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Melandri takes maiden win at historic Istanbul opener

Melandri takes maiden win at historic Istanbul opener

Melandri takes maiden win at historic Istanbul opener

Marco Melandri became the fourth rider to defeat MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi this season after a thrilling first race at the Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey. The Italian youngster clinched his maiden premier-class victory with a performance that reflected his dominance throughout free practice this weekend, despite having conceded pole position to his team-mate Sete Gibernau on the final lap of qualifying yesterday afternoon.

Melandri snatched the lead from Gibernau in the first corner and, after briefly conceding his position on lap four, he was back in front just two laps later as the Spaniard ran into the gravel and saw his chance of winning his first race this season disappear. Whilst Rossi recovered from a bad start to pile on the pressure over the final few laps, Melandri held firm to take the chequered flag with a comfortable advantage of 1.513 seconds.

"I haven't won a race since Valencia in 2002 so this is the perfect way to end a wonderful weekend for me," said Melandri, who had stood on the top step of the 250cc and 125cc podiums on seventeen occasions before moving up to the MotoGP class in 2003. "I was disappointed to lose pole position yesterday but it taught me an important lesson for today and I just tried to ride without putting pressure on myself. I had fun and focused on my rhythm, even when Valentino got close I just kept taking it lap by lap. I have had bad luck and injuries this year so to come back and end the season like this is unbelievable."

Second place for Rossi represented his fifteenth podium finish from sixteen races this season but it also means that the Italian will not be able to break Mick Doohan's record of twelve race victories for a single season, with one remaining chance to equal the Australian's total in the final round of the season at Valencia in two weeks' time. Whilst Gibernau returned to the track in fourth place he could do nothing to prevent Nicky Hayden from clinching his third consecutive podium placing, with the American now trailing Melandri by nine points in the chase for second place in the championship.

Colin Edwards' chances of beating the Honda youngsters to the coveted runner-up spot are all but over after the Texan could only muster seventh place in today's race behind Carlos Checa and Toni Elías, who passed his Yamaha colleague with a daring pass on the final lap. Edwards now cuts a distant figure in fourth place in the championship, 21 points adrift of Melandri.

Whilst Makoto Tamada, Alex Barros and Shinya Nakano completed the top ten, Chris Vermeulen capped an impressive second weekend in MotoGP as a replacement for Troy Bayliss by clinching eleventh place. The Australian's performance was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he finished ahead of Honda colleague Max Biaggi, as well as other full-time riders such as Ruben Xaus and John Hopkins.


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