Rd 2 MotoGP: Rossi fights back

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April 9, 2006 Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi returned to the top step of the podium after a stunning ride in yesterday’s Grand Prix of Qatar. Rossi’s 54th career MotoGP victory was sealed with a perfectly timed run in the second half of the race, passing early leader Casey Stoner (Honda) on lap 10 of 22 and holding off a late attack from Nicky Hayden (Honda) and Loris Capirossi (Ducati), who completed the podium. The win brings Rossi’s premier-class tally level with that of Mick Doohan, with only the legendary Giacomo Agostini now ahead of him on 68 victories. Casey Stoner's pole position in only his second Grand Prix, followed by leading for the first ten laps indicates MotoGP has unearthed yet another potential star - though Stoner was eventually fifth, he already looks capable of winning a race when he gets some riding condition capable of sustaining his speed for an entire race.

Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) came a narrow second to Rossi in a tense MotoGP race here in windy Qatar today. This was Hayden’s sixth consecutive rostrum finish as he bids for his first win of the 2006 season.

With a 33km/h wind, erratic in direction, blowing throughout the day, turns two and nine seemed to be the worst affected. There was also a 44 degree track temperature to contend with, although the elevated ambient temperature that is so often a debilitating factor here was ‘only’ 25-degrees now that this is an April race instead of an October fixture.

Pole man Casey Stoner (LCR Honda RC211V) simply stormed away from the line as the lights went out and he looked strong as the field struggled to establish an order and make chase. Capirossi was nearest to the young Aussie, but the Italian couldn’t stay with him as the first lap unfolded.

At the start of lap two the order was Stoner, Hayden, Rossi, Capirossi, Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki), Sete Gibernau (Ducati), then Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V). Hayden put in an early fastest lap as he went all out to hound Stoner in those early stages. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V) was down in 11th place following a slow get away from the starting light.

Then it was Rossi piling on the pressure as he chased Hayden, a fastest lap belonging to the Italian rider on lap three. On lap six Rossi and Hayden swapped places twice in both final loops as they fought for dominance in the struggle to reel in runaway Stoner. Rossi eventually got the upper hand and had a 0.77 second gap to close on the swift Australian.

On lap ten Rossi nipped past Stoner into turn one, then it was Hayden’s turn to demote Stoner to third on the next lap. Rossi now held a 0.6 second advantage over Hayden and it was only another two laps before Capirossi squeezed past the Aussie to put the ‘old firm’ in charge at the front.

As lap fifteen ran its course Rossi and Hayden had an advantage of more than a second over Capirossi and Stoner, with Gibernau losing ground in fifth. Hayden now knew he had to size up Rossi to see what his plan should be in the closing laps. He moved past Rossi at turn one on lap 19.

Rossi repaid the compliment on lap 20 at the same place and Hayden could not respond and Rossi won by 0.9 seconds at the flag with closer to Hayden than the American was to Rossi. But Hayden rode a mature race and it can’t be long until the Kentucky Kid notches up a second career win in MotoGP.

Valentino Rossi, Camel Yamaha, 1st: “That was a great race – it was hard but that is what made it such fun. My M1 worked really well today - as the race went on the grip went down and the vibration completely disappeared, so I was able to go fast at the end. Also I set the fastest lap of the race on lap three, so this shows how well my M1 was working. This win is important for the championship but even more so from a mental point of view for me and the team. It was windy but the grip was good and I was able to chase Stoner, who was very fast at the start. When his tyres went down I was able to pass him and I thought I could escape but Nicky stayed with me. Then I looked back and saw Loris was coming too so I began to get worried about the last few laps. Anyway, I pushed hard and managed to hold on. It is great to be level with Mick Doohan, now only Giacomo Agostini is ahead of me. Records are not the most important thing but they are always nice! This feels like the start of the championship for me. Jerez was a nightmare but here we woke up! Big thanks to Jeremy and all the guys because they stayed focused during a difficult time and this is their reward.” Davide Brivio, Camel Yamaha Team Director: “This is a great day for us because we have been going through a difficult patch so to come out of it with a win is fantastic. It is a credit to the team because they have remained determined throughout the problems and never lost their focus. On Colin’s side we have to keep this focus because he had some problems today and we want to bring both Yamahas to the top. We have work to do but we made up some important points in the championship today and this victory gives us even more motivation to continue in the same way at Istanbul.”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda, 2nd: “Battling for the win is so much more fun than battling for fourth place! I pushed Valentino hard today and I pushed myself about as hard as I could too. We had the bike that could win today, but on the last lap in a left-hander I got into a nice little slide, Valentino gapped me pretty good and it was hard to recover. We gambled a bit with set up today, we rolled the dice, and it worked well for me in the race, helping a lot in the fast corners. So a big thanks to my crew. Its my second year with my crew chief and were working really well together. All the guys have been working hard and making some good improvements on the bike. We’ve still got some work to do and well be back here in the morning testing, but the new bikes definitely getting better and were heading in the right direction. Six podiums on the trot is cool, but it would be nice to get a few wins along the way!”

