Valentino Rossi added the Losail International Circuit to his long list of Grand Prix conquests today as he banished the memory of his crash here last season with his tenth victory of the season in the Marlboro Grand Prix of Qatar. Rossi passed Marco Melandri with three laps remaining, just two laps after Sete Gibernau had buckled under pressure from his Honda team-mate and run straight into the gravel. The Italian pair rubbed elbows in an intense battle over the last fifteen kilometres of the race, with Melandri making a desperate surge just three corners from the end but running out of track on the exit of the turn and conceding victory to his compatriot.
"What a race!" said Rossi, who has now won at every circuit on the Grand Prix calendar except Laguna Seca and Istanbul, which will host the series for the first time in three weeks. "For me that was the best of the season, it was so much fun. I had bad memories from this circuit from last year so I really wanted to win and after practice yesterday I knew it was not impossible. I have to thank my whole team because my bike was very fast over the final few laps, which it needed to be because Marco Melandri was very strong and we had a great battle. He tried to pass me on the last lap but I was able to hold on and win."
Nicky Hayden was the only other rider capable of following the intense pace at the front, the American youngster setting a new lap record of 1'57.903, faster than his time in qualifying, to seal the final podium position in third place. Colin Edwards was unable to repeat his podium finish from last season, bringing his YZR-M1 home in a distant fourth place but adding valuable points to Rossi's tally and securing the Teams' World Championship for Gauloises Yamaha.
Gibernau returned to the track to pick up his first points in over two months as he crossed the line in fifth place, with Carlos Checa taking sixth on a relatively disappointing day for Ducati. After taking his third consecutive pole position yesterday, Checa's team-mate Loris Capirossi was unable to follow up with a third straight win as he struggled to tenth place, despite leading in the early stages. Capirossi's problems, combined with a mechanical breakdown for Max Biaggi and those podium finishes for Melandri and Hayden, mean that just eleven points now separate five riders in the chase for the runner-up spot with three rounds remaining.
Casey Stoner continued his quest to hunt down 250cc World Championship leader Dani Pedrosa with a convincing fourth victory of the season, his second in just six days. Pedrosa, who was leading by 63 points before his crash in Malaysia last weekend, could only manage fourth place today and has seen his advantage reduced to just 26 points, with Stoner's home race at Phillip Island in Australia next on the calendar. Jorge Lorenzo marked his return to action from a one-race ban with a second-place finish from pole position, whilst Andrea Dovizioso stole the final podium spot with a draught pass on Pedrosa at the line.
Mika Kallio regained control of the 125cc World Championship despite conceding victory to Gabor Talmacsi by just 0.017 seconds. Kallio led his KTM team-mate for the entire race after the pair broke free from the pack over the opening laps, only to concede victory at the finish line after an expertly timed slipstream carried the Hungarian to the line first. Despite his disappointment at second place, Kallio now leads the championship by two points from Thomas Lüthi, who could only manage sixth place as Marco Simoncelli completed the podium.
Source: DORNA COMMUNICATIONS
Photo: Gauloises Yamaha Team