Rossi fights for Qatar win
Melandri took the lead after Gibernau’s mistake and held Rossi in second over a hard fought lap before the world champion blasted past Melandri on the straight at the start of lap 19. The pair swapped places over the next lap but Melandri was unable to make a pass that stuck and with Hayden only slightly behind it looked possible that the American Honda rider might benefit from a mistake from either of them.
As they entered the last lap Melandri had closed right up to pressure Rossi, who was pushing hard on worn tyres, but Melandri’s attempt to overtake in the last third of the lap resulted in him running wide, off the grip of the racing line and off track at the same point as his team-mate Gibernau five laps earlier. Melandri recovered quickly and rejoined in second but any chance he had to pass Rossi was gone and he crossed the line 1.67 seconds behind and 3.8 seconds ahead of a third placed Hayden.
Melandri’s valiant second in the race means he moves up to third place in the championship ahead of Loris Capirossi and Colin Edwards and just two points behind Biaggi. Max Biaggi scored no points after he pulled in on lap seven with a misfiring bike following a disastrous qualifying which saw him start the race from 13th place on the grid.
Britain’s Shane “Shakey” Byrne in his second race replacing the injured Troy Bayliss on the Camel Honda RCV improved in every session over the weekend and qualified 17th behind Ruben Xaus and ahead of fellow Brit James Ellison and only three places behind his team-mate Alex Barros who struggled with front tyre grip all weekend.
Shakey crashed out of morning warm up after touching the rear tyre of Carlos Checa mid corner and was a little second hand for the race having hurt his left hand in the fall. Despite this low speed fall in the warm up session Shakey was happier with the bike over the weekend, with the team fitting a thumb brake which Shakey prefers for mid corner control and working at improving the bike set up rather than trying to push harder and risk mistakes.
Shakey got past Ruben Xaus on first lap and built a five second advantage over the Spanish rider to finish in the points in 13th position. The other British entry James Ellison also got a point finishing in 15th place ahead of his Blata WCM team-mate Franco Battaini.
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Valentino Rossi celebrated securing the 2005 championship last week by winning the MotoGP race at the Losail circuit in Qatar, passing Marco Melandri with two laps to go after a hard race chasing early leader Sete Gibernau.
Qualifying in third and starting from the front row of the grid for the first time since the Donington GP in July, Rossi finished the first lap in third behind Gibernau after Loris Capirossi took the holeshot from his pole position start. The leading group from the first lap included Marco Melandri, Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards battling for position as they pulled away from the rest of the field. Sete Gibernau passed Capirossi into the first corner on lap two, followed shortly afterwards by the world champion as the Ducati rider seemed unable to hold line once the tyres were up to temrperature. After his pole position start and leading the first lap Capirossi quickly lost more positions to eventually finish in 10th place, crushing his hopes for a hat trick of late season victories.
It was a close race with Rossi battling with Marco Melandri and Nicky Hayden for the remaining podium places behind Sete Gibernau who managed to create a small gap, as the chasing riders held each other up in the early stages. Sete Gibernau had been on form all weekend, qualifying as fastest Honda in second place and fastest in morning practice. However as the race went on, the chasing group matched Sete’s early pace and once the lap times came down, when the tyres started to wear, the gap closed up. Melandri held second and Rossi chased hard in third whilst Nicky Hayden and Edwards dropped a little back from the fight for the podium as the race passed the halfway point.
Gibernau led the chasing Italians by less than a second for 15 laps until team-mate Melandri pressured him into a mistake and Gibernau ran wide and off the track on lap seventeen. Gibernau kept it upright and rejoined from the gravel trap in 5th position, but five seconds back on Edwards who had dropped off the pace behind Hayden and was riding alone in 4th place.