Makoto Tanaka Repsol Honda Team Manager “ Ahhh! How disappointing today's result is! Nicky has worked hard to finalise his set-up since he came here and he did a really excellent job both in yesterdays qualifying and today’s race. He’s become really strong mentally since last year and I want sincerely to praise his work today. Dani lost many positions at the start because of an uncertain feeling from the clutch which caused him to wheelie. However, he did very well to finish sixth. He’s a really professional rider who doesn't stop racing until he crosses the line. We didn’t win, but Nicky took 2nd place and Dani is in 3rd place in the riders championship which bodes well for the rest of the season. We still have work to do to improve the bikes performance but I think we are close to our target. So, watch this space."

Loris Capirossi, Ducati MotoGP, third: "I am very happy and this is a great weekend for the team, because for sure this circuit was not one of the best for us. Bridgestone made a good job during the winter tests and we have made great improvements. For us, this was a difficult track and last year we had big problems. But this year we managed to fight for the victory right to the end, and took a very good result. The first part of the race was difficult because of the wind, but I adapted my style and made a good rhythm. Big thanks to everyone in the team and Ducati Corse. This is going to be a very interesting championship and if we can keep on like this we will be there for the whole season. I think we are in good shape, and have great confidence in the bike and the tyres."

Sete Gibernau, Ducati MotoGP, fourth: "I think we did a good job. We only lost time in the race at the slow hairpin. Right there I was getting a lot of chatter at the front of my Desmosedici, and in this one corner I lost half a second. In all the rest we were OK. Also, on the main straight, I was moving from side to side in the wind too much, which made it very physical. But we needed to finish this race and I look forward to the next one. The wind was the same for everyone and I would like to say thanks to Bridgestone and Ducati, they did very well."

Livio Suppo, Ducati MotoGP project manager: "I am very happy for the team and for Bridgestone. We were last here for the race in October, just a few months ago, and compared with then they have made an unbelievable step forward. So we must really thank them. Loris rode perfectly so thanks to him as well. When he is in a good mood he is incredible! I am very happy for Sete too. After the delusion of Jerez he kept his nerves under control and made a very good race. Tomorrow we stay here to test, because we never stop development. To start the season in such a good way, and when we see the potential we have, we must work hard to keep the potential at a high level. I want to thank our technical partner Shell Advance, for their big support." Casey Stoner, LCR Honda, 5th: "The start was great and I felt really comfortable out front and just concentrated on doing my own thing but as the fuel got lighter I wasn't able to up the pace as I lost some rear grip. My physical condition was also a factor today and I wasn't feeling 100%. I thought I could have got a better result today. I missed a lot of pre-season training and then I had the flu and after ten laps my leg began to cramp up. When Valentino came passed for the lead I wasn't surprised, it was only a matter of time, and over the second half of the race I had a good battle with Loris and Gibernau."

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 6th "Its easy to say this now, but I believe I could have finished further up, at least in 4th, if Id made a better start. We had a problem with the clutch, like Nicky when he was practising his starts yesterday. At first I thought the wheel was spinning but actually it was the clutch. Then, when I was behind Elias and we were both overtaking Hopkins his bike put oil on our visors. Elias closed the throttle and we lost a lot of time on the leaders at least 3 or 4 seconds. When I caught Melandri we had a big battle. My bike was really fast and I could overtake him, but he was braking so late! Im not angry with the result, but Im upset because today I lost a good opportunity to be battling at the front. In the race I learned a lot of things and I know I performed as well as I could have. Although Im frustrated today, the two races so far have been really positive."

Marco Melandri, Fortuna Honda: 7th "It was a really difficult race. I got a good start and tried to make up some positions but I made a mistake towards the end of the race that cost me a position. I had a really good battle with Dani Pedrosa, he was passing me in the straight but I was able to get him back on the brakes. I'm still not riding as I would like to - tomorrow we'll stay for a day of tests and hopefully it can help us take another step forward."

Toni Elias, Fortuna Honda: 8th "We've done a great job over the two days of practice and I was hoping for more than this today. I didn't get a good start and I paid the price for that. Then Hopkins' engine began to drop oil and I had to shut off the throttle, sending me even further back. My visor was covered in oil and after losing contact with the lead group it became a really hard race for me. I'm disappointed because I know I could have had a nice race today."

