Valentino Rossi has taken a textbook victory over Sete Gibernau
in today's Catalan Grand Prix; the world champion shadowing the leading home hero until three laps to go - when he coolly overtook, set a new lap record and went on to win his fifth race from the opening six rounds of the 2005 MotoGP season.
Saturday's qualifying session had seen the under-pressure Gibernau raise hopes of a home victory with a new pole record as he edged out charging young team-mate Marco Melandri
by just 0.053secs.
Runaway championship leader Rossi completed the front row despite encountering tyre problems midway through the session and not getting the most from his best lap, while countryman Max Biaggi ran out of time to make a final tyre change and would start from fourth.
Biaggi's Repsol Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden
and Ducati rider Loris Capirossi
would join the Roman on row two, with Colin Edwards, Carlos Checa and Alex Barros
completing a top nine separated by 0.8secs.
Morning warm-up had seen Gibernau and Rossi effectively equal at the top of the timesheets - Gibernau lapping just 0.037secs quicker than his arch-rival - with Hayden 0.184secs in third and immediately ahead of Melandri (+0.33secs), Barros (+0.331secs) and Biaggi (+0.398secs). But who would last the distance in what was expected to be one of the toughest tyre races of the season?
When the red lights went out, the Movistar team-mates held their top positions at the head of the field into turn one - ahead of Biaggi, Hayden, Capirossi, Rossi and Barros - while start of the season went to Roberto Rolfo, who hurled his Ducati from 17th on the grid to an amazing 8th at turn one.
Meanwhile, Melandri wasted no time in getting around Gibernau, with Rossi also on the move and up to third within a few turns - then took second, from Melandri, as he followed Gibernau past the #33 at the end of the back straight.
The front row trio would continue to trade positions fearlessly - culminating in Gibernau actually clipping race leader Melandri's rear wheel under braking for a tight left hander on lap 3: Sete would pick his RCV up and run wide, but it only cost him one position as Rossi slotted into second.
But it was far from a three-rider race with Barros, Hayden, Biaggi and Tamada also soon in contention, forming a hectic seven rider strong early lead group.