Rossi Takes Historic First Win With Yamaha - Apr 18th 2004
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Valentino Rossi made history once again today by becoming the first man ever in the history of the MotoGP World Championship to win consecutive races with different manufacturers after clinching victory on his Yamaha debut at the betandwin.com Africa's Grand Prix.
Some 45,000 fans at the Phakisa Freeway circuit in Welkom, South Africa, bore witness to a classic duel between Rossi and his arch nemesis Max Biaggi, who went head to head from the first corner to the last. The reigning World Champion started from pole and maintained his advantage at the front over the opening laps, pushing to escape from a chasing pack with an electric pace that only Biaggi and Sete Gibernau could follow.
As Gibernau lost touch Biaggi took the initiative and attacked his compatriot with several exciting passes, only to be undone by Rossi's own brand of thrilling overtaking. After a brief lull in an energy-sapping bout, when Biaggi gathered his breath and trailed the rear wheel of Rossi to the inch for around ten laps, another frenetic duel sparked into life with six laps remaining. Biaggi was again the aggressor from behind, taking control only for Rossi to strike back within meters - the pair swapping positions until three corners from the end, when Rossi played his final ace and snatched victory from the jaws of the Honda rider.
"This was one of the best races of my career," commented an emotional Rossi, who parked his bike and sank to his haunches in tears of joy on the warm-down lap, in contrast to his usual extravagant celebrations. "It was a great show and a really good battle between myself and Max. My plan was to get a good start and set a high rhythm and I managed to do that. By the end I just tried my best for the win and I was able to do it. All I can say is thanks to all my mechanics and everybody who came with me on this new adventure. Thanks to Yamaha... thanks to everybody!"
With Gibernau reduced to a spectator in a solitary third position, attention switched from the leaders to a gritty comeback from the Spaniard's Honda colleague Alex Barros, who battled back from ninth on the opening lap to seal fourth by the end. The Brazilian overcame his team-mate Nicky Hayden at the halfway stage and broke free of the American youngster, who eventually emerged in fifth place after a skirmish with Colin Edwards and Loris Capirossi. Edwards had to settle for seventh place in his first MotoGP appearance with Honda after being overtaken by the Italian Ducati rider with just five laps to go.
Makoto Tamada made it six Hondas in the top eight ahead of Yamaha trio Norick Abe, Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri. Shinya Nakano finished his Kawasaki debut in twelfth place, whilst Shane Byrne was the only MotoGP rookie to score points in fifteenth behind John Hopkins and Troy Bayliss. Fellow newcomers Alex Hofmann and Ruben Xaus crashed and retired respectively, whilst World Superbike Champion Neil Hodgson also retired.
- 1 - Valentino ROSSI ITA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha
- 2 - Max BIAGGI ITA Camel Honda - 0.210
- 3 - Sete GIBERNAU SPA Telefonica Movistar Honda - 7.255
- 4 - Alex BARROS BRA Repsol Honda Team - 18.667
- 5 - Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team - 24.094
- 6 - Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Ducati Marlboro Team - 24.375
- 7 - Colin EDWARDS USA Telefonica Movistar Honda - 28.855
- 8 - Makoto TAMADA JPN Camel Honda - 36.535
- 9 - Norick ABE JPN Fortuna Gauloises Tech - 36.643
- 10 - Carlos CHECA SPA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha - 39.284
- 11 - Marco MELANDRI ITA Fortuna Gauloises Tech - 43.806
- 12 - Shinya NAKANO JPN Kawasaki Racing Team - 43.920
- 13 - John HOPKINS USA Team Suzuki MotoGP - 56.028
- 14 - Troy BAYLISS AUS Ducati Marlboro Team - 56.558
- 15 - Shane BYRNE GBR MS Aprilia Racing - 1'13.831
- 16 - Jeremy McWILLIAMS GBR MS Aprilia Racing - 1'22.206
- 17 Nobuatsu AOKI JPN Proton Team KR - 1'26.933
- 18 Michel FABRIZIO ITA WCM 144.290 - 3 laps
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