Gibernau takes win as Rossi crashes in Qatar

Saturday, 2 October 2004

Gibernau takes win as Rossi crashes in Qatar

Sete Gibernau took victory in a dramatic inaugural race at the Losail International Circuit, where Valentino Rossi was controversially forced to start from the back of the grid and then crashed out as he made his way through the field.

Rossi's Yamaha team were penalised for cleaning his starting position on the grid, as were Max Biaggi's Honda crew, and both riders were docked six seconds from their qualifying times.

It meant the Italian pair would have to start from the back row, giving Gibernau fresh confidence as he looked to close down Rossi's gap at the top of the championship. Gibernau started from third and gave chase to early leader Carlos Checa, passing him on the first lap.

At the same time Rossi made up fourteen places in an incredible start, making up another four positions on the next three laps to move fourth behind Colin Edwards.

However, two laps later the Italian drifted slightly wide onto the artificial grass which surrounds the track and spectacularly lost control of his machine, escaping unhurt but unable to return to the track. On the ninth lap Edwards passed Checa and gave chase to his team-mate at the front, exerting pressure on Gibernau but not pulling close enough to challenge for victory in an intense finish.

"We've taken a big step forward with the best possible result of a high-pressure weekend," said Gibernau, who moves to within fourteen points of Rossi at the top of the championship.

"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."

MotoGP rookie Ruben Xaus clinched his first ever podium in third place after taking advantage of a fuel problem for Carlos Checa three laps from the end.

Alex Barros came through to take fourth after fighting back from a double whammy on the fourth lap, when he was pushed wide by Rossi and then got caught behind Shinya Nakano just as the Japanese rider experienced engine problems, blowing smoke into the face of the Brazilian and forcing him to run off track, returning down in 18th place.

Nicky Hayden completed the top five whilst Max Biaggi made continual progress through the field to take sixth as Checa, Nakano, Troy Bayliss, Loris Capirossi, Neil Hodgson and Marco Melandri all retired and Jeremy McWilliams and Nobuatsu Aoki crashed.

The historic race was enjoyed by the Royal Family of Qatar and other national dignitaries, as well as top international sportsmen currently plying their trade in the Middle East including footballers Gabriel Batistuta, Frank and Ronald de Boer, Frank Lebeouf and Josep Guardiola.

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