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Rossi wins dramatic Philip Island encounter despite ten second penalty

Rossi wins dramatic Philip Island encounter despite ten second penalty

Rossi wins dramatic Philip Island encounter despite ten second penalty

Valentino Rossi clocked up win number 8 (fifth from the last six) of the year and his 21st consecutive podium result all despite incurring a ten second penalty in the formative stages of the race due to passing under yellow flags.

An incident packed MotoGP event at Philip Island took place in vastly different weather conditions compared to the previous two races. It was still cold and windy but the rain-lashed asphalt of the 125cc activity had now dried and was bathed with sunshine; slick tyres were warmed and umbrellas closed.

The first third of the race was typical exciting Aussie GP fare as a six rider group battled for the top positions with Marco Melandri, Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi all taking their turn to front the field. Troy Bayliss was a member of the throng but crashed out on lap 4 after touching one of the treacherously wet and slippery white lines on the outside of the asphalt at the Honda hairpin. The Ducati rider went down heavily and was knocked unconscious, being declared OK before being taken to hospital for further checks.

The following circulation Rossi passed Melandri at the same corner clearly not seeing the yellow flags and was promptly informed of a ten second penalty several laps later when he was leading by three seconds from Loris Capirossi who had also escaped the clutches of the pursuing group. Melandri then fell at high speed entering the last turn on the circuit. Nicky Hayden had been looking threatening and had made his way to third before running slightly wide at the Honda curve, which dropped him behind Melandri, Tohru Ukawa, Sete Gibernau and Carlos Checa. Nine laps after Melandri's untimely exit Checa ran off the circuit but was able to rejoin the fray some way behind and take 8th by the chequered flag.

Rossi, upon digesting the knowledge from his pit board that he had to beat Capirossi by ten seconds, put his head down and produced a frantic pace in the second half of the GP to eventually extend a winning margin of 15.2 seconds. Capirossi was smoking his rear tyre onto the main straight trying to catch-up but stood little chance against his fellow Italian, who went on to celebrate by brandishing a number seven lap in memory of the late Barry Sheene.

The action-packed tussle for third went down to a last lap showdown between Hayden and Gibernau, with the former pulling a brave and aggressive move on one of the fastest parts of the circuit to hold onto his first ‘proper' top three finish by just four hundredths of a second. Repsol Honda had two riders on the podium with young rookie Hayden really starting to look like a worthy replacement for Rossi if the World Champion decides to change teams for 2004. Ukawa was fifth some 16 seconds ahead of Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano. Kenny Roberts was ninth in front of Makoto Tamada.

The top three riders in the Championship, Rossi, Gibernau and Biaggi (who was all the way down in 17th and almost lapped), cannot be displaced from their standings as the GP season has one more race to run at Valencia, Spain in two weeks time.

MotoGP, 2003, SKYY VODKA Australian Grand Prix

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