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Melandri and Hayden shine as bright as MotoGP's future in Australia

Melandri and Hayden shine as bright as MotoGP's future in Australia

Melandri and Hayden shine as bright as MotoGP's future in Australia

The dramatic MotoGP race at Phillip Island last Sunday saw another impressive performance by World Champion Valentino Rossi, but to many people savouring the action over the 27 laps one of the more exciting sights was the riding of Marco Melandri and Nicky Hayden, both pushing the established and more experienced riders of the class for podium positions.

With an impetuousness and aggression revealing their youthfulness (both in the early 20s) anybody watching witnessed a snap shot of the future stars of the sport. Hayden in particular with his last lap charge to secure his first top three finish relegating Sete Gibernua in the process was a pleasure to spectate. Equally as determined and thrilling was the first real glimpse in 2003 of the speed and ability of 2002 250cc World Champion Marco Melandri as he spent the first half of the race squabbling for second position until crashing out and dislocating his shoulder.

Both rookies have endured a tough learning curve in their debut MotoGP season but Meldandri has not only been struggling to get the Yamaha to be competitive he has also been beset by injury problems since the very first round when he badly broken his foot at Suzuka.

Nevertheless as the team and rider ‘merry-go-round' is poised for a frantic spell of activity as soon as Rossi' announces his plans, both Hayden and Melandri have started to establish themselves as the talent that most manufacturers want racing their machinery for 2004. Hayden is more than likely to stay with Repsol Honda while Melandri is committed to Yamaha but with what team (and team-mate) is another question.

Melandri was certainly aware that his charge in Australia was one of the highlights of a difficult year despite the end result. "I was so happy with that race until I fell. I'm just disappointed with the tyre choice we made, as I wanted to use a softer rear but it wasn't possible. When Bayliss fell he touched me and I very nearly lost it, but I managed to recover. Once Valentino was in front it was impossible to catch him but I really enjoyed racing with Hayden, Capirossi and Gibernau. My bike felt a bit more nervous during the race than it has during qualifying here and I kept losing grip in the long corners. Finally it resulted in a highside. I knew straight away that I had dislocated my shoulder, and when I arrived at the circuit clinic they pushed it back in. Anyway it was a fantastic chance to race up front, my best of the season."

Hayden was naturally thrilled with his first ever World Championship podium appearance, which was only a matter of time in arriving after an excellent spell of form in recent races: "You got to crawl before you can walk! I've been moving up recently and starting to fight with the top guys over the last few races. I really wanted to get a legitimate podium and now I got one. We were all going at it out there; some real scrapping. It was good to lead my first GP. I wanted to go with Valentino and Capirossi but couldn't match their speed. I made a little mistake going through the stones kicked up where Bayliss fell and lost a few spots but I just kept working forward. I got Ukawa and then managed to get Gibernau on the last lap. I'm so happy and am real pleased my dad was here to see it."

MotoGP, 2003, Nicky Hayden, Marco Melandri

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