Valentino Rossi took a dominating victory in today's Spanish Grand Prix, surviving some early race mayhem to carve through the field from as low as eighth to eventually ease away from nearest rival Max Biaggi, while WSBK star Troy Bayliss took his first ever GP podium.
Racing aside, the 128,000 Jerez fans were also treated to a spectacular display of high speed sliding, with Rossi and Loris Capirossi leaving clouds of tyre smoke out of almost every turn, in an intimidating display of skill.to their pursuers.
Qualifying had seen Capirossi and Bayliss complete an astounding Ducati double, with the Italian snatching his sixth premier class pole, and Ducati's first ever, from his Australian team-mate by just 0.010 seconds.
Bayliss and the stunning Desmosedici are just three rounds into their MotoGP adventure, but they sat proudly at the top of the time sheets during the final five minutes of yesterday's session before Capirossi's last gasp charge and Bayliss is sure to be a factor today after taking his first front row start.
Honda Pons riders Max Biaggi and Tohru Ukawa closed in during a tense finale to clinch the final front row positions, while both Valentino Rossi and home hero Sete Gibernau both faltered with their last lap attempts leaving them fifth and sixth respectively.
John Hopkins turned in a highly impressive performance to join the second row in seventh place aboard the Suzuki, his equal best start in GP racing, whilst Nobuatsu Aoki was also in inspired form as he put the Proton KR3 two-stroke in eighth, lapping 1sec faster than last year.
Olivier Jacque crashed out as the chequered flag was waved but he had already done enough to qualify as the highest Yamaha in ninth. He is joined on the third row by factory colleague Carlos Checa, Colin Edwards on the Aprilia and Makoto Tamada, who recorded his best qualifying result so far riding the Bridgestone-shod Honda.
Interestingly, for the past four years the rider who has won at Jerez has gone on to take the premier class title. Would that trend continue in 2003…?
But even before the start there was drama when the two Ducatis collided on the warm-up lap, Capirossi running into the back of a slow Bayliss, but both managed to stay upright and take their places on the grid.