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
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
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