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Rossi slays Hondas for Sachsenring win

31 July 2005

Valentino Rossi will head for his summer holiday a happy man after winning his eighth race from ten 2005 starts in today's German Grand Prix at Sachsenring; the Yamaha superstar benefiting from a costly last lap error from Sete Gibernau to rule a five-man lead pack containing four Hondas.

Qualifying had seen Nicky Hayden celebrate his 24th birthday in style, the US GP winner taking pole position by 0.101secs from Gibernau with Alex Barros making it an all RCV front row - the first since Motegi 2003 - despite suffering his third fall in two days.

Meanwhile, runaway MotoGP world championship leader Rossi had recovered from a tricky opening day to clinch a second row start in fourth place, where he would be joined by fellow Italians Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi, while just 0.5secs covered the top nine riders.

A sunny morning warm-up had then ended with Melandri, Checa and Capirossi all within 0.097secs at the top, while pole sitter Hayden took a trip through the gravel on his way to seventh - with Barros, Gibernau and Rossi separating the Repsol Honda from the #65 Ducati.

When the red lights went out at the earlier time of 12.30 (to again avoid a clash with Formula One), Hayden converted his pole into a turn one lead, with a four man group of the American, Rossi, Barros and Gibernau soon breaking away up front.

But it would all come to a premature end on lap 6 when a nasty highside for Suzuki's John Hopkins left the already injured Anglo-American lying in the middle of the racetrack - forcing the race to be stopped.

The 12th placed rider had been flicked violently over the top of his GSV-R before landing heavily on his back. The 22-year-old already had a broken bone in his foot plus a multitude of chest and upper body injuries from his Friday highside and needed medical assistance to be removed from the circuit, hence the need for the red flags.

After a few minutes, Hopkins was fortunately back at the Suzuki pits and the smiling, but limping, Anglo-American could have legally taken part in the restart - although that was soon, correctly, ruled out by his medical advisors.

Also absent from the restart, which would be run over 25 instead of 30 laps, were Team Roberts rider Shane Byrne, plus the Kawasakis of Olivier Jacque and Alex Hoffman - who had all fallen at turn one... the two green machines taking each other out, while Byrne fell after clipping Checa.

Soon joining the trio in the German gravel had been Camel Honda's Troy Bayliss, whose tough season continued with a high-speed lowside on lap 3, while Blata WCM's James Ellison was the sixth and final rider to miss out on the restart after technical problems.

The race order as of the end of lap 5 would thus decide the restarted grid - producing a new front row of Hayden, Rossi and Barros; a row two of Gibernau, Melandri and Capirossi; and a third row of Biaggi, Nakano and Checa - but had no other impact on the final result.

The second start would see Hayden again keep the lead into turn one - and again it would be the same four who broke away up front (Hayden, Rossi, Gibernau and Barros) although this time they would be joined by a better starting Biaggi, the Roman completing a five-man lead pack.

But Rossi wasn't going to let Hayden get comfortable up front again, and would grab the lead under braking for turn one as early as lap 2 - Nicky then losing a further place when Gibernau slotted ahead at the downhill left hander towards the end of the same lap.

Sete then closed quickly onto Rossi's rear wheel and one lap later repeated that move on the six-times world champion, the Catalan claiming a lead he would go on to hold right until the final lap.

The five-man lead group had remained nose-to-tail right until the closing stages - when the top three of Gibernau, Rossi and Hayden broke slightly away from Barros and Biaggi.

The lead trio would start the last lap just 0.4secs apart, but as they thundered into turn one Sete missed his braking point- forcing the #15 to pick up his Movistar Honda and run wide. That mistake allowed Rossi through, although Gibernau was able to fend off Hayden during the next sequence of tight corners.

But Rossi was gone and duly held on to win his 76th GP victory by 0.685secs over Gibernau – the Italian equalling the number of GP wins by the late Mike Hailwood in the process.

On the slow down lap, Rossi would be given a flag marking the achievement, which read: "76 Rossi, 76 Hailwood, Sorry Mike". Only two riders have now scored more GP victories than the #46; Angel Nieto with 90 wins and Giacomo Agostini with 122.

Meanwhile, Gibernau took his loss with grace - keeping his cool and even displaying a slight, wry, smile as he congratulated Rossi on the podium.

Sete arguably had a 50/50 chance of holding off Rossi on that final lap - for what would have been his first victory of the year - but perhaps crashing out of three GPs already this season put the incident into perspective.

Hayden's third, exactly 0.2secs from Gibernau, gave the #69 his second podium of the year, while factory Honda team-mate Biaggi netted fourth after outbraking Barros into turn one on lap 23. Max would finish 1.5secs from Hayden.

Surprise of the day was arguably Shinya Nakano, who rode a storming race for Kawasaki - reeling in the lead group and briefly making it a six-man fight, before fading slightly as the five in front pulled the pin.

Nevertheless, the Japanese would still bring his ZX-RR home less than two-seconds from Barros and over seven-seconds clear of Melandri, Edwards, Capirossi and Tamada, who completed the top ten.

In terms of the championship, Rossi now holds an extended - and barely believable - 120-point lead over Melandri, over double Marco's total score, an advantage that means Vale could miss the next four races and still hold a comfortable 20-point lead.

That margin is even more shocking given how closely fought Rossi's victories have been this year but, by contrast, today's result means that second to fifth in the championship standings - Melandri, Gibernau, Edwards and Biaggi - are now covered by just 3-points.


German Grand Prix:

1. Rossi
2. Gibernau
3. Hayden
4. Biaggi
5. Barros
6. Nakano
7. Melandri
8. Edwards
9. Capirossi
10. Tamada
11. Roberts
12. Elias
13. Xaus
14. Rolfo
15. Battaini


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