Valentino Rossi added the Losail International Circuit to his long list of grand prix conquests on Saturday as he banished the memory of his 2004 fall with his tenth victory of the season in the Qatar Grand Prix.

Rossi's 79th career victory came after 22 dramatic laps, which began with Ducati pole sitter Loris Capirossi taking an early lead, before Movistar Honda's Sete Gibernau took over.

The Spaniard had built up a slim, but comfortable, advantage by the halfway stage but was eventually reeled in by the chasing pack and made a critical error with five laps remaining, running into the gravel when trying to repel an attack from Melandri.

With Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden in close attendance, Rossi closed in on Melandri and the two Italians then went head to head in a gripping finale.

The pair rubbed elbows in an intense battle, with Melandri making a last gasp surge just three corners from the end - but running out of track on the exit of the turn and conceding victory to his compatriot.

"What a race! That was the best battle of the season - I was pushed so hard - it was so much fun!" beamed a delighted Rossi, speaking just six days after clinching his seventh world title with second place in Malaysia. "It was an incredible fight from beginning to end, everyone trying to overtake.

"Marco and Nicky Hayden rode so well and it was such fun riding in a race like that with no pressure after clinching the title on Sunday. All three of us showed that we were in very good shape until the end. We gave more than 100% and had a fantastic battle from beginning to end.

"I have to thank my whole team because my bike was very fast over the final few laps, which it needed to be because Melandri was very strong and we had a great battle. He tried to pass me on the last lap but I was able to hold on and win - my tenth of the season. I am very, very happy.

"I had bad memories from this circuit from last year so I really wanted to win - but I think the show this afternoon was the biggest winner," concluded the Italian, who has now won at every circuit on the grand prix calendar except Laguna Seca and Istanbul, which will host the series for the first time in three weeks.

"Valentino clearly wanted to win the race after what happened last year and he came out on top of another incredible battle, so congratulations to him," added Gauloises Yamaha team director Davide Brivio.

Rossi's win, combined with fourth place for team-mate Colin Edwards, gave Gauloises Yamaha the 2005 teams' title and - with the riders' and teams' titles now in the bag - Yamaha needs to be 50 points clear of Honda after the next round at Phillip Island to clinch the 2005 manufacturers' championship.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...