Marco Melandri has completed a remarkable 2005 revival by holding off Valentino Rossi
for a much deserved first ever MotoGP win in today's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul - making the young Italian clear favourite for second in the 2005 world championship standings with just one round to go.
Practice and qualifying had been dominated by Movistar Honda duo Melandri and Sete Gibernau
- Melandri ruling free practice before Gibernau jumped ahead by 0.1secs at the end of a frantic qualifying session.
Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden
was left in their wake as best of the rest - the American completing the front row, but over 0.5secs behind the blue machines - while row two was an all-Yamaha affair comprising of Rossi, Colin Edwards
and class rookie Toni Elias.
However, morning warm-up had seen Rossi - who had admitted to being in real trouble on Saturday morning - take another significant leap forward, the Italian closing to within 0.053secs of session leader Gibernau to put real pre-race pressure on the Catalan.
Meanwhile, a 'lead group' had also been indicated with the warm-up top six - of Gibernau, Rossi, Hayden, Melandri, Barros and Checa - all covered by 0.6secs, and a 0.4secs gap then separating the Ducati rider from the second factory M1 of Edwards. But would that pattern be repeated this afternoon?
When the red lights went out it was Melandri who led the first ever Turkish MotoGP field around the tricky 'fall-away' downhill left hander that is turn one - with Gibernau, Edwards, Hayden, Elias and a poor starting Rossi in close pursuit.
Rossi woes then grew as the top five began to pull away from Tamada, but the world champion would muscle his way past the Japanese later in the lap and was soon fighting to close back up to the fellow M1 of Elias.
That move by Rossi, together with Hayden passing countryman Edwards, meant the order at the front was back to three Hondas then three Yamahas - but by lap 3 Rossi was in line to break the RCV domination, having quickly passed Elias then ridden around Edwards using a neat inside line around the long uphill right hander that is turn two.
Almost sensing Rossi's advance was Gibernau who, after examining several possibilities, took the lead for the first time by outbraking his team-mate a lap later - at the same time, Rossi found his progress halted by a determined Hayden, who was in turn keeping the Movistar Hondas firmly in his sights.