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Rossi wins but Biaggi get the result.

14th July 2003

Valentino Rossi just had to be awestruck yesterday when the MotoGP world champion had his victory in the British Grand Prix snatched away by the men in suits. The champagne celebrations were over, the interviews conducted and his dedicated legions of delighted fans were on their way home when race officials announced the revised result.

“I’m not totally happy,” Rossi said. “I race on the track not in the office.”

After a dramatic race on the track at Donington Park afternoon the action continued behind closed doors as Valentino Rossi was docked 10 seconds for overtaking under yellow flags and victory at the Cinzano British Grand Prix was handed to Max Biaggi. Rossi had initially emerged victorious from the 30 lap race, sharing the winner's champagne with the adoring British public after topping the podium from Biaggi and Sete Gibernau. However, an investigation from Race Direction revealed that the World Champion had passed Loris Capirossi in the aftermath of a first corner melee which saw Tohru Ukawa crash out. Rossi was accordingly penalised and relegated to third place, leaving Biaggi to celebrate a surprise first win of the season as Gibernau was promoted to second.

"I won the race but I understand how Rossi must feel because it happened to me in 1998," said Biaggi. "I am happy to have the 25 points but it is not like a normal celebration. All I can say is that I have sympathy for Rossi but the rules have to be applied."

With 72,000 people coming through the gates at Donington Park to underline the renascent popularity of the sport, the confusion that followed what had appeared a comfortable win for the Italian was the last thing anyone needed. Many will have left the circuit without knowing the true outcome, while others will wonder why it took so long for Rossi to be awarded a time penalty for an incident that happened on the second lap.

Rossi was given the ten-second penalty for overtaking Loris Capirossi while yellow flags were being waved after a crash involving Tohru Ukawa. And it was Ukawa’s team-mate, Max Biaggi, who benefited most from the penalty as he was promoted to race-winner, with Sete Gibernau second. Having thought he had reasserted his superiority after two disappointing races, Rossi suddenly found himself third.

"I know I was the best rider on the day," he said. "I deserved the win - I rode well. On the first three laps and on the podium the atmosphere and support for me was incredible - it was like being at Mugello again. I didn't see the yellow flag - there was no debris from Ukawa's bike or any visible danger, but it is clear from the video footage that I passed Capirossi under the flag."

That seemed fair enough given that the men at race direction had not seen Rossi’s illegal manoeuvre. It was only after they were tipped off by others in the paddock that they realised they had to do something. One source said there then followed a comical scene in which a call was made to Francesco Zerbi, the president of the FIM, the governing body, to see what they should do.

“I did nothing wrong intentionally,” Rossi said. “I am disappointed, but rules are rules and I can’t argue with the law. I only hope the outcome of the race doesn’t affect the championship in the end. I feel clear in myself. I won a hard-fought race.”

The reshuffle means Rossi leads Gibernau by 34 points in the championship. Biaggi, whose first win of the season had a hollow ring about it, is another three points adrift.

It was a deeply unsatisfactory finale to a day that had belonged to Rossi. He suffered a poor start on the Repsol Honda and was fifth at the end of the first lap before he started to carve his way through the field. It was only a matter of time before he caught Capirossi, but he will rue doing it quite so quickly.

If the normal punishment for overtaking under a yellow flag had been applied then Rossi would have had a stop-go penalty of 10secs, none of this happened so he remained in blissful ignorance until long after the finish.Who knows the way he was riding may have meant that he would have won it anyway.

Having overhauled Capirossi and Gibernau, Rossi settled down for another titanic tussle with Biaggi, his bright yellow Camel Honda must have resembled the back end of a bus to Rossi as he fought to overhaul him. It was a fantastic sight until Biaggi’s challenge crumbled under pressure. A mistake at the Esses when Biaggi ran wide forced the “Roman Emperor” to “do a bit of offroading”. Rossi took maximum advantage and was never troubled during the remaining 17 laps.

The performance of the Ducatis was also eye-catching, Loris Capirossi rode a lonely race in fourth place but his team-mate Troy Bayliss was forced to work hard for fifth, charging through the field after losing several places in the opening laps. Capirossi had one moment during the race when he said that “it was a miracle” that he avoided crashing into Marco Melandri when the Yamaha rider fell in front of him.

Carlos Checa held off a late surge from Nori Haga to seal sixth place, whilst Nicky Hayden will be boosted after beating fellow American Colin Edwards to eighth. Edwards was also caught on the final lap by Shinya Nakano, who pipped the World Superbike Champion for ninth.

1 Max Biaggi (Honda)
2 Sete Gibernau (Honda)
3 Valentino Rossi (Honda)
4 Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
5 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)

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