Patient Rossi thrives as rivals slip up

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The Independent Online

Valentino Rossi got the four-stroke era off to a perfect start with victory in the opening MotoGP race of the season in Japan yesterday.

The Italian took his time in the wet and difficult conditions at Suzuka before winning on Repsol Honda's brand new RC211V machine. It was a bad day for his main rival and fellow Italian Max Biaggi, whose debut on the four-stroke Marlboro Yamaha YZR-M1 was marred by a fall.

Other high-profile fallers included Rossi's team-mate Tohru Ukawa, the former 500cc world champion Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) and the former 500cc winners Garry McCoy (Yamaha) and Sete Gibernau (Suzuki).

Ulster's Jeremy McWilliams also crashed out on his Team Roberts Proton debut on a miserable day for the British in which both Jason Vincent and Leon Haslam failed to finish in the 250s and Chas Davies had a bad day on his 125cc debut.

Haslam and Vincent, racing Hondas for a Spanish-based team, slipped out of points-scoring positions in the 250cc race won by Japan's Osamu Miyazaki (Yamaha). The 15-year-old Davies' grand prix debut on the 125cc Matteoni Racing Aprilia ended when he fell at the hairpin when in 32nd place in a race won by Frenchman Arnaud Vincent (Aprilia).

In Kyalami, Troy Bayliss maintained his stranglehold on the World Superbike Championship with a dominant double win in the third round in South Africa.

The world champion fought off challenges from Castrol Honda's Colin Edwards and Playstation2 Aprilia's Noriyuki Haga to make it six wins out of six this season. Bayliss pipped Edwards to the first race honours while his team-mate Ruben Xaus was the nearest challenger in race two.

The Infostrada Ducati rider said: "The second race was really hard. I didn't realise it was Ruben behind. I gave it everything I had and eventually I got a little gap."