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Rossi takes vital title step at Estoril

Rossi takes vital title step at Estoril

Rossi takes vital title step at Estoril

Valentino Rossi extended his lead at the top of the MotoGP World Championship with a clear and authoritative victory in front of 55,100 fans at the Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal today.

Rossi snatched the lead from Loris Capirossi on the first lap and never looked back, opening up an eventual 5.111 second gap over his nearest chaser Makoto Tamada.

Meanwhile, Sete Gibernau struggled to overcome Honda colleague Alex Barros in the fight for the third and final podium position, losing out by just 0.155 seconds as the Brazilian blocked his attempts to pass on the final lap. "I wanted to push from the beginning because I knew that if I arrived with another rider at the end it would be difficult," explained Rossi, who extended his winning run at this circuit to four consecutive seasons.

"This morning we did a great job with my team, fixed the problems with the bike and did a very good warm-up.

"My start was not perfect but I was in first position on the first lap and made four or five good laps and it was possible to go. At the end the tyre was quite good and I was able to arrive at the end in control of the situation."

Rossi's charge to the line was aided by his great rival Max Biaggi, who tried to follow his compatriot past Capirossi on the opening lap but ran too fast into the corner and crashed out, almost taking Capirossi with him.

Tamada stepped up to second place but a crucial gap had already formed between Rossi and the rest of the pack which was always unlikely to be bridged, despite Tamada's best efforts. A frustrating fourth place for Gibernau means he now trails Rossi by 29 points in the championship with just five races remaining.

Rossi's Yamaha team-mate Carlos Checa held off a strong charge from Suzuki rider John Hopkins in the final few laps to seal fifth place, although sixth for Hopkins was enough to secure his best ever finish in MotoGP. Capirossi had been relegated to 18th after the incident with Biaggi but fought back superbly to clinch seventh in his 100th premier-class appearance.

Troy Bayliss was relegated to eighth by his Ducati team-mate, with Honda's Colin Edwards and Yamaha rider Norick Abe completing the top ten. Michel Fabrizio, who replaced the injured Shane Byrne at Aprilia for this race, retired with a technical problem – as did Ducati team-mates Neil Hodgson and Ruben Xaus – whilst Marco Melandri's adventure dressed in the colours of Spiderman ended on the eighth lap when he crashed his Yamaha out of fifth place.


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