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Rossi wins, Roberts podiums after Catalan chaos

18 June 2006

MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi has beaten Nicky Hayden to win a chaotic Catalan Grand Prix - which also saw Kenny Roberts Jr put Team Roberts on the podium!

The initial race start was red flagged on lap one after a nasty turn one accident involving Sete Gibernau, Loris Capirossi, Marco Melandri, Dani Pedrosa, Randy de Puniet and John Hopkins.

The frightening incident occurred when the two factory Ducatis of Gibernau and Capirossi tangled in the braking area; Gibernau appearing to slide towards his team-mate - before being sent flying over the handlebars into a full 360-degree flip after his front brake lever was hit, leaving both man and machine cartwheeling down the track.

But the initial impact also caused world championship leader Capirossi to veer sideways into Melandri - with both riders falling hard before slamming into the back of Dani Pedrosa and John Hopkins, who were braking as normal ahead of them. de Puniet was taken out separately as he avoided Gibernau's riderless bike.

Melandri appears to have been knocked unconscious as he became trapped between his own machine and that of Pedrosa, as the mass of riders and bikes all tumbled into the gravel trap. Hopkins was also sent straight on, and had to ditch his GSV-R to avoid hitting the air fence at the end of the gravel trap.

When the dust cleared, Melandri - who has won two races this season - was left motionless in the gravel trap before being carried away on a stretcher, while Capirossi - also initially out cold - and Gibernau joined him in being taken to the medical centre and then on to hospital in Barcelona to undergo tests.

The first impressions are that all three are fortunately not seriously injured; Gibernau suffering a fractured collarbone, Melandri a dislocated collar bone and Capirossi abdominal bruising.

Gibernau had initially been expected to be the worst injured, given his spectacular somersault, but the Spaniard had tucked his arms in as he rolled down the track - and wasn't hit by any other rider - allowing him to eventually walk away.

The restart was set for 14.30 local time - with Melandri, Capirossi and Gibernau unsurprisingly not taking part - but the chaos continued even before the restart when Vermeulen stalled from fourth on the grid; the young Australian looking around for guidance before pushing his bike to the side of the track. Nevertheless - after more shrugging of the shoulders from riders, team members and officials alike - the start was delayed.

That allowed Vermeulen to restart his machine and retake his position on the grid for the third start - which fortunately went without incident and saw Casey Stoner just squeeze out Hopkins to lead into turn one, with Nicky Hayden, Shinya Nakano, Rossi, Vermeulen, Elias, Tamada, Edwards and Pedrosa following.

Thereafter, Rossi - despite some tough opposition - made his way steadily forwards; passing Roberts for fourth on lap 3 of 24, Hopkins for third on lap 6 and then Hayden for second on lap 8. The seven-times world champion then completed his ascendance by taking the lead with another turn one outbraking move, on Stoner, at the start of lap
9.

However, another man on the move was home hero Pedrosa - who had charged from eleventh on the grid up to sixth, and was now just 2.8secs from Rossi. The Repsol Honda rider was then gifted fifth when Stoner slid out of second place on the entry to the stadium area - but Dani's day also came to an abrupt end, just over a lap later, when he lost the front of his RCV through turn one.

The diminutive triple world champion fought hard to lift his bike - and eventually remounted, with the help of marshals - but was forced to retire due to the amount of damage sustained.

The dismissal of both Stoner and Pedrosa left Rossi and Hayden to battle for victory during the second half of the event, while Roberts and Hopkins fought over a valuable podium position around 3.5secs behind, with Vermeulen and Rossi's Camel Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards the same distance back of Hopkins as they bickered over fifth.

Rossi, Roberts and Edwards broke free to win those respective battles in the closing stages - the Italian enjoying enough of a lead to light-up the rear wheel of his M1 and wave to the fans during the last lap, before further celebrating his third victory of the season and second win in a row after a race that only 11 riders finished.

But Hayden's second place, combined with Capirossi's DNS, means that the American has now retaken sole control of the world championship standings - and lost only 5-points to Rossi, who is now up to third place but 29-points from the Repsol rider. It now remains to be seen if Capirossi and fourth in the championship Melandri can ride in next Saturday's Dutch TT...

Meanwhile, the man with most to celebrate at Barcelona was undoubtedly Roberts Jr - who took his first podium since last year's wet British Grand Prix, but more importantly claimed the first podium for his father's Team Roberts outfit since they began building their own machines back in the mid-1990s... in what was only the Honda powered KR211V's seventh ever grand prix.


Catalan Grand Prix:

1. Rossi
2. Hayden
3. Roberts Jr
4. Hopkins
5. Edwards
6. Vermeulen
7. Tamada
8. Checa
9. Ellison
10. Hofmann
11. Cardoso


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