June 5, 2005 World Champion and Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi produced one of the best performances of his career today as he outwitted a trio of Italian compatriots to take a stunning home victory at Mugello. Starting from pole position, Rossi was in turn passed by a handful of riders, despatching each in turn until he was left to battle for the victory with his old arch-rival Max Biaggi, eventually finding enough to greet the chequered flag four tenths of a second ahead of his main adversary. Biaggi was Rossi’s main protagonist and antagonist for the early part of his career in the premier class, but had faded from the spotlight in recent years and Rossi’s new arch rival Sete Gibernau crashed out early in the race after fading from the front of the pack to fourth and looking like he was going to finish much further down the points.
“I decided that only a victory would do for me at this Grand Prix and I crashed because I was trying to chase the pace at the front,” said Gibernau, who is now fourth in the championship standings, a distant 67 points (remember it’s 25 points for a win) behind Valentino Rossi.
Second in the title is now Marco Melandri who had a share of the lead during the race but faded to fourth place behind the hard-charging Ducati-mounted Loris Capirossi – though Melandri is Italian, the kinetic forces at play gave the Italian Ducati even more speed than it has had all year to give the machine its first podium of the season. The Ducatis were consistently the fastest machines through the speed traps by six or seven kmh, with checa (we don’t know if he had a better entry speed to the straight or a faster motor), regularly topping 340kmh down the main straight.
The atmospherte at Mugello was electric, with 90,000 passionate Italian fans there to witness an Italian 1-2-3-4 domination of the premier class and Ducatis third and fifth. From the perfectly choreographed Ducati grandstand to the massive fan clubs of the Italian riders, it’s hard to believe motorcycling has a more apt home than Italy.
Melandri is 49 points adrift and although improving with every ride, he’s unlikely to be able to mount a challenge to Rossi for a win, let alone a championship over a series where competitiveness in every race is vital.
He most significant outcomes of the weekend were the demise of Gibernau and the resurgence of Biaggi. Second-placed Biaggi rode his Repsol Honda RC211V like we haven’t seen him do so since Germany last year. His form proved he can still do it, but don’t go betting the ranch on him winning races just yet – he has always been capable of winning any given race, it’s just that he never does it when it counts, particularly when Rossi is in the field.
Now it’s not impossible that Rossi could lose the title from this position – Mick Doohan left Hockenheim, the seventh round of the 13 race 1992 MotoGP series with an 80 point lead (based on today’s points system – a greater lead than Rossi has now) and lost the series by four points when he broke his leg and couldn’t contest five of the last six races.
But realistically, while the season is far from over, the championship is already decided. As enthusiastic as Rossi was about the race, the fact is he features in the results every week, and there’s no-one else capable of doing that.
Valentino Rossi: “That was an incredible race and the best possible finish for the crowd, with four Italian riders in the top four positions. It was a great battle – full of passes and full of attacks. In the beginning I tried to go alone but I had some problems with the front and decided just to concentrate on my rhythm. Then Melandri arrived and we had a great fight, also with Biaggi after that. We set a high pace to the finish, I made my attack with three laps to go and it worked so of course I am very happy. My team once again did a great job and everybody at Yamaha has worked so hard to provide me with the bike I wanted – this is our reward. I want to thank them and also the amazing crowd here at Mugello; it was an honour to race in front of them.”
Davide Brivio, Gauloises Yamaha Team Director: “Another 25 points and another win! Of course, being an Italian team this is more special for us and to see all the fans from up on the podium was incredible. To win four of the first five races is a lot and, as Valentino said, it is a sign of the great job we are doing. Gibernau and Biaggi have both been in good shape to win races but they haven’t been able to and we are proving very hard to beat. But there are 12 races left and we have to keep our concentration. Colin has had a difficult weekend but we will aim to get him back on the right path for Catalunya to find again the level of result he achieved in Le Mans.”
