Marco Melandri has completed a remarkable 2005 revival by holding off Valentino Rossi for a much deserved first ever MotoGP win in today's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul - making the young Italian clear favourite for second in the 2005 world championship standings with just one round to go.

Practice and qualifying had been dominated by Movistar Honda duo Melandri and Sete Gibernau - Melandri ruling free practice before Gibernau jumped ahead by 0.1secs at the end of a frantic qualifying session.

Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden was left in their wake as best of the rest - the American completing the front row, but over 0.5secs behind the blue machines - while row two was an all-Yamaha affair comprising of Rossi, Colin Edwards and class rookie Toni Elias.

However, morning warm-up had seen Rossi - who had admitted to being in real trouble on Saturday morning - take another significant leap forward, the Italian closing to within 0.053secs of session leader Gibernau to put real pre-race pressure on the Catalan.

Meanwhile, a 'lead group' had also been indicated with the warm-up top six - of Gibernau, Rossi, Hayden, Melandri, Barros and Checa - all covered by 0.6secs, and a 0.4secs gap then separating the Ducati rider from the second factory M1 of Edwards. But would that pattern be repeated this afternoon?

When the red lights went out it was Melandri who led the first ever Turkish MotoGP field around the tricky 'fall-away' downhill left hander that is turn one - with Gibernau, Edwards, Hayden, Elias and a poor starting Rossi in close pursuit.

Rossi woes then grew as the top five began to pull away from Tamada, but the world champion would muscle his way past the Japanese later in the lap and was soon fighting to close back up to the fellow M1 of Elias.

That move by Rossi, together with Hayden passing countryman Edwards, meant the order at the front was back to three Hondas then three Yamahas - but by lap 3 Rossi was in line to break the RCV domination, having quickly passed Elias then ridden around Edwards using a neat inside line around the long uphill right hander that is turn two.

Almost sensing Rossi's advance was Gibernau who, after examining several possibilities, took the lead for the first time by outbraking his team-mate a lap later - at the same time, Rossi found his progress halted by a determined Hayden, who was in turn keeping the Movistar Hondas firmly in his sights.

Rossi would eventually take third position on lap 6 - but not by passing Hayden. Upfront Gibernau's curse had returned as the Catalan got out of shape on the entry to a left hander, ran wide and was sent into the Istanbul gravel.

It was the latest in a long line of infuriatingly errors, but the #15 was at least able to paddle through the gravel and rejoin in sixth, in the middle of a tight second group with Edwards and Elias ahead and Barros behind.

Gibernau would blast past the two Yamahas within half a lap, but was then faced with a full straight - around six-seconds - of asphalt between himself and Rossi. That gap would never be closed and Sete would still be six-seconds behind third place at the chequered flag.

Meanwhile, Gibernau's exit had handed the lead back to Melandri and the young Italian would never be headed again, the former 250cc world champion keeping his head down and delivering fast lap after fast lap as he fought to keep Hayden and Rossi at bay.

It worked. Melandri tipped his advantage over the young American to one-second for the first time on lap 8, prompting Rossi to demote the Repsol rider and launch his own attack, but by the halfway stage (lap 11) Melandri was 1.3secs clear of Rossi, with Hayden still very much in touch with the Italian superstar.

That relentless progress from Melandri would continue throughout the second half of the race, with his lead hitting two-seconds on lap 17 and then three-seconds on lap 20 - it would now take a Melandri error to prevent victory, but Marco remained wheel perfect right to the line.

The Movistar rider would exit the final corner with his head nodding in a 'yes-yes-yes!' motion, before springing his satellite spec RCV into a one footed wheelie as he took his first ever premier-class victory in his third year of trying - and after being largely written off following a terrible second season with Yamaha in 2004.

Melandri would receive sporting congratulations from Rossi and Hayden before wheelieing his way around the rest of his victory lap - where he would pause for the odd burn-out before igniting what was left of his rear Michelin in front of his ecstatic Gresini team in parc ferme... whom he literally jumped on after dismounting from his bike.

Rossi had crossed the finish line 1.5secs from Melandri to be denied the chance to break Mick Doohan's all-time season win record, of 12, this year - although he can still tie the great Australian's record with victory in the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix in two weeks' time.

Hayden, who began the race tied with Melandri for second in the championship, is now 9-points behind the runner-up prize after finishing a further five-seconds back - however Nicky was actually much closer to Rossi than that statistic would suggest, and only the unintentional interference of a lapped James Ellison late in the race had allowed Rossi clear breathing room.

Finishing 14secs behind Gibernau was fellow Spaniard Carlos Checa - who was the only factory Ducati to reach the finish after stand-in rider Shinichi Itoh was black flagged after failing to pit for jump start penalty.

Checa, expected to be replaced by Gibernau next year, dropped back to eleventh at the end of lap one before advancing irresistibly up the order to claim fifth in front of Elias.

However, that position alone doesn't do full justice to the MotoGP rookie, who held off the likes of Barros and Edwards for sixth all the way to lap 13 - before making some form of mistake and dropping back to ninth behind Barros, Edwards and Tamada.

Toni then regrouped and charged back up the order before saving his greatest achievement for the final lap - when the satellite Yamaha rider passed the factory M1 of Edwards, whom he beat to the line by a tenth of a second.

Seventh place for Edwards means he is now 15-points from third placed Hayden in the standings and needing a miracle to secure Yamaha a riders' championship one-two.

Shinya Nakano finished tenth for Kawasaki after keeping Chris Vermeulen at bay by less than two-seconds at the flag, the Australian star - rumoured to have signed for Suzuki next year - being denied the top ten finish he'd wanted, but still achieving his goal of beating another Honda.

And it was not any Honda, but the full factory machine of Max Biaggi.

Biaggi, starting his record 200th consecutive GP, dropped from 12th on the grid to just 15th at the end of lap one - stayed in that position for the next five laps - then steadily rose up the order to cross the line four-seconds from Vermeulen after another race to forget.

Kawasaki's Olivier Jacque, Elias' Fortuna Yamaha team-mate Ruben Xaus and the lone Suzuki of John Hopkins completed the points finishers after a race which only Itoh failed to finish.

Finally, Marco's victory today makes him only the fifth different rider to win a race so far this year - after Rossi (11), Barros (1), Hayden (1) and the absent Loris Capirossi (2).

Full results to follow...

Turkish GP:

1. Melandri
2. Rossi
3. Hayden
4. Gibernau
5. Checa
6. Elias
7. Edwards
8. Tamada
9. Barros
10. Nakano
11. Vermeulen
12. Biaggi
13. Jacque
14. Xaus
15. Hopkins
16. Rolfo
17. Battaini
18. Ellison



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