7 September 2003
Rossi rules in Portugal.
Biaggi, riding with the latest un-silenced RCV exhausts for the first time, continued to thwart Rossi's efforts to pass him for the next ten laps, but got the 'hurry-up' call when nearest championship rival Gibernau was released from behind Capirossi when the #65 ran wide on lap 11 (of 28).
However, despite almost hitting his rival's rear wheel at almost every turn, Rossi would remain second until lap 13 when he smoothly slipstreamed alongside the yellow Camel liveried machine and took the lead into turn one.
Rossi – eager to avoid a repeat of the last lap battles of recent events - then set about breaking the opposition, knocking out a 1min 39.3secs stunner to claim a 1secs lead next time over the line, with Gibernau/Capirossi a further 2.4/3.4secs back.
Meanwhile, Bayliss was fast recovering after looking to struggle with early grip problems. The Aussie was firmly back to fighting form by lap 17 and battling to retake Melandri and Ukawa (respectively) for fifth.
With three to go, Bayliss had dropped Melandri and was crawling all over Ukawa, while team-mate Capirossi was doing likewise with Gibernau for the final podium place.
However, the top two poistions were effectively 'locked down' with Rossi 3.6secs ahead of Biaggi, who in turn held the same sizable advantage over the Calalan.
Of the battles to be decided, Capirossi stung Sete for third with a brave outbraking move into turn one on the last lap, but Gibernau responded to cut inside the #65 at the chicane and looked to have third in the bag – before being left stunned as Capirossi rocketed out of the final turn and shot past on a pure horsepower fight to the flag.
But some 5secs ahead of the photo finish for third, Rossi was already celebrating his fifth victory of the year; becoming the first rider to win back-to-back races this year; matching Mick Doohan's records of 17 consecutive podium finishes – and increasing his championship lead over Gibernau.
Vale and his Repsol Honda team were clearly ecstatic at a return to their dominance of the past, and after celebrating in spectacular style on his slow down lap, Rossi grabbed a toy monkey in parc ferme... then carried it on his shoulders to the podium!
Further back, Ukawa held off Bayliss for fifth, ahead of Melandri, Checa and a fighting Hayden. Tamada made a welcome return to form with tenth, while the Aprilias / Suzukis / Protons finished two-by-two in 14th and 15th /17th and 18th / 19th and 20th respectively.
Pitt was sole finishing Kawasaki in 21st, just ahead of David de Gea – who took the WCM four-stroke to its first finish.
Full results to follow...
22. de Gea
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