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Rossi takes fifth MotoGP title but Ducati wins

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September 25, 2005

Look mum, seven titles!

Look mum, seven titles!

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September 26, 2005 Complete report and image library: Valentino Rossi won his fifth consecutive World MotoGP title yesterday afternoon, though the race was won by Ducati-mounted Loris Capirossi who won his second Grand Prix in a week, giving Ducati its best ever MotoGP result when his team-mate Carlos Checa finished third. Having won a 125 and 250 title prior to his string of five consecutive MotoGP titles, Rossi’s championship t-shirt featured a Barry Sheene-style 7, for seven world titles, and a white commemorative helmet was created by AGV for the moment, also with the number 7 on it.

In taking the title, Rossi became only the third rider in history to win the premier-class title on five occasions, emulating the achievements of his long-time mentor Mick Doohan and the legendary Giacomo Agostini. Now a seven-time World Champion, Rossi stopped on his victory lap and launched into his now customary riotous celebration with his fan club, dressed as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to commemorate the occasion with one dwarf for each championship.

The Italian secured the championship with four races to spare thanks largely to the swift action of his mechanics, who resolved a series of tyre and set-up problems during this morning’s warm-up session and allowed him to charge from seventh on the grid to a sensational second place behind eventual winner Loris Capirossi (Ducati).

Rossi commented on his title victory: “I am very happy with this championship. I know I gave more than 100% today, and we had a lot of problems this weekend. This morning I wasn’t sure if I could fight for the podium! After the start I stayed calm as some riders made some mistakes, and I was able wait for things to clear. Step-by-step and metre-by-metre I moved through the pack and I used every second of the race. I got to third behind Nicky and I thought I could fight because the bike was feeling okay and I knew that Nicky was having some of the same problems as me. Eventually I passed him and caught up to Loris and at some places I was faster, some slower. I passed him but when he passed me back I knew that he had been playing with me, like a cat with a mouse, because in the last seven laps he changed gear and I couldn’t stay with him, he was incredible! “This morning in the warm-up we made some changes and found a better feeling. Michelin worked really hard to give us a competitive package for the race and this showed, because it was a great improvement to yesterday. “So I am World Champion for the seventh time and it’s a great feeling. It’s been great to come back from the bad result at Motegi last week and do so well; we made a good race today. This title is not just down to me but to everybody involved; Jeremy Burgess, all my mechanics, all the Yamaha engineers and all the people on the management side, including Davide Brivio. “Today I put the number 7 on my t-shirt because this is the number of my championships but also because it was the number of Barry Sheene, who was a great hero of mine and a truly great racer. The celebration with my fan club, dressed as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was just a bit of fun to celebrate the seven titles, and also because I always liked the story as a child! Now I go back to Italy for a couple of days but we can also make a little party here – I have my mother and some of my best friends from Italy to help me celebrate! “This year Yamaha has worked so hard again to give me the bike I need. At the start of the year we had some problems with the M1, but then we found the right way forward and the bike started to fly. The M1 has been great fun to race this year. Last year was a surprise to win but this time everyone was ready for me and I was the target. It has been a great achievement to beat all my rivals this year, because they have been very strong. “I think for me the race at Mugello was the biggest emotion of the season, because it was in front of my home fans. Every year there is a different story to the championship, and this year has been a hard battle. The emotion to win a seventh world championship is difficult to explain. The first is like a dream, the second unbelievable; there are just no words to describe the seventh! The feeling is different to when I won the 125cc and 250cc titles, but just as good! “Racing with Yamaha gives me a great taste and a great motivation to win; these last two championships have been two of the best.”

The Tyre War hots up

The race was also memorable in many other ways, in that the tyre war between Michelin and Bridgestone reached new heights in Malaysia. Everyone had expected Bridgestone to be competitive in Japan, as much of the testing of Bridgestone tyres takes place at the Motegi circuit, but from the moment practice started at Sepang, Bridgestone tyres were clearly very competitive there too. Suddenly, the Ducatis, the Kawasakis and the Suzukis in particular were flying.

By the time Loris Capirossi had snared his second pole position in a row, Sete Gibernau was the only Michelin rider to finish on the front row, with the second Michelin/Honda on the outside of the second row – Nicky Hayden – and world champion elect Rossi (Michelin also) relegated to the third row. John Hopkins qualified for the front row for the first time on the greatly improved Suzuki, with Shinya Nakano’s Kawasaki and Kenny Roberts’ Suzuki filling fourth and fifth on the grid. Compared to the start of the year, fans could have been excused for wondering if the grid had formed up backwards.

So concerned were Michelin with the competitiveness of their Japanese adversary that a special batch of tyres was turned around in short order and flown in overnight from France for the race.

The race itself was one of immense attrition, as one would expect with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees in the shade and the track temperature running as high as 58 degrees.

