Australia GP Michelin /race report

2000 MotoGP 500 World Championship, round 16 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, PHILLIP ISLAND Race Day, Sunday October 29 2000 ROMAN EMPEROR CROWNED ISLAND KING Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) won the race of the year at Phillip Island this...

2000 MotoGP 500 World Championship, round 16
AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, PHILLIP ISLAND
Race Day, Sunday October 29 2000

ROMAN EMPEROR CROWNED ISLAND KING

Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) won the race of the year at Phillip Island this afternoon, triumphing at the end of a frantic 27 lap battle that involved up to a dozen riders in the early stages.

The year-ending Australian GP was a spectacular exhibition of 500 Grand Prix racing at its breathtaking best, with the lead changing innumerous times as riders pulled off one amazing overtaking manouevre after another.

Biaggi finally crossed the line less than two tenths ahead of Loris Capirossi (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin) with Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) another tenth down in third to complete an all-Italian podium. The top eight finishers were covered by less than four seconds, after the top 12 had been just 2.6 seconds apart at half distance.

Delighted by his second win of the year, which moved him to third overall in the World Championship, Biaggi said: "That was a real race, win or lose, it was so exciting. I got a not-so-bad start and everyone was fighting from the first turn. One lap you could cross the line in the lead, then next time fourth or fifth; the fast straight here means that it's easy to use the slipstream, so there was a lot of passing. There was also a lot of touching - I touched Barros and Capirossi, and many times with McCoy. Near the finish it was just the three of us - me, Capirossi and Rossi. Capirossi was very strong but it was my day."

Biaggi had started the race from 12th on the grid after spoiling his final qualifying run on Saturday with a crash. Running a medium-compound 17in Michelin front and soft 16.5in Michelin rear, the Italian hit the front for the first time just after half distance, a move that triggered an awe-inspiring duel with Capirossi. The pair touched at least once as they fought for position around the ultra-fast circuit, and though Capirossi inched ahead at one of the final hairpins, Biaggi kept cool and was ahead when it counted most. Rossi chased hard but the action was so hectic, and the riders so close, that his view of the pit-lane lap counters was obscured and he didn't see his last-lap board. Capirossi and Rossi also ran medium-compound 17in fronts and soft 16.5in rears.

"My bike and tyres were good to the end but Max's bike seemed faster than mine," said Capirossi. "I tried very hard all the way and it was a fun race, a good way to finish the year."

Rossi badly wanted to win the final race of his rookie 500 season but was happy enough with his performance. "Max and Loris were fighting so hard, so my plan was to attack on the last lap but I didn't see the last-lap board!" he said. "Anyway, I'm second overall in my first 500 year, I won two races and got more podiums than anyone else, so I'm happy."

Alex Barros (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin) led a lot of laps mid-race but faded later on. Then he came back to cross the line fourth, two tenths down on Rossi and over a second up on local hero Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin), who led for a moment and came oh-so close to falling during the early stages.

Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha-D'Antin-Michelin) rode a strong race to seventh, finishing just ahead of first-time pole sitter Jeremy McWilliams (Blu Aprilia Team-Michelin), who's race was spoiled by clutch slip off the grid. Nevertheless the Briton did beat recently crowned 2000 World Champion Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin), who made a mistake in the final few laps while trying to out-brake McCoy. "I was still aiming for the podium but that lost me too much time," said the American. Tadayuki Okada (Repsol Honda-Michelin) was his team's only finisher after '99 world champ Alex Crivillé (Repsol Honda-Michelin) crashed and Sete Gibernau (Repsol Honda-Michelin) stopped in the pits. Regis Laconi (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) figured strongly in the early stages but ran off the track after colliding with Capirossi and finished 11th.

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