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Rossi starts title defence with a victory

Rossi starts title defence with a victory

Rossi starts title defence with a victory

Valentino Rossi began his MotoGP World Championship defence with a determined performance at Jerez today, snatching victory from home favourite Sete Gibernau in a dramatic final corner manoeuvre. A minute's silence in memory of Pope John Paul II provided the calm before the storm as Rossi stalked Gibernau for virtually the entire race, making his move on the penultimate lap only to make a mistake in the final circulation and hand the lead back to the Spaniard.

It set up a breathtaking finale, with the pair exchanging places in the fast right corners which lead into the final left-hand hairpin, where they collided as Rossi forced his way up the inside. Gibernau ran it wide into the gravel but returned to the track to limp across the line in second place, benefiting from the huge gap the two riders had opened up over third-placed Marco Melandri, who completed the podium in his first MotoGP appearance for Honda.

"This was for sure a great race, especially after the problems I had in the morning," said Rossi, who had crashed out of the warm-up and caused extensive damage to his number one Yamaha machine. "Sete rode a great race and set a very fast pace. I attacked at the end but made a mistake on the last lap and then we touched in the final corner. I'm sure Sete's angry about it right now but racing motorcycles is hard. There are 16 races to go and it will be a hard battle."

Melandri took third place after Nicky Hayden had crashed out with just eight laps to go, ending hopes of what looked like a certain podium for the American, the only rider to match the pace of Rossi and Gibernau throughout the race. Alex Barros clinched a distant fourth after a hard battle with Kawasaki rider Shinya Nakano and his Honda team-mate Troy Bayliss, who took a creditable sixth place on his debut for the Japanese factory.

Max Biaggi recovered from his worst ever grid position of 16th to take seventh after overcoming the challenge of Honda colleague Makoto Tamada and Yamaha's Colin Edwards, whilst Carlos Checa fought through the pain of a recovering shoulder injury to complete the top ten at his home circuit on the Ducati.


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