Within two laps and the top three were beginning to pull a slight lead, as Gibernau looked anxiously for a way past the black and white Honda in front.
Lap 10 and the ferocious battle for fourth continued with Ukawa and Nakano slugging it out, while Criville out-braked himself into turn one taking him out of that four way battle between Ukawa, Nakano, Biaggi and Abe.
15 to go and Rossi slipped inside Gibernau for second at the first turn, as the factory Honda rider benefited from the considerable HRC horsepower under the bright yellow bodywork, while Capirossi – on the older spec Honda – put up a brave defence.
Rossi took the lead two laps later when he pulled out of Capirossi's slipstream along the start/finish straight and simply rocketed past the Honda Pons machine, to take the lead of the Catalan Grand Prix for the first time at the half way point in the race.
Spaniard Gibernau was now keen to get around the second placed Italian in order to stay in touch with Rossi, and the #15 Suzuki found his way past just a lap after Rossi, while Biaggi and Abe were now also closing on the #65 machine.
Lap 16 and Rossi was beginning to run away up front, while the chain of riders from second placed Gibernau to seventh placed Nakano (suffering from his choice of a soft front tyre) all closed up.
Capirossi showed he had not given up by slicing ahead of Biaggi for second, after the pair of them had passed Gibernau, but the sole remaining Suzuki rider was hanging on to the back of Biaggi's Marlboro Yamaha.
Lap 20 of 25 and Biaggi finally found a way around Capirossi for second, after winning the drag race along the main straight, and trying to eat into Rossi's comfortable four-second lead.
Into the final few laps and Biaggi had no answer for the lead Honda, the Roman only taking a few tenths out of Rossi's advantage, but at least the red #3 machine was pulling away for third placed Capirossi for his efforts.
The last lap saw Rossi roll to the finish, while Nakano continued his recovery from his mid race slump to take fourth – just 0.004secs behind third placed Capirossi, while Gibernau took his best finish of the year in fifth.
Full results to follow…
2. Biaggi +2.579secs
3. Capirossi +3.216secs
4. Nakano +3.257secs
5. Gibernau +3.989secs
6. Abe +4.705secs
7. Ukawa +4.769secs
8. Checa +13.459secs