Valentino Rossi fought back from a first corner clash with Alex Criville and Sete Gibernau, to win the 500cc Catalan Grand Prix in dominating fashion from countryman Max Biaggi.
Rossi had claimed pole with a one-off flying lap on soft tyres towards the end of yesterday's final qualifying session, with impressive 500cc rookie Shinya Nakano lining up in second, while Loris Capirossi and Max Biaggi completed the front row.
As the red lights disappeared at the top of the long main straight, it was Norick Abe who shot to the front – from eighth on the grid!
Into the right-left first chicane and Rossi was knocked wide when Gibernau arrived too hot into the turn and pushed Criville out into him – leaving Rossi well down the field, while up front Abe lost the lead to Nakano when he ran wide around the long right hander.
So, across the line for the first lap and Nakano led, Capirossi, Barros, Abe, Roberts, Gibernau, Ukawa and Biaggi – with Rossi down in twelfth.
Around the first gear chicane and Capirossi out-braked Nakano to take the lead, with the top three starting to break away from the pursuing pack led by Abe.
Rossi continued his charge back to the front; passing Alex Criville by lap three and moving past arch rival Max Biaggi for eighth soon after. Lap four and World Champion Kenny Roberts Jr. flung his Suzuki into the gravel trap at turn one, after losing the front way before the turn in point, and shooting off the track.
Meanwhile Biaggi was back by Rossi, and Barros stole second from Nakano at the first turn, however disaster would follow when the Brazilian slid off his West Honda Pons machine just a few turns later.
Lap 6 of 25 and Rossi slipstreamed Ukawa down the main straight and into fourth place to continue his meteoric recovery. But back at the front Sete Gibernau was having his best race of the year so far, thriving on the atmosphere generated by the local fans to move steadily up the order, culminating in him taking second from Nakano and holding off Rossi's #46 Honda when the young Italian followed him by Nakano's Tech 3 machine.
So, by Lap 7 the order was: Capirossi, from Gibernau, Rossi, Nakano, Ukawa and Biaggi.