Phillip Island Michelin race report

Rossi beats Biaggi and Capirossi by a fraction to win his first 500 World Championship Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) couldn't have chosen a better way to win his first 500 World Championship than the way he won today's stunning...

Rossi beats Biaggi and Capirossi by a fraction to win his first 500 World Championship Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) couldn't have chosen a better way to win his first 500 World Championship than the way he won today's stunning Australian GP. The dazzling young Italian took a hairbreadth victory after a relentless 27-lap battle with up to five other riders around the superb Phillip Island circuit. Rossi only needed to finish eighth to secure the title but he'd already said that he didn't think that was the way to win a World Championship. Instead he played a starring role in the best race of an enthralling year, giving and getting no quarter as he battled with Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin), Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons- Michelin), Alex Barros (West Honda Pons-Michelin), Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3-Michelin) and Noriyuki Haga (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin). He timed his winning move to perfection, out-braking Biaggi into the low-speed MG turn with 500 metres to go, and though his arch-rival tried to out-draft him to the finish line, Rossi won the race by 0.013 seconds. Behind Biaggi came Capirossi and Barros, the top four covered by just 0.714 seconds, and all using the same hard 17in front/medium 16.5in rear Michelin compounds. Even more impressive, and a testament to the intensity of today's battle, just 2.832 seconds separated the top nine finishers! "That was a fun race and I think it must've been a great show for the fans," said a tired but happy Rossi. "I didn't think about the championship, I just concentrated on the race, because trying to finish eighth would've been more risky. Haga and Barros were so aggressive during the early laps, so I was keeping one eye on them and one on the track. Then when the tyres started wearing, Loris and Biaggi arrived. Everyone was pushing so hard and getting some wheelspin, so I worked at saving my tyres, and at the end my tyres were in good shape. I had one place to overtake Biaggi and it worked okay." Michelin Grand Prix manager Jacques Morelli was one of the first men to congratulate Rossi, surely one of the most popular World Champions in racing history. "He's a great rider," said Morelli. "His secret is that he always gives his maximum and can adapt his style to whatever his bike is doing. The pace has increased a lot this year, because our 16.5in gives better race-long grip, but also because of Rossi's speed. You could see that today ­ the race got faster as soon as he was in the lead. He adapted to 500s very quickly last year, maybe because he didn't stay in 250s too long and get `250 habits'. Also, he quickly understood the advantages of our 16.5 and stuck with that tyre, rather than swapping back and forth like some riders." Biaggi, who had already congratulated Rossi on the title at Motegi last weekend, was happy with his ride to second. "I was on the limit from the first lap to the last," said Biaggi who won a similarly hectic 2000 Australian GP. "When Rossi got me the last time, I tried to use more corner speed through the last turn so I could overtake him on the line but I couldn't quite do it. The race was fantastic to watch when I wasn't in the lead ­ riders taking each others' lines, touching each other, and lots of smoke. Dangerous, but graceful!" Capirossi, completing an all-Italian podium at Phillip Island for the second year in a row, did well to take third after a slow start. "The front end of the bike didn't feel so good on a full tank, so it was a while before I started pushing hard," he said. "By the time I arrived with the leaders I had used a lot of my rear tyre, because I'd been trying to catch up, so I waited to attack again in the final laps." Barros ended the race just over a tenth behind his team-mate and half a second ahead of Tohru Ukawa (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin), who came through from 12th on lap one. Jacque had his best-ever 500 ride, running in the top three and finishing sixth, a second down on Ukawa and just a fraction ahead of Shinya Nakano (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3-Michelin), Haga and Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin).

-michelinsport.com-

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Alex Barros , Tohru Ukawa , Sete Gibernau , Shinya Nakano , Noriyuki Haga , Olivier Jacque , Phillip Island