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Gibernau makes it two all

25th may 2003

Sete Gibernau made up for his ignominious departure from his home GP a fortnight ago by taking a thrilling win from Valentino Rossi, literally on the last corner of the last lap of the French GP at Le Mans.

The race was a peculiar affair, starting dry but with the rain which had been looming all day arriving in force after a few laps and forcing a temporary halt for tyre changes. New rules mean that instead of combined times being used to determine the result, the riders line up on the grid for a restart in the order they were running when the race was stopped. It is then a simple race to the line over a reduced distance - in this case 13 laps - and may the best, luckiest or simply bravest man win.

Ducati had a disappointing weekend with Capirossi retiring and Bayliss making a close inspection of a gravel trap in the treacherous conditions. Nobby Aoki also joined the list of fallers on the supposed to be retired but will be replaced next race, honest, Proton 2 stroke. His team mate, Jeremy McWilliams, fared rather better, though, appropriately bringing the veteran bike home in sixth place, its highest ever finish on its last ever outing.

Max Biaggi made a last minute decision to run wets instead of intermediates and paid by starting from the pit lane at the back of the grid. His final fifth place was even more impressive as a result. Local hero Olivier Jacque got his Yamaha into fourth, with his teammate Roland Barros third.

Barros had made the running for most of the restarted race and looked as though he was going to take the flag until the last couple of laps. Gibernau and Rossi were fighting hard and both managed to get past Barros on the brakes - something you won't read very often as the Brazilian is renowned as a demon late braker. They then spent the rest of the race scrapping hard and swapping the lead on several occasions. However, it was the last lap which had everyone out of their seats as the two leading riders approached most corners side by side with absolutely nothing between them. The last pair of right handers saw Gibernau hold the line and Rossi run slightly wide in a gamble to get the drive on the exit. The gamble didn't pay off this time and Gibernau held his lead to take an extremely well earned win.

In terms of race results it was good to see both Aprilias in the top ten, split by the surviving Kawasaki of Garry McCoy in ninth.

Rossi remains at the front in the championship with Biaggi second closely followed by Gibernau. Barros is fourth and Troy Bayliss is in a very credible fifth.



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