his start from second on the grid. Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) was second and Pablo Nieto (Aprilia) third.

Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia), who eventually finished fifth, made much of the early running and was never out of the tightly packed leading group – a group that was covered by only 0.7 seconds at the flag. The 1km long straight was where much of the action took place – and it was just as frantic as last week’s epic at Mugello.

Barbera’s third win of his career was without doubt his hardest fought victory. Dovizioso shadowed him for the final half of the last lap and looked in prime position to draft past him on the long sprint to the line. But Barbera had enough speed to deny the Honda man what would have been his third win of what is turning out to be a gripping season.

“That was so hard,” said Dovizioso. “I was second by just 16 1000ths of a second but at least the last lap turned out better than last week for me. The tyres were right on the limit in the final few laps and when I got overtaken by a few of the group two laps from the end I really had to work to get back to the front.”

Julian Simon (Angaia Racing Honda RS125R), who qualified 11th, finished 14th and said, “My start wasn’t so bad,” he said. “But Barbera caused me problems when he ran into Corsi and knocked him into my path. I couldn’t get into a good race rhythm after that. But I passed four riders in the closing stages.”

The World Championship points after fifth round shows Dovizioso out front with 96 points, Barbera now in second overall with 73 and Roberto Locatelli (Aprilia), who crashed out of the race on lap 18 of the 22-lap contest while riding in the leading group, holding third with 73 points.

Colin EDWARDS (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)

Max BIAGGI (Camel Honda)

Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 2nd:
“I tried to play my cards well again today and we did the best we could with what we had. We knew we couldn’t use the same tyre as Yamaha and used a softer compound to try and have the same traction that they would have with the h! arder one. Obviously that meant that at the halfway stage their tyres would improve whilst mine deteriorated. I don’t want to give any excuses, I never have done, and I have to congratulate Valentino although I knew this could happen even though I gave 120%. I hope to keep going on the same path, have a chat with Honda about how we can improve the situation and do everything I can to make them understand that we have to face up to Valentino and Yamaha, who are improving a lot. I don’t feel as thoughI lost today – as far as I am concerned we have won because I am getting 100% out of what I have at every race”.

ColinEdwards, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 5th:
“I made a good start but I couldn’t stop them from coming past me and ended up fifteenth after the first lap. I kept my clam and started to pass riders but I lost a lot of time trying to get past Troy Bayliss. When he crashed I just concentrated on getting my rhythm together and in the end I was able to finish fifth! Now we go to Assen – a circuit I know well after winning there several times in Superbikes – and I’m hoping to take a big step forward.”

Fausto Gresini (Team Manager):
“Another exciting race in which Sete has given everything to try and win. It’s a good second place for him because he still leads the championship, even though the advantage over Valentino has been reduced a little. Sete was once again the first Honda rider and I am very happy because the only two Hondas in the top five were from our team.”

Max Biaggi, Camel Honda (Michelin Tyres), 8th:
“I’m very disappointed, after the practices I was ready to get a top result. In the warm-up I went out with a used tyre to prepare the second part of the race. I got a good start which took me into the top group. Then I began to get a problem in the rear tyre that just made everything impossible. In the analysis at the end of the race we realised that it was defective and that was the cause of the chattering that made the bike virtually impossible to ride. It’s a big disappointment and we need to put this result to one side and continue with our work in tomorrow’s tests at this track. I’m completely confident in Michelin and in the brilliant work they have always done. This is just a one off, a lucky one, but a one off.”

Sito Pons , Camel Honda (Team Principal):
“Max had a clear problem with his rear tyre and because of that was unable to fight for victory and above all to complete the fine work he had done in qualifying. The data analysis we did as soon as he got off the bike confirmed that Max was affected by a strange vibration that disturbed his control of the bike. Tomorrow we are staying on in Catalunya for another day to test and our objective is to resolve all the problems of this race.”

Gianluca Montiron, Camel Honda (Makoto Tamada Team Manager):
“Makoto Tamada suffered a serious deterioration in his rear tyre performance, which made the bike very difficult to ride. Despite having been up there for the first 12 laps of the race, he decided to retire, knowing that staying out there wouldn’t even have brought us any new data or information. We understand his decision and now we focus our attention on tomorrow’s test. As well as Makoto, tomorrow Bridgestone’s official test rider will come down to the track to help solve the problems quicker.”

