Valentino Rossi successfully beat off the final-lap advances of a determined Sete Gibernau to win the French leg of the MotoGP championship at Le Mans on Sunday.

Valentino Rossi successfully beat off the final-lap advances of a determined Sete Gibernau to win the French leg of the MotoGP championship at Le Mans on Sunday.

Heavy mist and fog delayed the morning warm-up session and after the riders took to the track later than expected, Max Biaggi was soon stretchered off following a heavy accident.

Fortunately, the Honda rider was able to take his eighth place on the grid, which was headed by championship leader, Valentino Rossi, his Gauloise Yamaha team-mate, Colin Edwards, and Movistar Honda's Marco Melandri.

After the start of the race, fifth-placed Nicky Hayden shot round the first corner in the lead, while Rossi and Gibernau completed the first lap in sixth and seventh places respectively.

Rossi steadily started working his way up the order, while Gibernau remained at seventh place for several laps. The Spaniard dropped down to eighth place before he started bypassing Alex Barros, Shinya Nakano, and Marco Melandri slot into fifth position.

Meanwhile, Rossi slipped into second place as Hayden ran wide, leaving Colin Edwards as the only rider between him and victory. Rossi then settled down to shadow Edwards before Gibernau broke into the third place behind him.

Gibernau was soon on his tail, creating a titanic three-way battle for victory. When Rossi made an attempt to pass Edwards, but ran wide instead, his arch-rival seized the second place. However, Edwards maintained his composure and Gibernau's attempts to pass him proved fruitless and left the opportunity for Rossi to regain his position with a sudden pass.

Edwards was on course to record a victory when his team-mate dived on the inside the race-leader as the riders entered a double right-hander. Gibernau quickly pounced on the extra space afforded Rossi, by slipping through on the apex of the second corner with a shake of the former race leader's head showing his disappointment.

While Gibernau could not make a convincing pass at Rossi with his deteriorated tyres, he did succeed in pushing the championship leader to the chequered flag.

Edwards held on to take his first podium of the season, while Marco Melandri finished fourth after a great battle for fourth. Hayden finished sixth, and Loris Capirossi, Nakano, Toni Elias and Troy Bayliss completed the top ten.

Shanghai hero Olivier Jacque was unable to complete his scintillating Chinese performance at home and only succeeded in finishing eleventh in what should be his last race for Kawasaki.

Rossi now leads the MotoGP championship 37 points over Melandri ahead of his home grand prix at Mugello. Gibernau's second-place finish has moved him into third place in the standings.

Original article from Car