MARLBORO YAMAHA SECURE SECOND OVERALL
Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 rider Max Biaggi finished a hard-ridden third in today's season-ending Marlboro Valencia Grand Prix to secure second overall in the inaugural four-stroke-based MotoGP World Championship. Team-mate Checa had a less successful day, riding only a few metres before he was taken out of the race in a start-line collision. Although Biaggi's runner-up championship performance was great news for the team, the Italian was a little disappointed with today's race result because he had started the 30-lap event from pole position with every hope of another victory.
"Max couldn't quite make the front-running pace today, we didn't seem to have the advantage we had yesterday," commented M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "But he made sure of second overall, and that was his real aim today. Poor Carlos, it looked like the engine stalled but we've checked the data and haven't found anything wrong or strange. We will make further checks tomorrow, but right now we're just happy he is okay after the collision.
"Looking back over the whole season, I can say that I really appreciate the efforts of both riders, the team and all our engineers. The first few months were tough but we tried hard and got some results, so my thanks to everyone. We aim to continue improving in 2003 when we will go for the best!"
BIAGGI THIRD TODAY, SECOND OVERALL
Max Biaggi had high expectations for this afternoon's race after a devastatingly effective ride to pole position in yesterday's final qualifying session. But the Marlboro Yamaha Team man couldn't run with race leaders Alex Barros (Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Honda), so he had to settle for a lonely ride to third, good enough to secure second overall behind Rossi and ahead of the World Champion's team-mate Tohru Ukawa.
"We couldn't do the lap times today and I don't know why, it was the same in warm-up," explained Biaggi, who completed the first lap in second place. "The other guys passed me and were immediately half a second faster than me, so there was nothing I could do. But I'm very happy to have consolidated second overall, that was my main goal here. Second best isn't a phrase I like because we wanted to be the best, but second in this championship isn't so bad. At the start of this season there was no way we could think of being runners-up, but the bike improved step by step and we won a couple of Grands Prix, so I think this was a great result for me and Yamaha."
CHECA UNHURT IN START-LINE SHUNT
Carlos Checa escaped injury in a nasty start-line shunt at Valencia today. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man, who was starting from the second row after qualifying a close-run fifth quickest yesterday, stalled his YZR-M1 as the pack roared away from the grid. Then, as he rolled forward at walking pace, Jose Luis Cardoso (Yamaha) rammed him at speed, after starting from the back of the grid. Amazingly, neither rider was hurt in the high-speed collision.
"I started as normal, but the revs dropped and I wasn't expecting that," said a bitterly disappointed Checa, who is due to test here on Tuesday. "I went forward a few metres and just stopped. It's a shame to finish the season this way, especially because I thought we had a good chance to do well here."
BARROS BEATS ROSSI AGAIN
Alex Barros won an ultra-tight duel with Valentino Rossi, winning his second race of the year by just 0.594 seconds. "He passed me on the last lap but I braked as late as I dared and kept the lead," said Barros. "I tried 110 per cent," added Rossi. "And when I got inside him I had a chance to win, but he braked ten metres later than normal, so he got back in front."
SEASON-CLOSING COMMENT FROM LIN JARVIS, MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING B.V.
"Today's Valencia GP brings to a close the 2002 MotoGP season and is also our last race with Marlboro, who have been our partner and title sponsor for the last four years.
"Max's third-place finish here gives the Marlboro Yamaha Team second overall in the premier-class riders' World Championship for the second successive year, as well as helping us to second in the inaugural MotoGP Teams' World Championship.
"I would like to take this opportunity to express Yamaha's sincere thanks to Marlboro for having supported our top racing programme. We have enjoyed many unique and rewarding experiences with Marlboro, and we believe that our project has thrilled and entertained millions of race fans around the world. We wish Marlboro all the best in the future and we look forward to maintaining our friendship for years to come.
"Today also marks the end of an era, with the end of the Max Biaggi/Yamaha partnership. Yamaha would like to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for Max's great contribution over the last four seasons, which have seen him achieve two MotoGP victories and six 500 wins, as well as a great run of championship results - fourth, third and twice second.
"Yamaha have the greatest respect for Max's ability as a motorcycle racer and we wish him continued success in the future, albeit as a competitor. Finally I would like to thank every other member of the team, both past and present, for all their tremendous efforts. The Marlboro Yamaha Team has been a special project of which we can all be proud."
An announcement confirming Yamaha's 2003 MotoGP plans is expected tomorrow.