Max Biaggi, Repsol Honda Team, second: “Great race. I’m super happy with the result. We come out from a terrible situation in the best way: stepping on the podium and, more than everything, fighting for the win. We almost made it. HRC Team did a very good job and I thank them all: mechanics, suspensions’ guys, tyre people, engineers and, of course, Erv. Thanks to this job the bike was working well immediately, since Friday practice. Now we must keep this pace. I’m not thinking about the championship, I prefer to fight race by race.”
Loris Capirossi Ducati MotoGP, third place: "Ducati arrived in a good position today and we can expect better and better from now on. The race seemed more like a 125 race, I was even looking at the giant TV screens to see what was going on, but everyone rode very correctly. The team worked well all weekend to get the best settings and we also worked really well with Bridgestone, the bike was perfect. After warm-up we chose a slightly harder tyre, which is why I wasn't so fast early on, but I got better. Also, I have changed my riding style to look after the tyres. Normally I am on or off with the throttle, but now I am trying to be smoother. I'm so happy for the team, especially after our unlucky start to the year. Thanks also to my fans, there were a lot of people cheering for me which gives me a lot of emotion."
Federico Minoli, Ducati Motor President: "I think this race shows that the Ducati Marlboro Team is back! It was a fantastic race, with Loris close to the front all the way to the flag. As fans of racing, we were jumping all over the place as he fought with Melandri during the final laps. I think we really deserved this result, but we still need a little more to get in front, we just need to open the door a bit more. Congratulations to Loris and Carlos, who also rode a good race, and I'd like to say that I'm very happy that Livio can now shave off his beard!" (Ducati MotoGP project manager Livio Suppo had recently vowed not to shave until the team made it back onto the podium.)"
Marco Melandri, Motivstar Honda MotoGP, fourth: “That was an incredible race – probably my best of the season. I pushed to the limit from the start to try and stay with the lead group and even though I was losing out a little in the fast sections I was able to make it up in the slower chicanes. I almost crashed five laps from the end and had to lower my rhythm a little. The fight with Capirossi was amazing – I could hear the crowd cheering and I wanted to do my best. We arrived in the final corner together and I am happy with fourth place. I feel good riding on the limit and I hope we can continue improving in Barcelona next week.”
Carlos Checa, Ducati MotoGP, fifth place: "Overall I'm quite satisfied because Loris and I were third and fifth, and not so far behind the winner. This is by far our best weekend of the year, and after two DNFs from the last two races I feel like I've learned a lot about the bike. I wasn't 100 per cent comfortable early on, I didn't have the grip to put the bike on its side and it was also moving around on acceleration. But as the fuel load went down I could keep a better rolling speed into the corners and ride more smoothly. Tomorrow we stay to test here, we have a few settings ideas to try out and we're also going to try and improve my performance on qualifying tyres."
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team, sixth: “A tough race. I didn’t get the best of starts but when I actually got going we managed some pretty good lap times. I got past a few guys and had a pretty good rhythm going but we were just missing a little something - the bit we needed to get onto the next group. Me and Checa had a good race – I really wanted to beat him but it wasn’t to be. On the positive side it’s the closest I’ve been to the leaders in terms of time all season and by quite some margin so it give the whole team some cause for optimism. Obviously not thrilled about sixth. We gave it our best today and we’ll come back fighting in Barcelona next week.”
Alex Barros, Camel Honda, 7th: “I didn’t have the best start, well, not a ‘super’ one anyway, it wasn’t too bad. What I really missed was a good grid slot because with the race rhythm as expected, in the 1’51s, I also kept that kind of pace. I’m happy about that but I need to improve in qualifying because if I had have started further forward I would have been fighting for the podium. Anyway, I’m happy that physically I’m okay, after two days of pushing hard here, and that I’m ready for Barcelona”.
Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda Rider: 8th: “My ambitions are much different, but due to what happened until this moment I consider my self satisfied to have ended the race, because my right hand has caused me some problems, anyhow the eight place is the same position I finished the first Grand Prix of the season. Today I didn’t start too well and I have lost contact with the leaders of the race after only a few laps. I felt well on the bike and the only problem was when exiting the turns where probably the maybe too soft set up has penalized my performance. During the next weekend we’ll surely solve this problem. We are missing the kilometres we didn’t cover during the last three races and today this fact has clearly emerged. I want to thank the Konica Minolta Honda Team for the great job done during these three days of work to adapt the bike to my characteristics. I hope I will have the chance to cover as many laps possible in Catalunya.”
Colin Edwards, Gauloises Yamaha Team, ninth: “It’s hard to know what to say after a weekend like this because I’m as mystified as anyone else. We made a great start to the weekend on Friday morning but didn’t seem to move on from there. Every refinement we made to the bike seemed to leave us in exactly the same position. Today my start was not good and I was way back at the first split. I passed about four people on the first lap but from then on it was an uphill battle. We made a lot of progress with the base set-up at Le Mans but we’ve struggled to get it working at this track – hopefully we can be back where we need to be in Barcelona.”
Shinya Nakano, Team Kawasaki, tenth: "Tenth place is not the result I wanted, but that was the maximum I could do today in these conditions. My start was okay, but I couldn't really stay with the front group and then I had a very hard battle with John Hopkins. It took a long time to pass him, but then I was able to hold tenth place to the finish. I raced with the best tyre and chassis set-up that was available to us, but for this track but we need to work on getting more acceleration, and also braking."
Harald Eckl, Team Kawasaki, Team Manager; "Both Shinya and Alex did an excellent job today, their results were the maximum that was achievable at this track. We came away with some good points, but for sure Mugello remains a circuit that does not exactly suit the ZX-RR in its current stage of development. Alex made a very strong comeback from injury and overcame a small electronic problem with his engine which slowed him mid-race."
John Hopkins , Team SUZUKI MotoGP, eleventh: “I wouldn’t say I was surprised where we finished. It wasn’t that I didn’t want it better, but if you look at all the qualifying sessions that is exactly where we have been. Bridgestone came out with such an awesome qualifying tyre yesterday, it showed that when we have grip, we definitely have pace and can get the full potential out of the GSV-R. Today I just kept my head down and tried to stay with the leaders as long as possible. I got into a rhythm and then into a race with Nakano and did all I could to stay with him, but he rode really well. I figured that three laps from the end I could either not finish another race, or finish and get a couple of points and move onto Catalunya where our bike will react better, so that’s what I did.”
Team SUZUKI MotoGP Team Manager Paul Denning: “John’s effort and discipline were first class. We got everything we could have done out of the tyre and bike combination. The position isn’t what we want but I’m encouraged by the level of commitment. There will be better tracks for us and better results to come. Kenny couldn’t get the bike to do what he wanted over race distance and seemed quite lost in terms of the direction to go. We’re going to have to take the short break before Catalunya with Kenny and hope that we can come out fighting with the new parts that the factory are delivering there. Good points to take from the weekend are John’s performance – particularly in qualifying - and the reliability of the GSV-R as the bikes were consistent all race distance. Both riders finished inside the points for the first time this season so we have some positives to start building on and let’s start building on those next weekend in Catalunya.”
Alex Hofmann, Team Kawasaki, twelfth: "That was a very hard race, it has been a long time I've been away from the track and I'm just happy to score some good points today. From the start the speed came easily and I was comfortable and able to close the gap a little to Shinya. But then my engine sounded strange, it felt like a misfire and I slowed for a couple laps. For the rest of the race the engine braking was not constant, but I was able to chase Bayliss and pass him as I could carry more corner speed. For sure my wrist is not yet 100% but today's race was good therapy, and I didn't need to use painkillers."
Troy Bayliss, Camel Honda, 13th: “A really, really difficult weekend. In the race I was unable to make any sort of progress. I finished thirteenth, which isn’t exactly a great position. I took some points but what I really want now is a good result. We have another race this coming Sunday, so we’ll see what happens there.”