Colin Edwards, Camel Yamaha, 9th: “I made a good start and over the first five laps I felt fine – the bike was good and I was able to ride aggressively. I thought: ‘okay, let’s go for it.’ Then on lap six I lost the front three times in a row and I almost crashed on each one of them. I thought it was a bit early in the race for that to happen so I pushed on and got going again but the front kept going and I had to ride slower and slower. In the practice simulation I ran a 1’57.2 on my last lap but in the race it was three seconds slower so clearly something is not right. Thankfully we have a test tomorrow to find out what it was and make sure that we are in better shape for Turkey.”

Kenny Roberts Jnr, KR Honda: 10th "Start was not too bad but I got boxed in by a lot of guys in front of me who were not going to be racing for the lead. Some of them were loosing oil Chris Vermeulen was dropping oil all over me. I guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. When I got clear of those guys the gap to the riders in front of me was too big to close down. The bike and tyres were great today but I could have been better if I had got clear of the group quicker but with oil everywhere you have to be careful. I have to thank the team for all they did this weekend, great job. Still, if you had said in November that we would have finished the first two races in the top 10 we might not have agreed with you."

Kenny Roberts Senior, Team Owner KR Honda. "We are still looking for the ideal base set up and we're trying too many things in a short time. You can loose your way a bit when you do that. We are also held back a little by having only one rider but all in all we have made progress so far."

Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki MotoGP, 11th: "We just ran out of time to fix the problems that we have been experiencing all weekend, so all I could do this afternoon was go as hard as possible and try and salvage some championship points. Our main problem seems to be a lack of traction out of the turns, mainly because the power delivery off the bottom is just too aggressive and this is causing the rear tyre to break contact and spin up. So, it was difficult to accelerate hard out of the turns, which reduced my speed along the straights. Even on the short straight between turns three and four, people were just riding past me on the throttle, while I was struggling to get the bike to hook up through the gears. It must be something about this circuit, because the bike has worked well throughout winter testing and at the first race in Jerez. After a difficult weekend I'm just happy we ended today with a points scoring finish."

Harald Eckl, Kawasaki MotoGP, Team Principal: "It is a bitter disappointment to finish outside the top ten as a factory MotoGP team. Our main aim now needs to be to go away from here and work hard to improve power delivery, driveability and top speed, so we can come back stronger for the next race in Istanbul."

Carlos Checa, Tech 3 Yamaha, 12th: “I am very happy with the performance of the Yamaha and the Dunlop tyres today. That is very encouraging for myself and the team but at the moment I am not fit enough to ride the bike and the tyres to the level that I would like. My shoulder is a little better today but in two weeks I will be so much fitter. The severe wind also made it harder to ride than I had anticipated. The team continues to improve everything about the bike and I am confident that after rest and physiotherapy I will be in much better shape to battle the way I desire in the races ahead.” James Ellison, Tech 3 Yamaha, 13th: “I am very, very happy. We both got held up on the first lap when another rider crashed in front of us and without this I think the result could have been even better. I am feeling really comfortable on the bike now and pushed very hard throughout the race. I made up two seconds in one lap but then I got stuck behind Tamada and couldn’t get past him for quite a while. The tyres held up perfectly for the 22 laps and were exactly the same at the finish as at the start and that is very encouraging. We got some points to start the season with and if I keep progressing like I am doing there will be even better results coming in the near future.”

Herve Poncharal, Tech3 Yamaha Team Director: “Altogether we had a good weekend. The entire package – the bike and tyres – worked really well, going the whole distance. I think considering the severe winds and the problems that Carlos is having we had very encouraging results. Carlos fully-fit will deliver the promise he showed in winter testing while James is getting better every time he rides the bike. After De Puniet crashed it made it difficult for the results we wanted, but both James and Carlos fought through to the end like the determined and courageous riders they are. I’m very satisfied with the results and how much everything has improved since our test here in February. We will be testing here tomorrow with James only as Carlos will return home to make a full recovery and be fit for the next Grand Prix in Turkey in three weeks.”

Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda: 14th "I did not expect to have such a difficult season starting. I'm not able to drive as I would my RC211V yet. It is hard to be fast in the corner without having the right feeling. I am sorry I have not had to possibility to give any satisfaction to KONICA MINOLTA, to Honda and to all team guys that are constantly working to create the best conditions."

John Hopkins, Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, DNF: “It’s a really big shame with what happened to me and Chris - I know that he is as frustrated as I am. I got a great start and I felt extremely good during the first couple of laps and made a lot of passes. I felt like I could have got past the guys in front of me but then the bike gradually lost performance and that was it – it was all over. I am really disappointed, all my team and everyone here at Rizla Suzuki have worked hard all weekend and it’s such a shame for all of us that it has happened like this.”

