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Sete escapes to victory!

Meanwhile, Rossi and Bayliss were back ahead of Jacque and leaving the Frenchman behind to deal with Barros and the two closing RS Cubes.

Lap five saw Bayliss pull off the type of brave move he was so famous for in the SBK days as he swung his V4 around the outside of Rossi through a high speed curve, and set his eyes on the 1.5secs of clear race track between himself and Biaggi.

Unfortunately for the Aussie, his progress would come to an end shortly after when he ran off track and fell from his Marlboro machine, sliding through the grass and into the gravel. His only good luck was that the bike didn't stall and he was left to try for a Silverstone 2002 comeback repeat from 16th (just behind Nakano, and ahead of McWilliams).

Approaching the midway point of the 19 laps and the rain had now stopped, although with no wind the circuit wasn't ever going to dry, although a dryer line would start to develop.

Of note was that Kawasaki wild-card Hofmann was completing his portfolio of skills (testing, qualifying, dry races etc) by showing off his duck like rain abilities – the German was tenth for most of the race, battling Honda RCVs and Yamaha M1s – and ahead of the Suzukis, Protons and his ZX-RR team-mates.

Up front, it was clear that even without the pressure of Bayliss, Rossi could do nothing about the riders ahead of him. Gibernau and Biaggi were still just 0.5secs apart, but the Repsol rider was 4.5secs adrift. However, on the move were Haga and Checa, the Japanese overtaking his team-mate for fifth, while the Spaniard seized seventh from Barros.

Exactly on the halfway point, a decisive moment was reached when Gibernau and Biaggi began dealing with backmarkers – Sete slotting ahead of McCoy into the final chicane, but the Aussie couldn't move out of Biaggi's way and nearly high-sided trying.

The Roman would claw back the time lost, but by lap 11 Gibernau was starting to look as if he was on another racetrack to the rest of the field – lapping just 10secs from (dry) pole time and 2secs faster than anyone else.

Biaggi certainly hadn't settled for second, but when the Italian's customer spec Honda was seen wheel spinning all along the curved home straight it was clear he was suffering severe tyre grip problems and would need to concentrate on holding the 8secs gap to Rossi, in the remaining 8 laps.

Last place Aoki's event to forget almost came to a painful end on lap 12 when he fell from his V5, only to slide across the grass and back onto the circuit in front of Barros.



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