MotoGP »

Melandri wins first ever 'bike swap' MotoGP.

Marco Melandri has won the first ever motorcycle grand prix to feature rain-induced bike swaps, under full racing conditions, after a dramatic Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.

The victory was Melandri's third of the season, but first since he suffered serious injuries at the start of June's Catalan Grand Prix and propelled the Italian to joint third in the championship on a day when title favourites Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi failed to lead a single lap.

After perfectly dry 125 and 250cc races, the start of the planned 27 lap MotoGP main event was delayed by ten minutes when drops of rain began falling on the grid. It was hoped that the delay would either result in the rain clearing, or becoming heavier, but in reality the uncertain weather situation was more or less the same when the red lights went out to start what was now a 26 lap challenge - with all riders remaining on slicks.

Hayden and Rossi, first and third on the grid, failed to get a good getaway, leaving second placed Shinya Nakano to rocket his Kawasaki into an early lead - which the Japanese had built to 2.5secs over the equally fast starting Colin Edwards by the end of lap one.

Nakano continued to confidently build his lead as the rain drops became heavier - then turned into a full rain shower with five laps gone. Prior to the 2005 season, such weather would have resulted in the race being stopped and restarted, but since the beginning of last season the rules state that the race will continue and riders can instead pull into the pits and switch to a machine fitted with wet or intermediate tyres, as and when they see fit. That new rule had never been fully tested, until today.

The first riders to pit were tail enders James Ellison and Jose Luis Cardoso, who switched to bikes fitted with a full wet weather set-up on lap six, but the front runners were naturally more cautious and it took until lap eight - by which time the rain was pouring down - for the majority of riders, with the notable exception of Nakano, to pit.

At the time of those pit stops Nakano held a five-second lead over Gibernau, with Rossi - who had dropped back to tenth on the first lap - in third ahead of Melandri, Suzuki's John Hopkins, local stars Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen, while Nakano's team-mate Randy de Puniet, Tech 3's Carlos Checa and Ducati's Loris Capirossi completed the top ten.

Nakano was ultimately punished for his extra lap and lost the lead to Gibernau when the Japanese rejoined the circuit at the start of lap ten. Gibernau, like Ducati Marlboro team-mate Capirossi, were considered to have the strongest dry race pace during practice - but had been hampered by qualifying tyre problems that left them just 12th and 13th on the grid.

Nevertheless, Sete had charged up to fourth by the end of lap one, then reached second position a lap later, but he wasn't able to threaten fellow Bridgestone rider Nakano until the pit stop. Shinya slipped further down the order as he familiarised himself with the wet weather ZX-RR, ending his podium challenge, while Melandri and Vermeulen were heading very much in the other direction.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Vermeulen 2nd, Melandri 1st, Rossi 3rd, Australian MotoGP, 2006
Gibernau, Melandri, Vermeulen, Australian MotoGP, 2006
Rain flag for Nakano, Australian MotoGP, 2006
Nicky Hayden - A tribute
Private testing action from Barcelona
Morning (left) and afternoon (right) lap times from Weds at Barcelona test
Marquez fall at private Barcelona test
Barcelona Circuit of Catalunya chicane final sector
New Catalunya chicane during private test
New chicane in use at Catalunya MotoGP test
Pedrosa, Zarco, Vinales, French MotoGP 2017
Vinales, French MotoGP 2017
Crowd, French MotoGP 2017
Baz, French MotoGP 2017
Rossi, Vinales, French MotoGP 2017
Iannone, French MotoGP 2017
Folger, French MotoGP 2017
Crowd, French MotoGP 2017

Start the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.

© 1999 - 2017 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.