Rossi pulled off one of the performances of the season
to win a breathtaking MotoGP race at Phillip Island despite being
issued a ten second penalty after overtaking under a yellow flag.
After a combative and entertaining opening to the race which saw
Troy Bayliss take the lead before crashing out on the fourth lap,
Rossi moved through the pack as Sete Gibernau, Marco Melandri
and Nicky Hayden took turns at the front. Two laps after Bayliss'
crash Rossi passed Melandri in the same corner, unaware that the
flags were still being waved, and as he went on to take control
of the race on lap six he was informed of the punishment.
"I had no idea what was going on," explained
the Italian, who was issued a similar punishment after the race
at Donington earlier in the season, when he was relegated from
first to third place. "I saw on my board '-10' and I
was confused, but on the next lap they told me I was down in eighth
position and I knew something was wrong. I decided that to lose
two wins in one season for the yellow flag was too much, so I
pushed very, very hard to make a big advantage."
Rossi built his lead at the front the battle for positions raged
behind him in a compelling podium tussle between the Hondas of
Gibernau and Hayden, the Yamaha of Melandri and the Ducati of
Loris Capirossi. At the halfway point of the race Capirossi moved
into second place, effectively taking the lead in the due to Rossi's
time deduction, and Melandri span out of third. Capirossi broke
from the pack and pushed to maintain the advantage over Rossi,
but the man in front was in unstoppable form. The World Champion
extended his lead in the race to 15.212 seconds to win by a final
margin of 5.212 - an effort he dedicated to the legendary Barry
Sheene by holding the unmistakable number 7 aloft on the victory
lap and podium.
Tohru Ukawa joined Hayden and Gibernau in a straight
battle for third, with the American winning out after
two exciting manoeuvres on the final two laps. Fourth place for
Gibernau sealed the runner-up spot in the championship after Max
Biaggi crashed and remounted to finish seventeenth. Further back,
Olivier Jacque won a battle with his old team-mate Shinya Nakano
to finish as the top Yamaha in sixth spot, whilst Jeremy McWilliams
held off John Hopkins on the Suzuki and home rider Garry McCoy
on the Kawasaki to seal his first points on the Proton V5 in eleventh
"The race for me was incredible. I knew I had a good
rhythm. Perhaps a little bit better than the others. I make a
bad start and had to fight a lot at the beginning. It
was very dangerous because everyone was very aggressive. A lot
of heavy braking and with the strong wind the bike was difficult
to control. I attacked and after seven or eight laps I see on
my board "less 10". I didn't understand what it meant.
Next time I see 'P8'. I say to myself 'f*** what happened?' After
I thought the yellow flag but I don't remember. I didn't see any
flag. Two victories with the yellow flag in one year is incredible.
I don't have a problem with the points so I close my eyes for
the last 10 laps. I never make a race at 100% before all the time.
Maybe today is the first time.
I make the number 7 flag in respect for my friend Barry Sheene.
He was a magic person; much more than a world champion. He changed
a little bit the whole sport. When I come back here we have a
strange feeling. I understand he's gone so we make a flag using
a sheet from the hotel. I'm sorry hotel!"
“I didn’t really know what was going on with Rossi’s
time penalty, this was the first time that I’ve been in
this situation, so I was a bit confused by my pit board. The board
was correct but it was just difficult to understand because this
was the first time such a thing had happened. We also need to
think about the yellow flag situation – when you’re
riding at 300kmh with ten other riders it’s very difficult
to see a yellow flag by the side of the track, and even if you
do see the flag it’s difficult to brake right there. All
I do know is that the early laps were very difficult because everyone
was being very aggressive, so I couldn’t find my rhythm.
Then when I overtook Melandri for second Rossi was maybe six seconds
ahead on the road, so I knew I couldn’t beat him. But second
is very good for me and the team, especially after the last three
races that weren’t so great for us. The bike worked really
well here all weekend, only one Honda was faster than us, so we’re
very happy. When I finished the race the first thing I wanted
to know was Troy’s condition. I’m very happy he’s
pretty much okay.”
"You gotta' crawl before you can walk! I've been movin'
up recently and really startin' to fight with the top guys over
the last few races. I really wanted to get a legitimate podium
and now I got one. We were all goin' at it out there; some real
scrappin'. It was good to lead my first GP of a time. I wanted
to go with Valentino and Capirossi but couldn't match their speed.
I made a little mistake in the rocks where Bayliss fell and lost
a few spots. I just kept workin' forward. I got Ukawa and then
managed to get Gibernau on the last lap. I'm so happy and am real
pleased my dad was here to see it. I'd like to thank all the team,
Honda and my sponsors. Hopefully the best is yet to come!"
DNF - Aoki, Melandri, Barros, Bayliss, De Gea
Proton KR 34