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27th July 2003


Sensational Sete Gibernau scored his fourth win of the season at a sun-kissed Sachsenring in eastern Germany in front of an appreciative 92,000 crowd. Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) had to settle for second after making a critical error on the final turn which Gibernau pounced on for his victory. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) was third.

Max Biaggi looked to be the dominant force here this weekend after setting a pole time for the second successive race. He also set the fastest lap of the race before crashing out while chasing down the leading duo of Gibernau and Rossi.

Biaggi wasted his pole position with a dreadful start that sunk him to tenth on the first lap. Rossi howled into turn one ahead of the Ducati duo of Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss with Gibernau in close pursuit. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) made good early running, going as high as second momentarily after a robust double overtaking move that disposed of Gibernau and Capirossi. But he couldn’t make it stick.

By lap five Rossi had pulled out a 2.5 second advantage over Gibernau who was now in a solid second place with Bayliss third. Biaggi was moving up the field with serious intent and by lap ten he was ready to put Bayliss behind him and work on the leaders. But Bayliss had other ideas and made it hard work for the Roman Emperor.

Biaggi and Bayliss swapped places three times on lap 11 as their private battle raged and a lap later the faster Max had finally put the determined Australian behind him. But on lap 14 Max lost the front of his RC211V at turn ten and with it his chance of a win, or at least a hefty points haul.

It was now down to Gibernau to take the challenge to Rossi and the Spaniard was more than up to it. "It was an incredible race, which I didn't really expect to win," commented Gibernau, who had never finished higher than eighth here before and started from fifth place on the grid. "Valentino set a very fast pace at the start of the race but fortunately I was able to get through the pack and chase him. This circuit is so short that there is no way you can take off major amounts of time with each lap, so I concentrated on shaving off a tenth here and half a tenth there until I caught him. Valentino let me past and the pace dropped a little, but it was always going to go to the last lap and I am just so pleased it worked out in my favour." At the halfway stage of the 30-lap race he had cut the deficit to 0.7 seconds and on lap 21 he made his move on the champ into the tight turn one at the end of the start/finish straight.

Rossi followed closely, seemingly getting the measure of his rival before making a decisive play for the lead at his leisure – but there was nothing at all leisurely about the way he had to ride to keep Gibernau within striking distance. Rossi left it until the last lap before he struck.

On the rapid downhill right approach to the penultimate turn, Rossi fired his RC211V around the outside of Gibernau and was then on the inside of the lefthand turn that followed – and ahead. There was only the final righthand corner to go and Rossi looked poised for victory.

But he overcooked his entry, and with his machine out of shape, Gibernau seized his chance and squared off the turn to shoot his bike up the inside of the floundering Rossi and broach the line six hundredths of a second ahead of the Italian.

"What a race and I honestly had no plan but when Valentino went past me I remembered my dirt tracking experience at Kenny Roberts' ranch," explained the Spaniard. "I had no plan for the last lap because when you have a plan and it doesn’t work, you’re in trouble. I first went wide then dived inside Valentino. My front tyre was on the limit but I looked across and saw Valentino was also having problems and somehow managed to cross the line to win, if you want to pass someone on the way out – do the work on the way in.”.

Rossi was honest about his error. “I made a big mistake,” he said. “I try to go away at the start but it was impossible. So I stay with Sete and wait for the last lap. I don’t know why I went so tight into the final turn because it’s difficult to pass there. But I went in too tight, lost the front and had to wait too long before I could get on the throttle.”

1 Sete Gibernau (ESP) Telefonica Honda Gresini 42:41.180
2 Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol Honda +0.060
3 Troy Bayliss (AUS) Marlboro Ducati +13.207
4 Loris Capirossi (ITA) Marlboro Ducati +16.521
5 Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda +16.563
6 Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Camel Pramac Pons +18.743
7 Shinya Nakano (JPN) Yamaha D'Antin +18.885
8 Carlos Checa (ESP) Fortuna Yamaha +26.165
9 Olivier Jacque (FRA) Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3 +28.281
10 Norick Abe (JPN) Yamaha Racing Team +29.159
11 Nobuatsu Aoki (JPN) Proton Team KR +29.316
12 Jeremy McWilliams (GBR) Proton Team KR +30.427
13 Markato Tamada (JPN) Pramac Honda +49.580
14 Colin Edwards (USA) Aprilia Grand Prix +53.444
15 Kenny Roberts (USA) Suzuki Grand Prix +57.512
16 Garry McCoy (AUS) Kawasaki Racing +59.580
17 Alex Hofmann (GER) Kawasaki Racing +1:05.240

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