15 June 2003
Capirossi crowned king of Catalunya.
The Ulsterman immediately made his feelings clear as he furiously gave the embarrassed Australian a dressing down as they walked from the gravel trap, while behind them the unfortunate Yanagawa was left needing medical treatment for apparent chest injuries after having two bikes land on him.
Back on track and Rossi was now ahead of Capirossi, while Biaggi was soon working his way past Jacque and then Gibernau for an all-Italian top three. Meanwhile, Checa, Nakano and Barros were lining up to deprive Yamaha colleague Jacque further.
But playing no further part by lap six was WSBK champ Colin Edwards. Edwards had squandering his second row start after another poor getaway to leave him battling with countryman Hayden for 11th.
However, worse was to follow when his Aprilia suddenly cut out at the end of the straight on lap 5. He was able to restart the machine after losing five positions, only fir it to 'die' again a lap later, leaving the Texan to cruise into the pits and retirement.
Up front the race was developing into a two-by-two-by-two pattern, with Rossi and Capirossi 0.5secs clear of Biaggi and Gibernau, who in turn were 0.7secs ahead of Checa and Nakano.
So, by the midway point the order was: Rossi, Capirossi, Biaggi, Gibernau, Checa, Nakano, Ukawa, Barros, Hayden, Bayliss and Tamada. Jacque had now faded rapidly to 12th, before crashing out.
The close, but somewhat tactical race, really came alive with 9 (of the 25) laps top go when Rossi, desperate to drop the hounding Capirossi, missed his breaking point at the end of the back straight – allowing Loris to dive inside and into the lead.
Within a few corners Rossi was back on the Desmosedici's rear wheel, only to make yet another mistake in the early part of lap 17 when he narrowly avoided ramming the Ducati's rear, and was forced to sit up and run wide through the gravel, before rejoining in sixth, 4secs behind fifth placed Nakano.
Now the race was really on: Rossi could conceivably still win, but it would all depend on how soon he could get through Nakano, Checa, Gibernau and Biaggi – while Capirossi was now aware that he had Ducati's first ever GP victory within his grasp.
Rossi immediately punched out the fastest laps of the race as he closed the clear air between himself and the D'Antin rider, whilst Biaggi and Gibernau began squabbling over second – and were reducing Capirossi's 1.8secs lead by up to 0.5secs a lap!
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