Rossi's last-lap antics provoke fury

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The Independent Online

The six-time world champion Valentino Rossi gave Sete Gibernau's chances of claiming his first MotoGP title a barge sideways into the gravel on the last lap of a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix yesterday.

The six-time world champion Valentino Rossi gave Sete Gibernau's chances of claiming his first MotoGP title a barge sideways into the gravel on the last lap of a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix yesterday.

In a frantic battle in the opening round of the series, Rossi darted from almost nowhere to thrust his Yamaha inside the Spaniard's Honda as the pair slowed for a turn.

Gibernau, performing in front of his adoring home crowd, cut into the corner on his normal line, and the two motorcycles smacked together. The collision knocked Gibernau's bike upright, and he had no option but to trundle across the run-off area and rejoin the track in second place as Rossi performed a mighty wheelie across the line.

"For sure Sete is angry, but that's racing," the 26-year-old Rossi said later, after celebrating the 69th win of his career. "It was the only place where I could pass. We touched but motorbike races are sometimes like this."

Gibernau, Spain's 32-year-old grandee, looked shocked, tense and bewildered as the pair climbed from their bikes. The frenzied fans were chanting an insult to Rossi that is unprintable, even in Spanish.

"No, I will not," he said simply when asked in the post-race press conference if he would talk about that torrid last lap.

Rossi, understandably, was more verbose. "It was a great race," he said. "Gibernau was very fast and rode well. Unfortunately I made a big mistake in the middle of the last lap. We touched two or three times, but I overtook him on the last corner."

Fausto Gresini, the owner of Gibernau's Telefonica Movistar team, asked officials if there were grounds for a protest. But a spokesman for the race directors said: "It was not beyond the limits. It is not a matter for sanction."

This race was a contest between Rossi's audacity and Gibernau's composure on a faster bike. The Spaniard grabbed the lead on the first lap, with his Honda henchman Nicky Hayden providing a cushion in second.

But Rossi disposed of Hayden on lap five, and then hounded Gibernau for 20 circuits. At times he closed to a couple of lengths, but Gibernau's five-cylinder engine always had the power to establish a gap down the straights.

Rossi, however, seems to have an almost supernatural ability to hurl his flagging machine forward and into gaps that no normal rider could hope to occupy. That was how he levelled with Gibernau on that fateful corner. The manoeuvre could decide the conclusion of the 17-round series in November, for its boldness, verging on madness, may have permanently stunted Gibernau's will to fight back.

Marco Melandri, the 22-year-old former 250cc world champion, took the final podium position on his first ride for Honda, ahead of Brazil's Alex Barros and Shinya Nakano, who gave Kawasaki fifth place.

Hayden crashed, London's Shane Byrne retired after two laps on the Proton KR and the best of the Ducatis was Carlos Checa in 10th. Cumbria's James Ellison just missed a championship point with 16th place on the Blata WCM.

The teenager Chaz Davies was Britain's best performer, with 11th in the 250cc race. "I had problems getting the front tyre to hook into corners, but I think we can solve it for next weekend's race in Portugal," Davies said.

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