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Rossi shrugs off rain for victory


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Rossi enjoys an incredible feeling by winning in front of his home fans

MUGELLO, Italy -- MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi shrugged off a rain delay to win a dramatic Italian Grand Prix in front of his home fans at Mugello on Sunday.

Rossi, who switched to Yamaha at the start of the season, was chased home by Honda riders Spaniard Sete Gibernau, who set out from pole, and Max Biaggi.

The race was stopped and then restarted after 19 of the 23 laps because of rain with Rossi ahead of Gibernau at the time.

"It was an incredible race and an incredible feeling to win in front of all these fans," said Rossi whose triumph ended Honda's 11-year stranglehold on the Italian title.

"It was like I had to win two races -- one in the dry, then in the wet."

This was the flamboyant Italian's second win of the season after taking the honors in the opening South African GP.

Gibernau retains the lead in the drivers' championship after this fourth leg of the 16-race season.

The win was five-times world champion Rossi'a third in a row at Mugello and helped him close the title gap to 10 points on Gibernau.

Rossi, on a Yamaha, forced his way to front from the start, coming from third on the grid to lead into the first corner before duelling with Gibernau for the lead.

Rossi briefly dropped back to fifth when rain forced the race to be restarted, but cut through the field to the cross the line comfortably ahead of his main rival.

Both Rossi and Gibernau have now won two races this season.

Poor start

Gibernau, who had won the previous two rounds in Spain and France, made a poor start, falling back to eighth before working his way through the field.

On the seventh lap he squeezed past third-placed Biaggi on the tight righthand bend at the end of Mugello's long straight.

His progress to the front, however, was hampered by inspired riding from Makoto Tamada until mechanical failure forced the Japanese rider to retire on lap 13.

With six of the 23 laps remaining, rain forced the race to be restarted.

It nearly produced an upset when, with three laps to go, unfancied Ducati rider Ruben Xaus led former world superbike champion Troy Bayliss and Honda's Alex Barros.

Rossi, however, regained the lead as Gibernau got stuck behind Bayliss. The Spaniard, a wet-weather specialist, snatched second on the penultimate lap but by then Rossi had built up a one-second cushion.

Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano escaped serious injury when his tyre blew halfway down the straight on lap 12, bucking him off the bike at around 300kph.

Argentina's Sebastian Porto held off the challenge of championship leader Randy De Puniet and Spain's Daniel Pedrosa to grab his second career win in the 250cc race.

In the 125cc category, home rider Roberto Locatelli recorded his first win in nearly four years to slash Andrea Dovizioso's lead by 12 points. Dovizioso, who finished the race in fourth, has 76 points, three more than Locatelli.


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