The Marlboro Yamaha Team came to Brno this weekend hopeful of keeping their momentum rolling and taking Max Biaggi another step closer to World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda). But although Biaggi started the race from pole position and in high hopes, he slid out of the lead while just ahead of his Italian rival, remounting to finish tenth. Team-mate Carlos Checa also had a troubled day, coming home seventh.
"That was a real disappointment," said Marlboro Yamaha Team manager Geoff Crust. "We thought we'd done everything just right. We had a great test session here at the end of July, Max did an incredible lap in qualifying and tried all the tyres to race distance. In the race he was running the kind of pace we expected and he looked comfortable just knocking off the laps. Now we'll sit down and try and work out what exactly happened. Carlos' pace wasn 't as fast as we expected. He got in the wrong group and if you get stuck in the wrong group here it can cost you a second a lap."
UNLUCKY 13TH LAP FOR BIAGGI
Max Biaggi led the first half of this afternoon's crucial Czech GP, keeping arch-rival Valentino Rossi (Honda) at bay until just after half-distance, when the Marlboro Yamaha Team man slid to earth as he rode through turn three. Biaggi bravely remounted his scarred YZR, rejoining the race in 11th to finish tenth. But the fall has cost him dear; with six races to go he now lags 29 points behind Rossi.
Biaggi had ridden a perfect weekend until that fateful moment on lap 13, taking pole with the fastest-ever official Brno lap and leading from lap two. Both men were riding the outer limits in stifling 34-degree heat, lapping within the track record. Indeed today's race time was an astounding 30 seconds quicker than last year, and Biaggi's time was still faster than his winning 2000 ride!
"At least I managed to get the bike going to score a few points," said Biaggi, who had won six of his previous seven races here. "But it's a real shame because this race could've been so good for us. I was pushing really hard and just lost the front, even though I hadn't had any earlier warnings. It's the kind of thing that can happen when you're riding on the limit. I didn't have any tactics, other than trying to run my own race because passing isn't always easy if you give up the lead. There's still six races to go, so we've got to keep looking ahead and get back up front."
CHECA TAKES SEVENTH
Like team-mate Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa had strong hopes of a good finish today. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man had run well during qualifying but a minor change to the performance of his YZR500 caused him problems during the race.
"As usual we changed some engine parts for the race and the engine was sharper than usual at the bottom of the rev range," said Checa who finished seventh after spending the early stages in an entertaining race for fifth. "It wasn't as soft as it usually is when I started to get on the throttle, which meant I couldn't slide the rear smoothly. The tyre would slide and then start chattering, so all I could do was wait until the bike was almost upright before I got on the throttle, and that's not a fast way to ride."
ROSSI WINS TO EXTEND SERIES LEAD
Valentino Rossi scored one of the most important wins of his career today, taking the lead for the first time when Max Biaggi crashed. From then on the Italian was untroubled out front, allowing him to take a comfortable sixth win of the year. "That was very difficult because Biaggi was pushing so hard, I was planning to wait for the last four or five laps," said Rossi. "My only worry after his crash was when a bee flew into my helmet, luckily it didn't sting me!"
CRIVILLE BOUNCES BACK
The midseason break did Alex Criville (Honda) more good than most. The former 500 king, whose season hit rock bottom at July's German GP where he failed to start after two high-speed falls, was brilliant today, beating Loris Capirossi (Honda) for second in a thrilling final-lap duel. "After Germany I never imagined this," said the 31-year-old. "I had a good rest after that that and I think I've showed I'm not old, a little bit maybe, but not too old to run up front." <pre>
RACE CLASSIFICATION 1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 45'01.044 2. Alex Criville (SPA) Repsol YPF HONDA Team +3.374 3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons +3.767 4. Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin +4.057 5. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol YPF HONDA Team +6.574 6. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM +7.344 7. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team +10.689 8. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI +15.201 9. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons +24.732 10. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team +29.758 11. Noriyuki Haga (JPN) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM +42.667 12. Olivier Jacque (FRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 +43.063 13. Jose Luis Cardoso (SPA) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin +56.432 14. Haruchika Aoki (JPN) Arie Molenaar Racing HONDA +1'13.315 15. Johan Stigefelt (SWE) SABRE Sport V4 +2'03.200
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CLASSIFICATION 1. Rossi 195 2. BIAGGI 166 3. Capirossi 127 4. Barros 107 5. Abe 100 6. Nakano 100 7. Criville 91 8. CHECA 76 9. Gibernau 68 10. Ukawa 64