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Rossi takes championship again
12th october 2003
Words by simon bradley, pictures courtesy of dorna/motogp

Nobody was terribly surprised when, after a qualifying session totally dominated by the 24 year old Italian, Valentino Rossi took an emphatic win at a warm and dry Sepang circuit in Malaysia, and with it the 2003 MotoGP crown.

The weekend seemed to have been Rossi's from the very beginning. His qualifying pace was such that nobody could seriously challenge him for pole and he was relaxed and confident going into the race itself.

Which made the start even more of a surprise. Rossi seemed to fumble the launch from pole position, and by the first corner was back in fourth behind a desperate to win Sete Gibernau, Carlos Checa and Loris Capirossi. Early in lap two, though, Rossi showed his mettle, stuffing the Honda past both Checa and Capirossi, almost on consecutive corners, and devouring the space between himself and Gibernau in a very short time indeed. Further back, Max Biaggi managed to get past Capirossi and start to close on the leading group. As soon as he passed Checa, though, it seemed that Rossi got a message from his pit crew that it might be time to stop playing around. On that lap he executed a very clean but forceful pass on Gibernau and simply rode off into the sunset.

Try as they might, Gibernau and Biaggi had no answer for an on form Rossi, and the race was as good as won by the ninth lap.

The only real drama of the race came on the second corner, when Alex Barros lost any advantage he may have gained at the start by dropping his bike. Unhurt, the Brazilian avoided being run down by the safety car and leapt back on, managed to get started and tore off in last place. All credit to Barros, then, that he ended the race in 15th, picking up the final point. At this stage of the championship, every point counts.

Capirossi faded after his brilliant initial start and finally yielded to Nicky Hayden, whose excellent form has continued and who rode his socks off to finish a very respectable fourth, and Carlos Checa who was the highest placed non Honda. Sixth place for Capirossi, then, ahead of Ukawa and Nakano with Troy Bayliss ninth and Tamada in tenth. The Aprilia duo of Haga and Edwards had arguably their best result of the year, bringing the ill handling bikes in twelfth and thirteenth, while Kenny Roberts managed a fourteenth on the less than wonderful Suzuki. Good news too for Proton, whose pairing of Jeremy McWilliams and Nobu Aoki both finished, albeit outside the points, in seventeenth and eighteenth.

A race which saw very little in the way of real drama but a great deal in the way of textbook riding from the leading trio.

So with two races still to go Rossi has been crowned again. The rumour mill is in full flow, with suggestions that Ducati may have upped their offer following suggestions that his deal with Honda may have fallen through. Looking back over this year, there is no doubt in my mind that there was never really anyone who could mount a consistent challenge to the Rossi/Honda combination. Sete Gibernau has matured massively this year, for sure, and if Rossi does move elsewhere then the Spaniard would be the obvious and deserving choice to become the number one Honda rider. But then again, both Nicky Hayden and Max Biaggi are showing fantastic form at this end of the season. Indeed, it is still theoretically possible that Biaggi could take second place from Gibernau, although it would be a brave bet.


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

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