Capirossi rode an epic race from pole position, battling back and forth with Rossi, while Checa stormed through the pack after losing time in a frantic turn-one melee. The whole team dedicated this emotional result to Ducati MotoGP project manager Livio Suppo and his family. Suppo's mother-in-law died earlier this week and he had returned to Italy and had to watch the fruits of his work unfold on television.

"That was an exciting race for the fans!" said Ducati Marlboro Team technical director Corrado Cecchinelli. "But this win belongs to the whole team, to everyone back home who kept working through some hard times and to Bridgestone. And we dedicate the victory to Livio and his family. Today our package was better than the rest. It's a combination of rider, bike and tyres, none of these three can win by themselves. After these two wins I think we can say we have the perfect mix!"

The Ducati Marlboro Team didn't get to celebrate in Japan last Sunday - they had to travel to Tokyo airport - but they intend to make up for that tonight. "I think we will spend some ringgits in Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur tonight!" added Cecchinelli.

Loris Capirossi was in unforgettable form this afternoon, winning the Ducati Marlboro Team's second consecutive race by almost two seconds from Rossi and for the second week in a row deservedly taking the win. The two Italians enjoyed an enthralling battle, Capirossi leading until just after half distance when Rossi attacked, leading for two laps before Capirossi retook the lead at turn one with eight laps to go. This victory was the 32-year-old's 25th and his third with the Ducati Marlboro Team. He now lies third in the World Championship after scoring two wins and a second-place from the last three GPs.

"It's been a fantastic week!" grinned Capirossi, who started from pole position for the second consecutive weekend. "Today was tougher than Motegi, but Bridgestone brought a great selection of tyres and we worked hard to understand which would be the best for the race. After the start I tried not to use my tyres too much, I wanted to control the race. Then my pit board told me Valentino was coming, and when you have a seven-time World Champion behind you, you know he's coming! I did my best but he overtook, then I did some great laps in the end. I've been racing GPs for 16 years now but my potential is still strong and I want more wins! Thanks to everyone and I want to dedicate this win to Livio."

Carlos Checa was the fastest man on track at several stages of today's race as he battled back from eighth place on lap one. The Ducati Marlboro man was forced wide at turn one and worked incredibly well to score his first podium with the team. He fought long and hard with Nicky Hayden, finally taking third at turn nine with five laps to go. Then he zeroed in on Valentino Rossi, finishing just metres behind the champ.

"I knew I had to get a good start because it's not easy to pass people from the third row," said 'El Toro'. "But when I flicked into the first turn I had to run wide to avoid contact. That totally changed my race, it wasn't easy to come back but I set my pace and saw the leaders losing time as they battled together. I had a lot of fun with Nicky, though it's not easy to out-brake someone at over 300kmh! Then I saw Valentino struggling. The last turn was exciting but he defended his position too well. We started this year with a new package, it was tough to start with, but now we are reaping the reward. My thanks to everyone and I want to dedicate this race to Livio's family."

Commenting on the race, Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team), 2nd: “I am very happy because I gave more than 100% in the race today. We have been in trouble all weekend and this morning I wasn’t sure if I would finish on the podium. But I got a good start and rode a clever race whilst other riders seemed nervous and made mistakes. Little by little I moved to the front and I felt comfortable with the bike. I passed Hayden and then swapped positions with Capirossi a couple of times, but in the last seven laps he changed gear and I couldn’t go with him. Anyway, I am World Champion for the seventh time, which is incredible! Last year was a bit of a surprise but this time everybody was out to beat me. I want to thank all my mechanics, Jerry, the engineers… everybody who works for Yamaha!”

Jeremy Burgess – Rossi’s Crew Chief: “Obviously the situation in Motegi meant that the celebrations were put off for a week but now we can celebrate. It has been a difficult weekend for all the teams, including ourselves, but we made a few changes in the warm-up and managed to give Valentino a bike that we knew could run for the podium. The season started with exactly the bike that we wanted and Yamaha has done everything we asked for. To win nine out of thirteen races is an excellent achievement by everybody and we have a great package. Good rider, good bike, good team… what more could you ask for?”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 4th:“The first few laps were kinda’ fun really. There were guys going for it everywhere. I think I got hit by Sete at one stage and I lost a bit of the tyre right it the centre that caused a little chatter. The bike came a long way this weekend – my guys did a great job. I couldn’t hold the pace in the end. I tried my hardest and tried to hold onto the podium but it wasn’t to be. The tyre I ran today was a lot better than I’ve had all weekend. Michelin did a great job to give us something for the race – really gave us a chance to fight. Fourth is not what I wanted but I learned a lot in the race – mixing it with Valentino, Capirossi and Checa.”

