MotoGP - Round 2 - Estoril

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander
Round 2 of the 2005 MotoGP season took place this weekend in Estoril Portugal, without Makoto Tamada or Alex Hoffman, both of whom are recovering from injuries. Alex Barros continued his domination of the weekend's timesheets, by qualifying on pole and the official starting grid was:

Row 1:
Pole: Alex Barros
2: Sete Gibernau
3: Carlos Checa (Bridgestone)

Row 2:
4: Valentino Rossi
5: Marco Melandri
6: Loris Capirossi (Bridgestone)

Row 3:
7: Colin Edwards
8: Max Biaggi
9: Nicky Hayden

Row 4:
10: Shinya Nakano
11: John Hopkins
12: Ruben Xaus

Row 5:
13: Troy Bayliss
14: Kenny Roberts
15: Toni Elias

Row 6:
16: Roberto Rolfo
17: James Ellison
18: Shayne Byrne

Row 7:
19: Franco Battaini

Conditions were overcast with a mostly-dry track and a looming threat of rain. The track was dry enough to allow all the riders to start on slicks, but Team Managers kept their eyes skyward and chatted with the tacticians, ready for any contingency.

Shane Byrne was already making his way to the Proton KTM pits with mechanical trouble before the start-lights extinguished. He was incorrectly declared as "Retired" before the first lap was half-over. Meanwhile; Alex Barros made a poor start from pole and ended up down in 4th spot by the second corner. Rossi had a decent start from the second row and capitalized on it with an excellent job on the brakes into turn-1. As the field entered turn-2, the running order was Gibernau, Rossi, Biaggi, Barros, Melandri, Checa, Edwards, Hopkins and Bayliss. Rossi ran wide on the exit of two, losing second place to Biaggi and Barros. About 20 Yards in front of this battle, Gibernau was getting on with his business, stretching-out a noticeable gap on the field.

At the end of the first lap, the running order was: Sete Gibernau leading by 1.7 seconds!, over Biaggi-2nd, Barros-3rd, Rossi-4th, Melandri-5th, Edwards-6th, Hopkins-7th, Checa-8th, Bayliss 9th, Hayden-10th, Nakano-11th, Capirossi-12th. Evidently the Bridgestone race tires don't share the grip advantage that their qualifying rubber enjoys over the Michelins, as Checa slipped from 3rd to 8th and Capirossi fell from 6th to 12th on the first lap of the race.

Barros out-braked Biaggi into turn-1 to begin the second lap and the battle for 2nd thru 6th is shaping-up to be a hell of a show. However Barros has other plans and is visibly pushing to catch Gibernau, though it seems that Gibernau is able to maintain the gap for the next few laps. Meanwhile, Rossi re-passes Biaggi and they continue to battle in close-contact. It's evident that Rossi doesn't want Gibernau to get away, but all four of the leading riders seem to be unable to make any significant changes in their relative positions. Shane Byrne re-joined the race dead-last on lap-3 and went to work trying to salvage some points.

After 8 laps, the rain made good on its threats and a light drizzle began to fall on parts of the circuit. (*NOTE* 2005 MotoGP regulations state that races will NOT be stopped for rain. Instead, a white flag is waved and the pits open for riders to change their tires at their discretion, while the race continues at full-speed.) The only rider who chose to pit for intermediate tires, was Carlos Checa on the Ducati, but this appeared to be a mistake, as the white flag continued to wave for another eight laps, while the rain waxed and waned. Laptimes didn't appear to be effected for the front runners and Gibernau maintained a 1.5 - 2.2 second gap on Barros, while they continued to pull well-away from the Rossi Biaggi duel for 3rd.

Sadly, there was a slight increase in the precipitation sixteen laps into the race, and Sete Gibernau was the first to be caught-out by it, when he tucked the front and lowsided in a left-hander. He slid gently into the grass and stopped without hitting anything, but there appeared to be damage to the left-side of his RC-211V, because he was unable to re-join. Hopkins was next to fall about a lap later, as the rain was obviously starting to accumulate on the racetrack enough to cause the slicks to lose grip.

The rain appeared to ease-off again with 10 laps to go, as Barros led by eight-seconds from the Rossi/Biaggi battle, then another ten-second gap to an excellent Melandri/Edwards scrap for 4th then another slight gap to Checa and Bayliss. Two laps later, Edwards passed Melandri in the chicane, then Troy Bayliss crashed-out of 7th while trying to pass Checa into that same chicane. He too was able to re-join, though he lost several spots.

With five laps remaining, the drizzle became actual rain and 4th-placed Edwards fell victim to it with a low-speed front-tuck and crash at the chicane, he was unhurt and quickly re-joined in 6th. Then Rossi had a near-crash, as the front-tucked, but he caught it on his knee and continued, though he looked over his shoulder at Biaggi as if to say: “Did you see that?”

Positions remained static for the next few laps. On the last lap, Barros appeared to be worried by Rossi even though he still had a 5+ second lead and you could see Barros pushing in the dicey conditions. It almost bit him several times, as his Honda snapped sideways over the wet paint stripes and squirmed-around under braking. Meanwhile, Checa (always fast in the wet and the only bike on intermediate tires) caught and passed Melandri with an out-braking maneuver on the last lap, only to over-cook that corner and run wide so that Melandri could re-take 4th. Barros was able to stay upright and manage the gap to Rossi. He wheelied the length of the front straight for a well-deserved victory. Meanwhile Checa re-closed on Melandri but was unable to pass him by the finish line.

Next Up: The Chinese Grand Prix at Shangai on May 1st.

------FINAL RESULTS - MotoGP - Round 2 - Estoril, Portugal------

1.) Alex Barros (Honda)
2.) Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
3.) Max Biaggi (Honda)
4.) Marco Melandri (Honda)
5.) Carlos Checa (Ducati)
6.) Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
7.) Nicky Hayden (Honda)
8.) Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki)
9.) Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
10.) Ruben Xaus (Yamaha)
11.) Troy Bayliss (Honda)
12.) Kenny Roberts (Suzuki)
13.) Roberto Rolfo (Ducati)
14.) Toni Elias (Yamaha)
15.) James Ellison (Blata WCM)
16.) Shane Byrne (Proton KTM)
17.) John Hopkins (Suzuki) - DNF - Crash
18.) Sete Gibernau (Honda) - DNF - Crash
19.) Franco Battaini (Blata WCM) - DNF - Mech.


1.) Valentino Rossi-45 Points, 2.) Alex Barros-38, 3.) Marco Melandri-29, 4.) Max Biaggi-25, 5.) Sete Gibernau-20, 6.) Shinya Nakano-19, 7.) Carlos Checa-17, 8.) Colin Edwards-17, 9.) Troy Bayliss-15, 10.) Loris Capirossi-10, 11.) Nick Hayden-9, 12.) Makoto Tamada-8, 13.) Ruben Xaus-6, 14.) Toni Elias-6, 15.) Alex Hofmann-5,
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