ALTHOUGH FOUR-TIMES world champion Valentino Rossi had to settle for third best behind Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards in America a fortnight ago, the supercharged Italian still held a commanding 79 point lead in this year’s championship on arrival in Britain last weekend.
His record at Donington is second to none. “Il Duttore” can look back on six victories in nine appearances, a total that would read seven but for his relegation to third place on a technicality in 2003. Fellow Italians, Marco Melandri, second in the table, and Loris Capirossi, were still determined to make the dominant rider of his generation work hard for a record fifth world title, although Rossi expected the fiercest challenge to come from his Gauloises-Yamaha team mate Edwards, holder of Donington’s circuit lap record going into the qualifying sessions.
That did not last long. Rossi scorched into pole position shaving almost a second off that best time, Gibernau and Melandri starting behind him. The race itself was very wet, but Rossi took it by the scruff of the neck beating Kenny Roberts in second by 3.5s.