Rossi wins British GP, Edwards on podium
25 July 2004
Valentino Rossi has taken a commanding victory in the British Grand Prix, the Italian leading almost the entire event - but being shadowed by Colin Edwards, who went on to take second place and with it his first ever MotoGP podium.
Rossi made a strong start from pole position, but was abruptly overtaken by third on the grid Loris Capirossi as the field threaded its way through the fearsome Craner Curves for the first time.
Sete Gibernau would demote the Italian to third a few corners later, but that was Rossi's lowest point; he would retake second from Sete at the Melbourne Hairpin, before passing Capirossi for the lead under braking at the Foggy chicane on lap 2.
Meanwhile, Edwards would work his way past the Ducatis Bayliss and the Capirossi by lap 3 and was soon closing on the top two. The Texan would tuck behind team-mate Gibernau for two further laps before outbraking him into turn one and setting off in pursuit of Rossi, now 1.2secs ahead.
The #45 would become the fastest rider on the race track in his efforts to catch the Italian, but could only take a few tenths out of the #46 and by the midway point of the race (lap 15 of 30) Rossi had rebuilt his lead to 1.4secs.
Gibernau was 0.4secs behind, but rarely able to threaten his team-mate while 5secs of Donington race track lay between the Catalan and fourth placed Nicky Hayden, who was now ahead of Bayliss, but unable to shake the on-form Aussie.
Rossi would stretch his lead to 4secs over the reminder of the event, before backing off out of the final turn as he stood upright on his Yamaha – with his hands behind his back – to take the chequered flag. The Doctor's only mistake of the afternoon would come a few minutes later when he stalled while celebrating with the British fans.
Meanwhile, the two Telefonica machines wheelied their way across the line 2.9 and 4.4secs behind Rossi. Edwards was clearly delighted with his first MotoGP podium after a difficult first half of the season, while Gibernau was also smiling after erasing the memory of two DNFs and moving back to second in the world championship standings... but 22-points behind Valentino.
If this was Formula One, Edwards would almost certainly have been asked to wave his team-mate past. Thankfully no such move was made, but Colin's pitboard was seen with the word 'switch' on it...
Behind the top three, battles raged all through the order – and throughout the race - with plenty of thrills and spills thrown in to keep the Donington fans on their feet:
Hayden eventually claimed fourth, but only managed to shake off Bayliss when he himself made an error through the Craner Curves on lap 18. The American appeared to lose the front of his Honda through the left hand flick, leaving long black rubber marks on the surface.
Somehow Nicky held on, but Bayliss was distracted by the drama just a few metres ahead and went straight on at high speed. At that point the Australian's off road experience paid off as he safely shot through acres of wet grass, before eventually bringing his bike under control and rejoining the circuit just after Starkey's Bridge. The episode cost him five seconds and any chance of fourth place.
Carlos Checa rode to an uneventful sixth, a further 5secs behind the Australian, while Capirossi brought his Desmosedici home in seventh – just ahead of Suzuki's John Hopkins.
Having started just 16th on the grid, 'Hopper' rode a truly storming race to finish within sight of the red and white machine ahead – on a day when team-mate Kenny Roberts was lapped.
However, Norick Abe had been battling with Capirossi and Hopkins for that seventh position late in the race, after charging up the order from seventeenth. The Japanese seemed to be riding a different machine as he lapped up to 2.5secs quicker than those around him... only for it all to end in a painful DNF.
With five laps to go Abe was hassling Capirossi when his Gauloises Yamaha launched him into a huge highside through the Craner Curves. It was his second big accident in a week and as Norick was thrown rag doll like across the grass it was all to easy to imagine how his cracked ribs were feeling... he would be helped away on a stretcher.
Abe's spectacular exit allowed Neil Hodgson to take his targeted top ten home GP finish (behind Alex Barros); the injured d'Antin Ducati rider having risen from 14th on lap 1 to take the chequered flag one place ahead of team-mate Ruben Xaus, and claim top Brit honours.
Then came Max Biaggi: The Roman began the Donington race just one point from Rossi, but never looked anything like his true self as he slipped steadily backwards to an eventual twelfth.
Max would punch the fuel tank with disgust as he crossed the line almost one-minute from Rossi and it can only be assumed he suffered some kind of technical problem. Whatever the cause of his woes, Biaggi leaves England tied on points with Gibernau in the championship standings, having lost 21 to Rossi this afternoon.
Brit Shane Byrne, Biaggi's Camel Honda team-mate Makoto Tamada and Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano completed the point scorers.
Marco Melandri, who fought through the pain barrier to qualify tenth after breaking his thumb on Friday morning, elected to miss today's race. Perhaps a wise choice after seeing the fate of his Tech 3 team-mate.
Full results to follow...
British Grand Prix:
17. Kenny Roberts