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Rossi feared puncture or bike problem

Valentino Rossi said he had no choice but to make the additional pit stop that ended his title chances, as his front tyre problems were so bad he believed he had a puncture or a mechanical failure.

The Fiat Yamaha rider had fought back to lead the race after dropping to seventh with a poor start, and then emerged in second behind eventual winner Loris Capirossi after making a late change to cut slicks in the drying conditions.

Rossi was on course to keep the title battle alive until Australia, but then dropped to 13th after deciding to return to the pits so that his tyre could be checked.

"The feeling was very, very strange and I was not able to turn," Rossi said.

"In fact I thought there was something wrong on the bike, on the steering. The first impression was like the tyre was flat, so I stopped, but I restarted and after four laps I had temperature from the tyre but already my race was over. The tyre was normal, but it was like it didn't work, it was too cold."

His teammate Colin Edwards reported the same problem after finishing behind Rossi in 14th.

"The front tyre I went back out on, the cut slick, was a disaster and I had no choice but to slow right down while I tried to figure out what on earth was going on," Edwards said.

"Valentino came in because it was such a bad feeling and I nearly did the same thing, but in the end I stayed out and just tip-toed around until I could work out how to kind of ride it. I thought this morning that we had a halfway decent chance today, so it's a real pity."

Rossi also defended his decision to wait until lap 14 before pitting for his spare bike. By that time Capirossi and the other slick-shod riders were lapping up to seven seconds quicker, but Rossi said his wet Michelins were still working well on the drying track so he did not regret staying out.

"I was confident with the wet tyres and my lap times were not so bad," he said.

"I think for the perfect strategy it was better (to stop) one lap before. The problem is when you are in front it's more difficult. For the other guys it's a lot easier to stop before, they need to take a risk.

"Looking at the end, Capirossi's was the best strategy because he stopped three or four laps before, but it was a little bit dangerous.

"If you restart with slicks and you crash and you're in the championship, it's difficult.

"I restarted from the pits behind Loris, so in normal conditions it would have been possible to arrive on the podium, so I think the strategy was not so bad. The problem was the tyre."

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