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what more must he do?


7th september 2003
Words by simon bradley, pictures courtesy of dorna/motogp

Max Biaggi must be an extraordinarily unhappy man tonight. He rode a textbook race, from his superb qualifying in second place ahead of Rossi to his getting the holeshot and taking control of the race from the front.

For 13 laps he led convincingly, pulling away from the pursuing pack of Gibernau, Capirossi, Bayliss and Ukawa with only Valentino Rossi staying with him. For 13 laps the lead pair extended the gap, turning in perfect lap after perfect lap while the rest of the pack tripped each other up vying for position.

Then two things happened. Gibernau made a move on Capirossi and upped the pace a little, seeming briefly to close on the back of Rossi's Honda. And Rossi found out about it.

So on lap 13, Rossi calmly pulled out of Biaggi's slipstream on the main straight, passed him in the braking zone and then cleared off. By the end of the 13th lap Rossi was a whole second ahead of Biaggi, who had not slowed down at all. To say that it was a masterclass is an understatement, and it must have been absolutely crushing to Biaggi's morale.

Things became rather unexciting at the front as Rossi rode like a man posessed, sliding everywhere but never getting even a little ragged. Biaggi was keeping a cracking pace but couldn't even approach Rossi, and ended the race trailing by over two seconds. But the battle for third was hotting up as Capirossi was clearly not happy about Gibernau getting past him, especially as it was his own mistake that allowed it to happen as he ran wide at the end of the straight. But Gibernau isn't exactly slow, and has got used to being on the podium. The resulting scrap went all the way to the line, with Capirossi getting past under braking but then being mugged quite convincingly a few corners later. Things looked as though they were going to go Gibernau's way, but exiting the final corner the amazing power of the Ducati came good and Capirossi simply outdragged Gibernau to take the last podium place by just fifteen thousandths of a second.

Fifth placed Tohru Ukawa rode a lonely race, although the rate that Troy Bayliss was closing on him, it would have got quite exciting for him in a few more laps. Bayliss himself had a bit of a torrid time, dropping back in the middle part of the race, seemingly with some sort of problem before forcing his way back past Marco Melandri and setting about catching Ukawa ahead of him. An excellent race from the Australian, then, with a comfortable sixth ahead of Melandri, whose team-mate Carlos Checa was a few seconds behind in 8th. Nicky Hayden came off second best in his battle with Checa to finish 9th while the top ten was rounded off by Makoto Tamada with another consistent ride.

The Aprilias of Edwards and Haga came in 14th and 15th respectively, picking up the last championship points while Suzuki continued their dismal season with Roberts and Hopkins in 17th and 18th, just ahead of Jeremy McWilliams and Nobu Aoki on the Proton.

Technically the championship is still up for grabs, but realistically, going on today's form, there is nobody on the grid who can take it away from Valentino Rossi.

Results

1 Valentino Rossi (Honda)
2 Max Biaggi (Honda)
3 Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
4 Sete Gibernau (Honda)
5 Tohru Ukawa (Honda)
6 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
7 Marco Melandri (Yamaha)
8 Carlos Checa (Yamaha)
9 Nicky Hayden (Honda)
10 Makoto Tamada (Honda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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