MotoGP - Round4 - LeMans

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander
The MotoGP hotshots returned to action at LeMans France today, after a couple weeks off. This would turn-out to be a hell of a race, so hang-on as we take a ride with the best riders in the world...

-LeMans MotoGP Qualifying-
Row 1:
Pole: Valentino Rossi
2: Colin Edwards
3: Marco Melandri

Row 2:
4: Sete Gibernau
5: Nicky Hayden
6: Shinya Nakano (Bridgestone)

Row 3:
7: John Hopkins
8: Max Biaggi
9: Carlos Checa (Bridgestone)

Row 4:
10: Loris Capirossi (Bridgestone)
11: Alex Barros
12: Toni Elias

Row 5:
13: Olivier Jacque
14: Kenny Roberts
15: Troy Bayliss

Row 6:
16: Ruben Xaus
17: Shane Byrne
18: Roberto Rolfo

Row 7:
19: Jurgen VanDer Goorbergh
20: James Ellison
21: Franco Battaini

The race started with a mostly-dry track, under grey skies. When the lights went out, Valentino Rossi made a poor getaway, while teammate Colin Edwards grabbed a good start for the initial lead. However, Nicky Hayden was able to use the Honda's acceleration advantage to sweep into the lead from the second row, as the bikes bent into Turn-1. Edwards was having none of it though, so he simply let-off the brakes and swept back past Hayden as Turn-1 tightened in to the left-right Turn-2 chicane. When the pack arrived at the chicane, the typical accordion-effect happened, causing Max Biaggi to hit the rear tire of Nakano's Kawasaki, then grab the brakes and stand the Honda-up. This caught Carlos Checa out and he tucked the front and slid into the gravel, followed closely by the Ducati of Rolfo. Rolfo dumped it in the gravel at low-speed, then quickly picked his bike up and rejoined at the back of the field. Checa wasn't so lucky, as his Ducati suffered some damage and he was unable to continue.

While the rest of the field was arguing over first-lap positioning, John Hopkins rode into the pits on a sick Suzuki and swapped for his backup "rain" bike, rejoining with the rest of the field about 3/4 of a lap ahead of him. Meanwhile, Shane Byrne lost it and crashed hard enough that he had to be carried-off on a stretcher.

At the end of Lap-1, the running order was: Colin Edwards-1, Nicky Hayden-2, Loris Capirossi-3, Marco Melandri-4, Shinya Nakano-5, Valentino Rossi-6, Sete Gibernau-7, Alex Barros-8, Max Biaggi-9, Tony Elias-10.

As Lap-3 started, Rossi used his Yamaha's top-speed to catch and pass Nakano's Kawasaki at the end of the front-straight. Rossi eventually made his way past Melandri's Honda, but by this time the first three bikes (Edwards, Hayden & Capirossi) had pulled-out a three-second gap, so Rossi found himself leading the rest of the pack, but a bit out of touch with the leading trio. As Rossi set off after the leaders, Capirossi re-set the fastest race lap and James Ellis crashed-out on his Blata/WCM and walked away, as the corner workers dragged his bike away looking like it had a locked-up rear tire.

Rossi set and then re-set the fastest lap on the next two laps, before catching and passing Capirossi for 3rd. Meanwhile, Gibernau and Melandri were having a bang-up battle for 5th and Gibernau's obvious impatience was causing quite a few close-calls between the teammates. As Sete and Marco enjoyed their toss-up, Nicky suddenly found himself in a hopeless battle for second with Dr. Rossi. It took Rossi all of 1/2 lap to sneak inside of Hayden and snatch 2nd. Hayden fought a valiant fight, but was no match for Rossi in the braking zones.

Gibernau finally made it past Melandri and promptly re-set the fastest lap, as things settled down a bit. With 18-laps to go, the running order was: Edwards-1, Rossi-2, Hayden-3, Capirossi-4, Gibernau-5, Melandri-6, Biaggi-7, Barros-8, Nakano-9.

It took Rossi another lap to catch Edwards and then the two of them began to pull away from Hayden and the rest of the field, with Rossi appearing content to wait/stalk on Edwards' tail. After a lap of growing the gap, it appeared that Hayden had had enough and he started to reel the leading duo back in, as Sete Gibernau caught and passed Capirossi for 4th and continued his desperate charge to catch the leaders. Gibernau's teammate Melandri surrendered 6th to Max Biaggi as the Italian swooped-past in the chicane. Alex Barros must have been mighty impressed by this, as he was distracted enough to crash on the entry of that chicane right after Biaggi put the move on Melandri. This handed Barros' spot back to Nakano's Kawasaki.

Just after the half-distance mark, Gibernau passed Hayden for 3rd and began to catch Rossi, re-setting fastest lap and the track record in the process, at 1:33.907.

This is shaping-up to be a war! Edwards and Rossi are now in an all-out battle for the lead with Rossi taking his foot off the peg (where have we seen this before) as he stuffs Edwards up the inside, then runs-wide and Edwards re-takes the lead... now, Rossi's blown-corner has dropped him back into Gibernau's clutches and Sete isn't letting go! Bam! into the next corner Gibernau Makes it stick and Rossi goes from 2nd-to-1st-to-2nd-to-3rd in the space of three corners! It remains 1-2-3-nose-to-tail for the next few laps... don't blink.

Rossi re-takes 2nd from Gibernau with 8-laps to go and the running order is: Edwards-1, Rossi-2, Gibernau-3, Biaggi-4, Melandri-5, Hayden-6, Capirossi-7, Nakano-8. However, Edwards leaves a small gap on the next lap and both Rossi and Gibernau force their way through, leaving Edwards shaking his head in 3rd place as the two rivals pull-away engaged in their own battle for MotoGP supremacy.

Melandri re-caught Biaggi and took 4th spot from him three laps from the end and with 2-laps to go, the running order is: Rossi-1, Gibernau-2, Edwards-3, Melandri-4, Biaggi-5, Hayden-6, Capirossi-7, Nakano-8.

The last lap begins with Rossi leading Gibernau by about 0.3 seconds, then a 4+ second gap back to Edwards in 3rd. Gibernau closes within inches of Rossi's rear tire but Rossi stays perfect and Gibernau never gets and opportunity to pass as Rossi re-breaks the lap record on the final lap, ending it with a near-vertical wheelie and a handshake to Gibernau.

------FINAL RESULTS - MotoGP - Round 4 - LeMans, France------

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


1.) Valentino Rossi-95 Points
2.) Marco Melandri-58
3.) Sete Gibernau-53
4.) Max Biaggi-47
5.) Alex Barros-43
6.) Colin Edwards-41
7.) Shinya Nakano-27
8.) Nicky Hayden-26
9.) Olivier Jacque-25
10.) Loris Capirossi-23
11.) Troy Bayliss-21
12.) Carlos Checa-17
13.) Ruben Xaus-16
14.) Toni Elias-15
15.) Jurgen VanDer Goorbergh-12
16.) John Hopkins-11
17.) Makoto Tamada-8
18.) Kenny Roberts-7
19-Tie) Alex Hofmann-5
19-Tie) Roberto Rolfo-5
21.) James Ellison-4
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