Ruben Xaus (Fortuna Yamaha Team) 14th: “I didn’t get a good start today and I found myself making a hard pass on Kenny Roberts to make up for it. I also had a good fight with Rolfo, but it took me a while to get past him because his Ducati is just so fast down the straight. By the time I did the group in front had already made a huge gap, so it was a lonely race. The main goal today was to finish in the points, and we did manage to do that. Because I kept a good rhythm I’ve managed to get more comfortable on the bike and that put me in a good frame of mind for Barcelona.”
Kenny Roberts Jr. again did not give a quote to the media. The Suzuki press office issued a statement saying Roberts “finished in 15th position after a difficult race where he struggled to find what he wanted from his bike. He was very disappointed with the result as both his crew and he had worked tirelessly all weekend.”
Sete Gibernau, Movistar Honda MotoGP: crash: “I decided that only a victory would do for me at this Grand Prix and I crashed because I was trying to chase the pace at the front. I’m not going to start looking for excuses – we’ve done a bad job here, myself more than anybody, and that’s it. I can’t explain why we can do such a good job all weekend and then not come out with the result in the race because we are capable of being competitive. I can’t deny that the championship is slipping away from me already but I’m not going to throw the towel in. I just want to win as many races as possible and not think any further than that. I’d like Catalunya to be a turning point.”
Italian MotoGP Pos/ Rider / Nat / Team / Motorcycle / Time/ KM/H 1 / Valentino ROSSI / ITA / Gauloises Yamaha Team / YAMAHA / 42'42.994 / 169.444 2 / Max BIAGGI / ITA / Repsol Honda Team / HONDA / 42'43.353 / 169.421 3 / Loris CAPIROSSI / ITA / Ducati Marlboro Team / DUCATI / 42'46.868 / 169.189 4 / Marco MELANDRI / ITA / Movistar Honda MotoGP / HONDA / 42'46.973 / 169.182 5 / Carlos CHECA / SPA / Ducati Marlboro Team / DUCATI / 42'50.892 / 168.924 6 / Nicky HAYDEN / USA / Repsol Honda Team / HONDA / 42'51.198 / 168.904 7 / Alex BARROS / BRA / Camel Honda / HONDA / 42'54.566 / 168.683 8 / Makoto TAMADA / JPN / Konica Minolta Honda / HONDA / 43'08.388 / 167.782 9 / Colin EDWARDS / USA / Gauloises Yamaha Team / YAMAHA / 43'08.479 / 167.776 10 / Shinya NAKANO / JPN / Kawasaki Racing Team / KAWASAKI / 43'19.543 / 167.062 11 / John HOPKINS / USA / Team Suzuki MotoGP / SUZUKI / 43'24.631 / 166.736 12 / Alex HOFMANN / GER / Kawasaki Racing Team / KAWASAKI / 43'26.653 / 166.606 13 / Troy BAYLISS / AUS / Camel Honda / HONDA / 43'26.910 / 166.590 14 / Ruben XAUS / SPA / Fortuna Yamaha Team / YAMAHA / 43'34.569 / 166.102 15 / Kenny ROBERTS / USA / Team Suzuki MotoGP / SUZUKI / 43'53.269 / 164.922 Fastest Lap (Unofficial new record): Max BIAGGI 1'50.117 171.472 Km/h Lap 5 Lap Record: Sete GIBERNAU 1'51.133 169.904 Km/h 2004
World Championship Positions: 1 ROSSI 120, 2 MELANDRI 71, 3 BIAGGI 67, 4 GIBERNAU 53, 5 BARROS 52, 6 EDWARDS 48, 7 CAPIROSSI 39, 8 HAYDEN 36, 9 NAKANO 33, 10 CHECA 28, 11 JACQUE 25, 12 BAYLISS 24, 13 XAUS 18, 14 HOPKINS 16, 15 TAMADA 16.