Makoto Tamada, Camel Honda (Bridgestone Tyres) – Retired on lap thirteen:
“I unexpectedly lost grip and then got these strong vibrations that made the bike difficult to control. To continue made no sense, not even to help with development. Tomorrow we will test some new material and we will try to find some solution to the difficulties we are currently having. I know Bridgestone will react and things will soon return to normal.”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team - retired:
“Just so disappointed. This morning I went out on used tyres to get a feel for the conditions and it all felt pretty positive. I seemed to have problems all weekend with practice starts and in the race it was a disaster. Just couldn’t get any power down right up to turn one by which time half the grid had got past. During the race the bike seemed to loose power and I noticed some fluid on the windscreen that I guess must have been water because when the bike eventually stopped we discovered the radiator had been holed a small stone I guess. I’m definitely disappointed not to get a result again. Onto the next race!”

Alex Barros, Repsol Honda Team - crashed:
“I made a reasonable start and in the early laps was battling with Tamada and Max. The bike felt okay and the package was not so bad. I managed to overtake them both and I believed I could close the gap on the leaders and wait for the end of the race to take advantage of the harder compound Michelins that would have been in better condition after 20 laps. This was the only tyre that seemed to work for me this weekend. I had had front problems all qualifying. Push, push. In the race I knew I had to ride the machine I had make the best of it. In the end I have no warning no push. It just let go. Trying to look on the positive side I can see we are more competitive both here and at Mugello than we were earlier this season. I now want to fight for the front row and a race result. I feel very bad for the team they did a great job and I let them down.”

MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 5
Catalunya Grand Prix at Barcelona

1 Valentino ROSSI (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha)
2 Sete GIBERNAU (Telefonica Movistar Honda)
3 Marco MELANDRI (Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3)
4 Carlos CHECA (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha)
5 Colin EDWARDS (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)
6 Ruben XAUS (D'Antin MotoGP)
7 Shinya NAKANO (Kawasaki Racing Team)
8 Max BIAGGI (Camel Honda)
9 Norick ABE (Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3)
10 Loris CAPIROSSI (Ducati Marlboro Team)
11 Alex HOFMANN (Kawasaki Racing Team)
12 Neil HODGSON (D'Antin MotoGP)
13 Shane BYRNE (MS Aprilia Racing)
14 Andrew PITT (Moriwaki Racing)
15 Nobuatsu AOKI (Proton Team KR)

Sete GIBERNAU (Telefonica Movistar Honda)
1 Randy DE PUNIET (Safilo Carrera - LCR)
2 Daniel PEDROSA (Telefonica Movistar Honda 250)
3 Toni ELIAS (Fortuna Honda)
4 Sebastian PORTO (Repsol - Aspar Team 250cc)
5 Fonsi NIETO (Repsol - Aspar Team 250cc)
6 Hiroshi AOYAMA (Telefonica Movistar Honda 250)
7 Sylvain GUINTOLI (Campetella Racing)
8 Alex DEBON (Wurth Honda BQR)
9 Anthony WEST (Freesoul Abruzzo Racing Team)
10 Franco BATTAINI (Campetella Racing)
11 ric BATAILLE (Wurth Honda BQR)
12 Alex BALDOLINI (Matteoni Racing)
13 Chaz DAVIES (Aprilia Racing)
14 Naoki MATSUDO (Team UGT Kurz)
15 Jakub SMRZ (Molenaar Racing)
1 Hector BARBERA (Seedorf Racing)
2 Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Kopron Team Scot)
3 Pablo NIETO (Master - Repsol Team 125cc)
4 Casey STONER (Red Bull KTM)
5 Jorge LORENZO (Caja Madrid Derbi Racing)
6 Alvaro BAUTISTA (Seedorf Racin)
7 Marco SIMONCELLI (Rauch Bravo)
8 Mike DI MEGLIO ( Racing)
9 Mika KALLIO (Red Bull KTM)
10 Mirko GIANSANTI (Matteoni Racing)
11 Mattia PASINI (Safilo Carrera - LCR)
12 Steve JENKNER (Rauch Bravo)
13 Gioele PELLINO (Abruzzo Racing Team)
14 ulian SIMON (Angaia Racing)
15 Angel RODRIGUEZ (Caja Madrid Derbi Racing)

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