To add to the confusion, the race was declared 'dry' minutes before the start, meaning that should the rain return, the race would be stopped and restarted (as happened at Le Mans). Only trouble was lots more rain looked to be on its way...
Regardless, that decision meant that riders would now gamble for a dryer set-up, since if it got wetter the race would now be stopped anyway. More frantic changes... Then guess what: As the riders made their way around the circuit on the formation lap – it began to rain... Lets start all over again.
Eventually the grid reformed 20-minutes later for what even the organisers now decided was a 'wet' race, with all riders reverting to a full wet set-up (including tyres, steel brakes, softer engine mapping, traction control settings) to suit the worsening conditions.
The 'wet race' decision, meant there was now no chance of stopping the event (whatever the weather did) and when the red lights finally disappeared to release the now 23-rider field, it was Biaggi and Rossi who were side-by-side into turn one – before Gibernau rocketed up the inside and threw his Telefonica RCV under the pair of them in brave move from the Spanish rain master.
Chasing the top three through the opening part of the lap were Jacque, Barros, Bayliss, Edwards and Melandri – pole sitter Capirossi having had a horrendous first few turns as he sought to tame his Desmosedici.
By contrast, team-mate Bayliss was putting his renowned wet weather skills to good use – slicing past Barros and soon attempting to follow the Brazilian's Gauloises Yamaha team-mate Jacque in finding a way around now fourth placed Rossi.
By lap two a lead group of seven – Gibernau, Biaggi, Jacque, Rossi, Bayliss, Barros and Edwards – were beginning to pull a gap over Checa, Ukawa, Melandri, Capirossi, Hayden, Kagayama and Hofmann, while Biaggi put a move on Gibernau as he attempted to up the pace.
Gibernau settled into the #3's tow, and the pair were soon leaving the rest of the pack to contest third as they swapped the lead several times, whilst setting new lap records with every circulation.
Biaggi still held the lead over the line at the start of lap four, but Gibernau then made his move inside the Italian on the run up to turn one - the two almost interlocking elbows at 150mph - before Biaggi gave the Telefonica rider room to slot ahead.
But behind the pair an Aprilia former WSBK ace was making waves through the water – and it wasn't Edwards. Haga had now worked his way into eighth and was the fastest man on the track as he closed down his illustrious team-mate ahead of him.