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Rossi restrains Gibernau for Le Mans victory.

Gibernau would cut past Barros on lap five, Nakano on lap six, then take two laps to overcome combative new team-mate Melandri for fifth position and the lead of the 'second' group - who were now fast catching fourth placed Capirossi.

Further ahead, Rossi would break the American one-two after Hayden ran a little wide early on lap 8, allowing Vale to slot into second behind the sister Gauloises machine.

Rossi then appeared content to shadow Edwards, but was given a wake-up call when Gibernau burst into third, past a fading Hayden, on lap 16 - Sete was just one-second behind Rossi, who now needed to dispose of Edwards fast and use the former double WSBK champ as a blocker.

But before he could do so Gibernau was right on Rossi's rear wheel, creating a three-way battle for victory and when Rossi finally made his first real attempt to pass Edwards - diving cleanly inside, but then running wide - Gibernau took advantage and seized second place from him at the following corner, the #15 firmly blocking an attempt by Rossi to hold the outside line.

However, with Edwards still delivering a near faultless ride, Gibernau faced the same problem as Rossi - his attempts to find a way past the M1 in front leaving the door open for Rossi to recover the position, which he duly did with a sudden pass.

Edwards continued to lead with 8 laps to go, but then made his only real error of the afternoon. With the finish now in sight, Rossi was more anxious than ever to pass his team-mate and dived inside the race leader on the first apex of a double right hander - it was a clean move, but Edwards gave the six-times world champion a little more room than he needed...

Sete didn't hesitate to punish the 'Tornado' for his courtesy - following Rossi through as the trio aimed for the second apex. An immediate shake of the Texan's head indicated he knew he'd been 'mugged'.

The top two then broke away and while Gibernau ultimately wasn't able to pass Rossi for victory, his tyres sliding too much on the final lap, he did succeed in pushing the Italian right to the finish - and forcing Rossi to ride at no less than 100%.

Indeed, both riders recorded their fastest lap of the race on the last lap - but Rossi's was 0.2secs quicker. A sincere shake of the hands afterwards confirmed that mutual respect has been restored, on track anyway.

Edwards held on to take a well deserved first podium for Yamaha, some 5.5secs behind Gibernau, while Melandri - who had dropped back to seventh in the middle stages - won a tough duel with Biaggi for fourth.

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