The Camel Honda rider overtook Marco several times, but could never hold the position for long and was forced to settle for fourth at the flag. The battling Italians had allowed Hayden and Edwards to close rapidly at the end, both Americans having put in hard rides to climb up the order from 14th and 11th on the first lap.
Xaus was always the top Ducati and would battle with the second group for the entire race, losing out to Hayden and Edwards with a few laps to go, but crossing the line a credible seventh – 13secs from Rossi, but just 4secs from Melandri and a podium.
First of the factory Ducatis was Loris Capirossi, the Italian holding station at the end of the top ten for most of the race but came within 0.3secs of denying Xaus in his first race on the twin-pulse. Team-mate Bayliss retired.
Hopkins featured inside the top ten in the early stages for Suzuki, but slipped back to fourteenth at the flag – two places ahead of team-mate Kenny Roberts
and one behind the sole finishing Kawasaki of Alex Hofmann.
Jeremy McWilliams took the final point for Aprilia on a day when team-mate Shane Byrne retired after 16-miinutes. Also not finishing were both Proton KRs and the WCM of Michel Fabrizio – the Roman teenager destroying his machine, but walking away unharmed, after an early high speed fall.
Full results to follow…
16. Kenny Roberts