Valentino Rossi endured an eventful Qatar Grand Prix at Losail on Sunday - which started in controversy, then produced some magical moments, only to end in disaster.

The controversy involved the world championship leader being forced to start from the back of the grid, after his team had used a scooter to leave tyre marks at his eighth place grid spot the previous night.

Rossi's crew claim that the intention was only for the five-time world champion to "use the (tyre) mark (as a guide) during the morning warm-up session to develop (by riding over his grid slot) a good line into the first corner" - and that they'd been doing it since their days with Mick Doohan. Whatever the reason, Rossi wasn't impressed by the penalty imposed:

"I have to say I was amazed and very disappointed by the decision to make me start at the back of the grid," said an angry Valentino after the race. "I don't think there is any consistency in some of the decisions made.

"At other races people have cleaned their grid places and nothing has happened. In fact, my crew were doing something they used to do with Doohan when the track was dirty," he revealed, before adding: "I didn't know about it until after it had happened."

But it seemed to matter little since, within one lap of the start, Rossi had scythed his way through the field from 21st to 8th.

The Doctor then continued his excellent progress - despite colliding with Alex Barros - until he caught the edge of the track with his rear wheel while exiting the penultimate turn, on lap six, and was thrown from his bike.

The disastrous end to his day was further compounded by title rival Sete Gibernau's race victory, which has reduced Rossi's previous 39-point lead to just 14 with three races remaining.

"In the race I made a mistake," said Rossi openly. "I had really pushed in the first few laps and could see that Colin (Edwards) was in slightly better shape than me when I was behind him. I ran wide in the second last turn and just clipped the grass. They were looking strong but I did think I could have made the podium. Fortunately I'm not hurt. I was worried about my finger but it is not serious."

"It has been a bad weekend," confessed team director Davide Brivio. "We'll go away with Qatar with no result and no points but that's racing. Valentino is still leading the Championship by fourteen points and now we will react and fight until the end of the Championship. In Brazil (when Rossi also fell) we were in the same situation and we fought back strongly. We have got three races to go and anything can happen."

Max Biaggi was given the same penalty as Rossi for a similar 'grid cleaning' offence by his Camel Honda team... after a protest by Rossi's team.


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