Telefonica Movistar Honda’s Sete Gibernau etched his name in the sandy record book of Losail history by becoming the first rider to win a MotoGP race at the new circuit.
“We’ve taken a big step forward with the best possible result of a high-pressure weekend,” said Gibernau, now just 14 points behind Rossi in the championship chase. “Once again my team knew how to manage it and I am delighted. We gave maximum concentration to the job because I know that if we focus all our energy we are capable of progressing. I’m happy for the 25 points and for the great race, but I don’t want to get carried away. We are back at our best and that is important. The advantage has been reduced but I’m looking at the next round in Malaysia as just another race.”
Edwards gave Americans something to cheer about, getting a great result when it matters most, finishing just over one second behind his teammate.
“Together with the team and Michelin we have done a great job this weekend,” said the Texas Tornado. “I was sure I had a good chance at this circuit because it was new for everybody, and that’s how it turned out. I didn’t get a good start because I had a clutch problem and I had to recover as many positions as I could without getting too far off line because you cannot do that at this track. I knew I had a good rhythm, and when I passed Checa and moved up to second I just pushed as hard as I could, I don’t want there to be any doubt about that. Congratulations to Sete because he was also really strong and had a great race.”
Behind the Honda duo, d’Antin Ducati’s Ruben Xaus claimed the best finish of his GP career by coming home third.
As if Xaus making the podium wasn’t enough of a wacky outcome, how about Rossi and Biaggi being penalized prior to the start of the race after their crews cleaned off the track surface surrounding their starting position on the grid? Since it’s illegal, both riders received a 6-second penalty to their qualifying times and were subsequently forced to start from the last row.
Rossi made his way up to ninth place by the end of the first lap but eventually ran out of luck and crashed on lap nine. Now the title chase is more interesting with Gibernau only 14 points behind Rossi and three rounds remaining.
“Firstly, I have to say I was amazed and very disappointed by the decision to make me start at the back of the grid,” said Rossi. “I don’t think there is any consistency in some of the decisions made. At other races people have cleaned their grid places and nothing has happened. In fact, my crew were doing something they used to do with Doohan when the track was dirty. I didn’t know about it until after it had happened.
“In the race I made a mistake,” continued the championship leader. “I had really pushed in the first few laps and could see that Colin was in slightly better shape than me when I was behind him. I ran wide in the second last turn and just clipped the grass. They were looking strong but I did think I could have made the podium. Fortunately I’m not hurt. I was worried about my finger but it is not serious.”
American Nicky Hayden rode his Repsol Honda RC211V to a creditable fifth-place finish, followed by everyone’s favorite villain, Max Biaggi.
Fellow American John Hopkins rode the Bridgestone-shod Suzuki to eighth place. Hopkins started slowly from the fourth row of the grid, but worked him way up to Japanese rider Norick Abe in seventh place by the time the checkers flew.
“I got off the line good, but I lost a lot of positions on lap one,” explained Hopper. “I was a little too cautious. I decided to work at coming back from there, though it was really frustrating when bikes flew past me so fast on the straight that they nearly blew my handlebars off. Then Barros made a move that I was not too happy about when he came by. After that, the race was pretty boring until I ran off the track trying to make up what I was losing on the straight, which wasn’t that great. Then I got behind Abe and I was following him waiting to see what might happen. I got into a good rhythm then unfortunately with five laps to go I got an unbelievable chatter from the rear tire. That made me a bit nervous so I decided to take it easy and bring it home. I’m satisfied with the finish, but not the position.”
The Losail track had a high attrition rate, collecting more riders than just the mighty Rossi. The list includes pole-sitter Carlos Checa, Shinya Nakano, both Marlboro Ducati riders, Aoki, McWilliams, Hodgson and Melandri, most of which suffered mechanical difficulties in the hot conditions in the desert.
1. Sete Gibernau (Honda)
2. Colin Edwards (Honda)
3. Ruben Xaus (Ducati)
4. Alex Barros (Honda)
5. Nicky Hayden (Honda)
6. Max Biaggi (Honda)
7. Norick Abe (Yamaha)
8. John Hopkins (Suzuki)
9. Alex Hofmann (Kawasaki)
10. Makoto Tamada (Honda)
1. Valentino Rossi, 229
2. Sete Gibernau, 215
3. Max Biaggi, 168
4. Colin Edwards, 131
5. Alex Barros, 128