Australian Grand Prix, Phillip Island
Race Day, Sunday October 14 2001
MARLBORO YAMAHA BLOW HOT & COLD ON WINDY ISLAND
Marlboro Yamaha Team men Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa had vividly contrasting days at Phillip Island today, finishing second and 16th in another breathtaking Australian GP. Biaggi was one of the stars of a massive battle for victory while Checa struggled with a mystery problem in bright but blustery conditions.
"We didn't win but it was so close," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "Max did a great job, but most of all I'm happy he didn't crash, that's my first priority at the moment. His bike looked not so bad and he had a good run. Now we go to Sepang where we'll try again to win. We are studying what was wrong with Carlos' bike. We were trying a slight change of direction with his set-up but that worked well in practice and we didn't change anything for the race."
The pair both rode milestone races today, Biaggi contesting his 60th 500 GP (he rode his first 500 race at Suzuka '98) and Checa riding his 90th 500 GP (he made his 500 GP debut at Donington '95).
BIAGGI SECOND BY 0.013 SECONDS
Max Biaggi came within one hundredth of a second of winning his fourth GP of 2001 today. Starting from pole position the Marlboro Yamaha Team star was engaged in a thrilling high-speed brawl with up to five other riders. He led on three occasions, making a big break on lap 18, only to almost fall at the 200kmh turn one, losing the 0.467 second advantage he'd fought so hard to gain. Valentino Rossi (Honda) came by a few laps later only for Biaggi to retake the lead with three laps to go. On the final lap Rossi came by again and though Biaggi tried to draft past on the run to the finish line, he missed out by a fraction.
"I tried everything and I think I can be proud of that race, I was on the limit from the first lap to the last," said Biaggi who won a similarly frantic battle here last year. "I was trying for the best result because even if the title was pretty much over, a real fighter doesn't give in until it is over. When I got the lead for the second time I tried to do a few very fast laps to break away, but I came so close to falling at turn one. I had a big front slide with smoke coming from the tyre!
"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!"
MYSTIFIED CHECA 16TH
Carlos Checa started this afternoon's Australian GP from the second row of the grid and confident of a strong ride amongst the leading pack. But things didn't turn out that way for the Marlboro Yamaha Team man. From the very earliest stages he struggled with feedback from the rear of his YZR500 and was consigned to battling for the final world point with outgoing World Champion Kenny Roberts (Suzuki).
"I don't know what happened, but I wasn't getting any feedback from the rear, and it wasn't just the tyre," said the Spaniard. "I was running wide into the corners and couldn't open the gas on the way out. I tried all the way to the finish but there was no way I could race properly. The conditions changed for the race but not that much, so we must check to find out exactly what happened."
ROSSI WINS FOR CROWN
Valentino Rossi won today's race to secure his first 500 World Championship, adding it to the 125 and 250 titles he took in 1997 and '99. The 22-year old led the first and last laps and was always in the leading throng of riders. "I didn't think about the championship, just about the race," said Rossi, who also won the '98 and '99 250 GPs here. "Six or seven riders fighting around this fantastic track must have made a great show for the fans. I think the early laps were a bit dangerous because Barros and Haga were so aggressive, I was keeping one eye on them, one on the track. I feel good about the race and emotional about the championship, though it hasn't really sunk in yet. We haven't even organised a party yet, but maybe we will now."
CAPIROSSI COMPLETES ITALIAN PODIUM
Loris Capirossi (Honda) took a hard-fought third, a fraction down on Biaggi, to complete the second successive all-Italian Australian GP podium. Capirossi came from 11th on lap one to lead lap 19, then regrouped before his final push. "The bike wasn't good on a full tank, but I started pushing hard after five or six laps," he said. "When I got the front I'd already used most of my rear tyre so I took my time before attacking again." Team-mate Alex Barros took fourth, just 0.714 seconds behind the winner.
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 42'22.383
2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team +0.013
3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons +0.581
4. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons +0.714
5. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol YPF HONDA Team +1.288
6. Olivier Jacque (FRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 +2.534
7. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 +2.579
8. Noriyuki Haga (JPN) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM +2.582
9. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI +2.832
10. Jurgen vd Goorbergh (NED) PROTON Team KR +19.443
16. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team +30.023
1. Valentino Rossi 275
2. MAX BIAGGI 203
3. Loris Capirossi 179
4. Alex Barros 160
5. Shinya Nakano 135
6. Norick Abe 124
7. CARLOS CHECA 111
8. Sete Gibernau 107
9. Alex Criville 101
10. Kenny Roberts 97