A near capacity British Grand Prix crowd were rewarded for braving some appalling weather at Donington Park by one of the most thrilling, unpredictable and action-packed races of the 2005 season so far - which ended with world champion Valentino Rossi
taking a memorable victory after emerging from a frantic four-man lead group.
As many had feared, and some riders had hoped, after two days of dry action (with the exception of drizzle on Friday afternoon) a large band of rain moved into the midlands overnight, soaking the circuit from the early hours of Sunday onwards.
The rain continued on and off throughout the morning - producing a wet warm-up led by Suzuki's Kenny Roberts. The American - who led in the wet at Shanghai before mechanical problems - had qualified just 16th, but would hold a 0.254secs advantage over pole sitter Rossi by the end of the 20-minute session.
Movistar Honda's Marco Melandri
- who would complete the front row alongside Rossi and Sete Gibernau
- was third fastest in the warm-up, with Ducati's Carlos Checa a fraction behind in a top four covered by 0.351secs. Capirossi, Biaggi, Bayliss, Barros, Gibernau and Hayden completed a sliding top ten.
A brief lull in the rain would follow, but any hopes of a dry race ended when a sustained downpour forced the 125 race to be stopped and restarted - and by the time the 21 MotoGP stars took to the grid at 15.30 (to avoid a clash with the German F1 GP) the rain was falling heavier than ever - leaving standing water all around the sweeping 4km circuit.
This would be some challenge - which ultimately only half the field would finish - and just to add to the tension the start was aborted at the last moment when Nakano's Kawasaki died on the grid. Fortunately, after just one minute the bikes were restarted and sent out on a second warm-up lap, with the race distance being reduced by 1 lap to 29 as a result.
The second start went without a hitch, but as the red lights disappeared Rossi might have thought his M1 had selected reverse as he plummeted down to seventh, due to excessive wheelspin, by the time the field reached turn one.
Inheriting his position at the front was Gibernau, who led team-mate Melandri, a fast starting Troy Bayliss and Camel Honda team-mate Barros, Max Biaggi, Colin Edwards
and then Rossi through hollywood and down the craner curves for the first time.
However, as the field threaded through the old hairpin, Biaggi became the first faller of the afternoon, the Roman sliding from his Repsol Honda before making a brief - but ultimately futile - attempt to continue.