MotoGP Round 9 - Donnington Park

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander
After Nicky Hayden's breakthrough win at Laguna Seca, the world was expecting big things for the next round at Donnington Park. However, Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards dominated the practice timesheets in England, before Rossi stuck it on pole...

-- Donnington Park MotoGP Qualifying --
Row 1:
Pole: Valentino Rossi
2: Sete Gibernau
3: Marco Melandri

Row 2:
4: Alex Barros
5: Nicky Hayden
6: Colin Edwards

Row 3:
7: Troy Bayliss
8: Max Biaggi
9: Makoto Tamada

Row 4:
10: John Hopkins (Bridgestone)
11: Loris Capirossi (Bridgestone)
12: Shinya Nakano (Bridgestone)

Row 5:
13: Carlos Checa (Bridgestone)
14: Ruben Xaus
15: Alex Hoffman (Bridgestone)

Row 6:
16: Kenny Roberts (Bridgestone)
17: Toni Elias
18: Shane Byrne

Row 7:
19: Roberto Rolfo
20: James Ellison
21: Franco Battaini

Race day dawned dark and wet. By race time, the track was soaked and the all riders opted for full-wet tires and setups. The lights malfunctioned at the start, causing a couple minutes of delay, as the officials reset the system. When the lights finally went out, Valentino Rossi made a poor getaway from pole, dropping to around fifth or sixth place into turn one. Meanwhile, Sete Gibernau made an excellent launch to lead the pack away from the line, he was followed closely by Melandri, Bayliss and Barros. Gibernau pulled about a second on the field by turn three, while Max Biaggi crashed-out. Rossi recovered from his poor start and quickly made his way back up to fourth by the end of the first lap. Further back in the field, Shane Byrne (started 18th) and Kenny Roberts (started 16th) made their way all the way up to 7th and 9th respectively. I’m awarding Byrne with the official “Sean Alexander Award for Best First Lap”, since he dragged that KTM up eleven spots in one lap. When they crossed the line for the first time, Sete Gibernau had already stretched his lead to 2.3 seconds. At the end of lap-1 the order stood: 1) Gibernau, 2) Barros, 3) Melandri, 4) Rossi 5) Bayliss, 6) Edwards, 7) Shane Byrne on the KTM!, 8) Tamada, 9) Roberts, 10) Hopkins.

The dicing continued throughout the soaking wet race, with Hopkins and Roberts passing Byrne on lap three, as first Xaus and then Hayden crashed out of the race in separate incidents. Next down, was Marco Melandri, his fall causing Troy Bayliss to run-wide into the grass and then highside himself as he got back on the gas to re-enter the track. As soon as the cameras switched back to racing, we saw Sete Gibernau sliding-off.

To recap the first five laps, we’ve had Max Biaggi, Ruben Xaus, Nicky Hayden, Marco Melandri, Troy Bayliss and Sete Gibernau crash their way out of the race, while the KTM and Suzukis charged their way through the field like Experts cherry-picking an Amateur race.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen Gibernau, Melandri, Barros, Hopkins, Roberts and Rossi all take turns at the front. Of course, Gibernau, Melandri and Hopkins all ended up crashing at various stages, so now the running order is Barros, Rossi, Roberts and Edwards then a big (8+ second) gap back to Tamada, Checa and Capirossi.

The Ducatis of Checa and Capirossi started coming into their own around the half-way mark, as their Bridgestones seemed to have better grip at this point in the race. They started reeling-in the leading group by just over a second per lap, but they had something like 15-seconds to make-up, so it would be a while before they could apply any pressure to the leaders. Another Bridgestone rider; John Hopkins, was able to re-join after a lengthy pit stop for repairs.

Rossi traded positions with the front four, as he would have sudden slides and slight bobbles, before putting his head down and charging back to the front. With seven laps to go, Rossi decided he’d had enough fun and simply checked-out, pulling about three seconds on Barros and Roberts in the next lap, as Edwards struggled to keep them in sight.

The positions remained the same, until the last lap when Roberts passed Barros for second, while Rossi cruised along to an easy win. Rossi crossed the line standing on the pegs and pantomiming a violin player. As has become his custom, Rossi re-set the fastest lap, in the closing laps. It’s a real privilege to witness Rossi’s virtuosity, when he decides to actually try.

-- FINAL RESULTS - MotoGP - Round 9 - Donnington Park, England --

1.) Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2.) Kenny Roberts (Suzuki)
3.) Alex Barros (Honda)
4.) Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
5.) Carlos Checa (Ducati)
6.) Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
7.) Makoto Tamada (Honda)
8.) Alex Hoffman (Kawasaki)
9.) Toni Elias (Yamaha) -1 Lap
10.) Roberto Rolfo (Ducati) -1 Lap
11.) John Hopkins (Suzuki) -2 Laps (Crashed and re-joined)

Franco Battaini (Blata WCM)
James Ellison (Blata WCM)
Shane Byrne (Proton KR KTM)
Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki)
Sete Gibernau (Honda)
Troy Bayliss (Honda)
Marco Melandri (Honda)
Nicky Hayden (Honda)
Ruben Xaus (Yamaha)
Max Biaggi (Honda)


1.) Valentino Rossi- 211 Points
2.) Marco Melandri- 107pts
3.) Colin Edwards- 106pts
4.) Max Biaggi- 100pts
5.) Sete Gibernau- 95pts
6.) Alex Barros- 90pts
7.) Nicky Hayden- 85pts
8.) Loris Capirossi- 65Pts
9.) Shinya Nakano- 55pts
10.) Carlos Checa- 51pts
11.) Troy Bayliss- 47pts
12.) Makoto Tamada- 36pts
13.) Ruben Xaus- 33pts
14.) John Hopkins- 32pts
15.) Kenny Roberts- 9pts
16.) Olivier Jacque- 25pts
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