MotoGP » 01 May 2005
Rossi surfs to Shanghai victory - Jacque second!
But at that stage, few would have predicted that either would be in contention for eventual victory, but then neither - it transpired on lap 5 - would Roberts; the former world champion's GSV-R suffering terminal mechanical problems at the most cruellest of moments and leaving the American to limp back to the pits pondering what should have been as he dropped out of the lead.
Roberts' demise put Rossi up front for the first time, and his five-second lead should have meant that - barring a serious mistake or technical problem - he could ride a measured race to the flag, monitoring the opposition. And that's exactly what happened, Rossi's lead staying about five-seconds right up until Lap 18...
Meanwhile, by lap 6, the man who would later force the Gauloises Yamaha team to construct a new name for Rossi's pit board - they didn't have the letters O and J - was just starting to make a serious impression.
Jacque and van den Goorbergh had continued to embarrass the full time riders by moving into fourth and fifth with a third of the race gone, but the Frenchman would finally distance himself from the Dutchman's RCV when he stole third from Biaggi - after a determined defence - on lap 8. Surely that was the best even he could hope for, given the standard of the two riders ahead of him?
By the halfway stage of the race Rossi had also, against previous wet weather form, increased his lead over Sete to 6.3-seconds, but Jacque was now just 0.6secs from the Catalan's rear wheel - and setting the fastest laps of the race.
Gibernau fought to keep the Kawasaki rider behind him, but appeared to be suffering from some form of rear tyre problem - there had been predictions of overheating issues, despite the standing water, due to the length of the 200mp/h back straight - and some head-shaking as the #15 crossed the start-finish line made clear he wasn't happy.
By contrast OJ was riding like he'd been born on a ZX-RR, and shot past Gibernau on lap 14 to cross the line, with eight laps to go, 6.1secs behind Rossi. It seemed a long shot, but his relative speed suggested he might just have a chance of victory - but would he choose to gamble his first ever MotoGP podium on such a possibility?
The answer was yes. From Lap 15 to 19 Jacque cut Rossi's lead down to 3.3secs, before the six-times world champion - now being visibly forced to push - held that margin for a lap, only for Jacque to close to within 2.5secs as the last lap began.
Ultimately Rossi held his nerve and, after glancing over his shoulder out of the final turn, took victory by 1.7secs over Olivier. It was hard to tell which rider was more pleased; an ecstatic Rossi punching the air before stopping and kissing his Yamaha, while the Kawasaki team threw their hands out at an equally delighted Jacque as he crossed the finish line.
But it wouldn't be Gibernau joining them on the Shanghai podium; the Catalan's titles woes taking yet another downward dive as he was deprived of third by non other than team-mate Melandri halfway around the last lap.
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