Marco Melandri, Movistar Honda MotoGP, fifth : "I am so tired… the foot wasn't too painful but the area around the cut is much more sensitive to the heat and I almost burnt it. We worked really well with the rear end for the race because it was painful for me to push down on the rear brake but with that we lost a bit of feel for the front. Because of the problems under braking the bike was also sliding a lot on the exit but luckily from the halfway stage onwards, with less fuel and weight on board the bike, I found my rhythm and pushed a little. I'm happy with this result because it was unthinkable that a race could end this way a few days ago. I want to thank all the Clinica Mobile doctors for all their help."

Max Biaggi, Repsol Honda Team:6th: “I remember so well being at this track back in February when I limped onto the factory RCV for the first time, recovering from my broken foot. I was very high on emotion and we were fast on the bike. Sure it was not perfect but it was the start of the year and we had time before the season started to make a good package. When we arrived here we are in a bad shape with the bike. It is not the same machine as it was at the start of the year. As this weekend passed it seems to get worse. In the race there were times when I nearly crashed. Sometimes when things are not right you have to work even harder to make the points and just to get home. Today I make it back with a machine that does not go the way I want and me and my team under Erv tried so hard. We still have second place in the championship and this is a position I will defend right till the end of the season with all my spirit.”

Kenny Roberts Jr, Suzuki, seventh: “The race in Japan was confusing, but here I was allowed to be consistent and I could pretty much ride exactly where I thought I was going to be - as far as race times. We were able to stay consistent and we had a couple of guys go down which brought us up in the order. We are really, really close in as much as if we get something engine-wise to accelerate and run with the other guys, we’ll be right there. The tyre combination that Bridgestone have given us and the torque improvements since Brno have all helped a lot. Now the biggest thing is that the traction control is working much, much better. We now need to get some kind of wheelie control on there - which will help us even more. It’s those little refinements that will put us more and more up the pecking order.”

Paul Denning, Suzuki Team Manager: “The result was not what we wanted but it was close to what I expected. The other guys found some improvements this morning in the areas they were struggling with yesterday and that meant that pretty much everyone was on their normal game. I have to congratulate both riders for a strong and consistent performance. Really though, for John, it was all over in the first lap when he got punted off and dropped from his third place on the grid back to 12th but there are a lot of positives to take again from today. For the second week running both bikes were safely in the top-10, we finished only 17 seconds from first place – the closest we have been in the dry this season - and Kenny and John pushed hard and diced with riders like Biaggi and Barros - who are both on extremely good motorcycles. It’s hot here but it will be even hotter next weekend in Qatar, where hopefully we will continue our upward progress.”

Alex Barros, Camel Honda: 8th: “Today I had to ride a defensive race, without be able to attack. I was behind Roberts and I stayed there, blocked. I only tried once to pass him and I ran it wide, risking crashing. Every time I braked the bike didn’t stop, it jumped, there was no grip at the front and that meant I couldn’t attack to make up places. Probably with this heat everyone had a few difficulties and there are time you can ride over the problems, but this was not really possible on this occasion. I tried to finish the race without crashing, because I didn’t want to do as I did in Motegi and I managed that, but I can’t be happy with eighth place.”

John Hopkins, Suzuki, ninth: “Damn, it was a hot race! We were nowhere near where we wanted to finish. It’s disappointing really but right now with our horsepower disadvantage we have to ride the bike a lot differently – with a lot of corner speed. When we run a lot of corner speed that’s when our lap times come but if we get stuck behind the Ducatis and Hondas we can’t get past them and they hold us up a bit. The thing is that the Honda guys pretty much park it at the apex of the corner and worry about their drive out. When we are behind them we can’t ride how we would like to. But we did what we could and I’m not going to lie, I gave it everything I had and that’s where we ended up. We’ve just got to try and get a better start – I braked way too early for the first corner, got hit on the first lap and went back to 12th. Now I’ll work a little harder in Qatar and go for that first podium!”

Colin Edwards, Gauloises Yamaha , 10th: “We made the same mistake as we did in the first round at Jerez, but in reverse. This morning we went to a different construction front tyre and we fixed the problem we had, but then the balance of the bike wasn’t right and we didn’t have time to sort it out. The rear was sitting way too low and started to go quite early in the race. From then on it was a case of survival. At least we know where we went wrong and I’m really looking forward to Qatar because I had a great race there. I want to say congratulations to V

Toni Elias, Fortuna Yamaha , 11th: "It was a very tough race. We had problems with the front end, which did not let me ride comfortably as I did not have the grip I wanted. It's a bit strange, as we did not have any problems for the first two days. Now we'll have to work hard to find a solution in the next few days. Despite everything we have worked well this weekend and must keep heading in this direction."

Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda: 12th: “Our weekend didn’t start well and so it finished. Due to the slips in the first two days during practice, we didn’t make it to properly adjust our RC211V. Today I have done what possible, but I couldn’t make it to find the right feeling to push it more. I’m very sad also for my Team that has done everything to give me a competitive bike. Let’s close this page of the season and let’s think about the future. In seven days in Qatar we’ll have to do much better. It’s not my intention to give up.”

Shane Byrne, Camel Honda: 14th : “Having got to the end of this weekend I can safely say that I expected fewer problems, but I quickly changed my opinion, after the first practice. Probably if these two races were in Europe it would have been a bit easier for me, but that’s not the case and I have to do the best I can. The team has done a fantastic job, and in the end I’m quite satisfied to have finished the race and to have not committed any serious errors. Running wide in a corner at the beginning meant I lost contact with the small group in front of me, and I couldn’t get back up there. On the last lap I did manage to enjoy myself battling with Xaus though. With a race under my belt I hope to get off to a better start in Qatar and to take a better result.”

Ruben Xaus, Fortuna Yamaha Team, 15th; "I did not feel too good yesterday and did not sleep well at all. I had a bad start today and it took a while to find my rhythm. There are still four races left at circuits that I like and I hope to get some good results and enjoy myself. If I don't feel confident on the bike then it makes it difficult for me, but I will keep on fighting."

Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki, DNF: "I was already into the corner entry at the final turn when suddenly I saw Sete's front tyre; he missed his braking point and hit me. Sete apologised to me and said it was his mistake, but it's no real consolation and I'm bitterly disappointed, I was riding very well and everything was perfect, the ZX-RR was fast today and I really thought I had a chance at the podium - there was no doubt I could race with the front group. There was a lot of bumping at the first turn, also by Sete, but I was able to avoid this."

Olivier Jacque, Kawasaki, DNF: "The officials held the red light for a long time at the start, but I got away well and was comfortable with my pace. The bike and tyres were feeling strong, but then on the third lap I had a problem with the throttle connection, it felt erratic and made the bike difficult to ride. I needed some racing laps today, so not finishing is a real shame."

Harald Eckl, Kawasaki Team Manager: "Shinya was very unlucky today, he got a great start and was racing well in third place. Sete looked desperate to make up positions in the early part of the race after colliding with Carlos Checa at the start, with the result that he misjudged his braking going into the last turn. It was a stupid mistake to make so early in the race and it is a real shame for the Kawasaki Racing Team, because today we had a real chance to make up for the disappointment of Motegi. Olivier was unlucky to fall victim to a mechanical problem, but I'm sure he'll bounce back in Qatar."

Sete Gibernau, Movistar Honda MotoGP: Dnf: "I'm really sorry that I've failed to finish the race again - there's not much else to say. We had a good warm-up this morning but once again we've been unable to finish things off in the right way on Sunday. All I can say about the crash is that I'm sorry. I tried to pass Nakano on the inside on the brakes but made contact with my front brake lever and lost the front end."

Qualifying Times

1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati Marlboro Team 2'01.731; 2. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Movistar Honda MotoGP +0.136; 3. John Hopkins (USA) Team Suzuki MotoGP +0.286; 4. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Kawasaki Racing Team +0.447; 5. Kenny Roberts (USA) Team Suzuki MotoGP +0.484; 6. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda +0.646; 7. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Gauloises Yamaha Team +0.681; 8. Carlos Checa (SPA) Ducati Marlboro Team +0.688; 9. Marco Melandri (ITA) Movistar Honda MotoGP +0.929; 10. Colin Edwards (USA) Gauloises Yamaha Team +1.074; 11. Alex Barros (BRA) Camel Honda +1.282; 12. Max Biaggi (ITA) Repsol Honda +1.479;

MotoGP Race RESULT

1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati Marlboro Team 43'27.523; 2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Gauloises Yamaha Team +1.999; 3. Carlos Checa (SPA) Ducati Marlboro Team +2.069; 4. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda +9.227; 5. Marco Melandri (ITA) Movistar Honda MotoGP +15.886; 6. Max Biaggi (ITA) Repsol Honda +16.826; 7. Kenny Roberts (USA) Team Suzuki MotoGP +17.249; 8. Alex Barros (BRA) Camel Honda +18.221; 9. John Hopkins (USA) Team Suzuki MotoGP +20.125; 10. Colin Edwards (USA) Gauloises Yamaha Team +22.275;

World Championship Standings

Valentino Rossi 281, Max Biaggi 159, Loris Capirossi 142, Colin Edwards 139, Marco Melandri 137, Nicky Hayden 134, Alex Barros 122, Sete Gibernau 115, Carlos Checa 88, Shinya Nakano 69, Makoto Tamada 68, Kenny Roberts 58 Troy Bayliss 54, John Hopkins 53

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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