Chris Vermeulen, Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, DNF: “I got a better start than I did at Jerez. I was baulked a bit on the first lap and then I lost a bit of time when another rider crashed. I passed Kenny Roberts Jr and I was up with the group in front of me, but then it looked like John’s bike started to leak fluid. This made the track slippery and we all dropped back. I was doing ok and was in the 1 minute 58 seconds lap-time bracket but then I had a problem of some kind and the bike slowed down – I realised how slow it had become when another rider passed me doing about 100kph more than I was! So I just headed for the pits and that was the end of my race. We’ve all worked hard in Qatar and it was a big disappointment.”

Paul Denning, Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Team Manager: “John, Chris and the whole Rizla Suzuki team deserved so much more than this. The effort that the crew and riders have put in this weekend has been incredible. Without going into detail, it has been an extremely difficult weekend. For John in particular today was very disappointing as his bike felt so much better than it had done all weekend. He made a good start and he was sure that he could catch the riders in front of him. Unfortunately, the performance of the bike tapered off to a point where it finally stopped. John was obviously visibly upset and after the weekend that he has had I don’t think it would be human not to let some of that frustration out – and nothing more will be said on the subject.

Randy de Puniet, Kawasaki MotoGP, DNF: "I got a good start and I felt comfortable on the bike, but after overtaking Alex Hofmann going into the slow left hander the rear just came round on me. I don't know why yet; hopefully the telemetry will tell us something when we get the bike back to the pit box. This is the worst possible end to a difficult weekend for me. My hand injury was a problem on Thursday, but this improved throughout the weekend and I was looking for a good result today. Obviously I am disappointed to have crashed out on the first lap, but the only thing I can do is look at why it happened, learn from it, and then put it behind me so that I can concentrate on preparing for the next race in Istanbul."

The World Championship points standings look like this after two of 17 rounds: Capirossi 41, Hayden 36, Rossi 30. Race Classification MotoGP : (22 laps = 118.36 km) Pos/ Rider / Nat / Team / Motorcycle / Time/ KM/H / Gap 1 / Valentino ROSSI / ITA / Camel Yamaha Team / YAMAHA / 43'22.229 / 163.742 2 / Nicky HAYDEN / USA / Repsol Honda Team / HONDA / 43'23.129 / 163.686 / 0.9 3 / Loris CAPIROSSI / ITA / Ducati Marlboro Team / DUCATI / 43'23.723 / 163.648 / 1.494 4 / Sete GIBERNAU / SPA / Ducati Marlboro Team / DUCATI / 43'26.867 / 163.451 / 4.638 5 / Casey STONER / AUS / Honda LCR / HONDA / 43'29.804 / 163.267 / 7.575 6 / Dani PEDROSA / SPA / Repsol Honda Team / HONDA / 43'33.049 / 163.064 / 10.82 7 / Marco MELANDRI / ITA / Fortuna Honda / HONDA / 43'34.013 / 163.004 / 11.784 8 / Toni ELIAS / SPA / Fortuna Honda / HONDA / 43'41.710 / 162.525 / 19.481 9 / Colin EDWARDS / USA / Camel Yamaha Team / YAMAHA / 43'45.149 / 162.313 / 22.92 10 / Kenny ROBERTS JR / USA / Team Roberts / KR211V / 43'56.515 / 161.613 / 34.286 11 / Shinya NAKANO / JPN / Kawasaki Racing Team / KAWASAKI / 43'57.545 / 161.55 / 35.316 12 / Carlos CHECA / SPA / Tech 3 Yamaha / YAMAHA / 44'11.474 / 160.701 / 49.245 13 / James ELLISON / GBR / Tech 3 Yamaha / YAMAHA / 44'23.698 / 159.964 / 1'01.469 14 / Makoto TAMADA / JPN / Konica Minolta Honda / HONDA / 44'33.007 / 159.406 / 1'10.778 15 / Alex HOFMANN / GER / Pramac d'Antín MotoGP / DUCATI / 44'44.280 / 158.737 / 1'22.051

Pole Position:Loris Casey STONER 1'55.683 167.423 Km/h Fastest Lap:Lap 3 - Valentino ROSSI 1'57.305 165.108 Km/h Circuit Record Lap:2005 - Nicky HAYDEN 1'57.903 164.270 Km/h Circuit Best Lap:2006 - Casey STONER 1'55.683 167.423

World Championship Positions:

1 CAPIROSSI Loris 41, 2 HAYDEN Nicky 36, 3 PEDROSA Dani 30, 4 ROSSI Valentino 27, 5 ELIAS Toni 21, 6 STONER Casey 21, 7 MELANDRI Marco 20, 8 NAKANO Shinya 14, 9 ROBERTS JR Kenny 14, 10 GIBERNAU Sete 13, 11 EDWARDS Colin 12, 12 TAMADA Makoto 8, 13 HOPKINS John 7, 14 CHECA Carlos 7, 15 VERMEULEN Chris 4.

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