CZECH GRAND PRIX, BRNO Race Day, Sunday August 26 2001 Valentino Rossi extends series lead after arch-rival Max Biaggi tumbles out of Czech GP World Championship rivals Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) and Max Biaggi (Marlboro ...
CZECH GRAND PRIX, BRNO
Race Day, Sunday August 26 2001
Valentino Rossi extends series lead after arch-rival Max Biaggi tumbles out of Czech GP World Championship rivals Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) and Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) were playing out their most crucial duel of the year at Brno today, until race-leader Biaggi slid off just after half-distance. The
Roman Emperor's exit from this vital confrontation gives `Doctor' Rossi a burgeoning 29-point lead with six rounds to go in the last-ever 500 series. The race was a thriller, with Biaggi starting from pole and taking the lead from Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin) on lap two while Rossi followed through to shadow his arch-rival lap after lap.
Despite withering 34-degree heat, the pair broke the Brno lap record time and again, Rossi's race time an incredible 30 seconds faster than last year's, when Biaggi won at a canter. Incredibly Biaggi also beat his own 2000 race time, after remounting to finish tenth.
Michelin Grand Prix manager Jacques Morelli attributed the massive increase in performance to the company's 16.5in rear tyre. At the start of last year most riders ran Michelin's 17in rear but the 16.5 offers a larger contact patch for more grip, cooler running and extended life, which allows riders to push hard all the way to the chequered flag. Already this year several races have been 20 to 30 seconds faster than in 2000.
"This tyre makes a big difference at the end of races, we often see riders setting their fastest laps in the last few laps, and that's something that didn't used to happen in 500s," said Morelli. "That was a great race, it's a shame for the championship that Max fell, but I'm sure we can expect some more battles before the season is over."
Rossi was fully aware of the significance of his sixth win of 2001. "This win is very important for the World Championship," said the former 125 and 250 champ who aims to become only the second man in history to win the triple crown. "The race was very difficult because Max was pushing so hard. The toughest part for me was the early laps when I was already a second down. I had to take a few risks to make sure that Max didn't get away, because that's the way he likes to win races. Once I had closed the gap my plan was to wait for the last four or five laps, when the tyres slide a little but still give me enough confidence to attack."
Biaggi was distraught with his first crash of the year. His win at last month's German GP had closed the gap to just ten points and he'd been looking to really put the pressure on Rossi at Brno, where he had won six of his previous seven races. "At least I managed to get the bike going to score a few points," he said. "I was pushing so hard and there's always an element of risk when you're riding on the limit. Now I want to keep looking forward and focus on getting up front again."
Rossi led a Honda one-two-three, 3.374 seconds ahead of duelling NSR rivals Alex Crivillé (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin) and Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons-Michelin). All three men chose hard compound Michelin 17in fronts and hard compound Michelin 16.5in rears to cope with a soaring track temperature of 46 degrees.
Crivillé, who missed the German GP after two big crashes, showed a superb return to form, scoring his best result since he won the French GP in May 2000. He beat off a determined last-lap attack from Capirossi who had been as low as eighth in the early stages. Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha-D'Antin-Michelin) ran in second place for eight laps after Biaggi's crash but finished fourth, three tenths of a second off the podium.
Tohru Ukawa (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin) rode an inspired race, coming through from 11th on lap one and 13th on the grid. He snatched fifth after an entertaining battle with sixth-finisher Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin). Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) was a further three seconds down in seventh, well clear of fellow Spaniard Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin). Gibernau's team-mate Roberts withdrew from the race.