Biaggi and Checa one-two keeps Rossi in third at red-hot Le Mans Grand Prix Mighty Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) put himself right back in the title hunt with a superb win at Le Mans this afternoon, World Championship leader ...
Biaggi and Checa one-two keeps Rossi in third at red-hot Le Mans Grand Prix
Mighty Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) put himself right back in the title hunt with a superb win at Le Mans this afternoon, World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) coming in third behind Biaggi's back-on-form team-mate Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin).
After difficult GPs in South Africa and Spain, Biaggi was in unstoppable form all weekend, scorching to pole position yesterday and running away out front today, despite making a couple of mistakes in the early stages. Lap and race records once again tumbled, the Italian star 16 seconds faster than last year's French GP and over a tenth inside Rossi's 2000 record. Riders and teams largely attribute this year's increase in pace to ongoing improvements in Michelin tyre technology. All four GPs so far have been way faster than last year's, up to 35 seconds in one case!
"The team did a great job, both for me and for Carlos," said a delighted Biaggi. "The biggest help for us was the tests we did at Mugello last week. We tried another chassis configuration and it felt better right away. We have also changed direction on tyres, going more in the 16.5 direction and that has helped us focus, rather than sometimes swapping between the 16.5 and 17."
Biaggi's combination of soft front and medium hard rear Michelins proved ideal for the 30-degree track temperature. He was on the pace from the very start, shadowing reigning World Champion Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin) before moving ahead on lap five. But two laps later he got a downshift wrong and ran off the track, fighting his way back into the lead ten laps later. "After the bad starts I had in South Africa and Spain I got away well and was able to fight for victory from the start, which made me very happy," he added.
Checa, who chose the same tyre combination as his team-mate, tried as hard as he could to stay with the former 250 king but during the later stages he became more concerned with defending second from the looming Rossi.
"I had a bad start to the season but I think this shows I'm back," said Checa, who missed the South African GP following an off-track crash and suffered another heavy tumble during Spanish GP qualifying. "We worked very hard this weekend and I think we're out of the bad times, we can see the light again. I led for a while but Max's pace was too fast for me. I tried to follow him, then my pit board told me Rossi was coming. I never relaxed for a single lap."
Winner of the first three GPs of 2001, Rossi finally proved that he is only human, finishing third after a muffed getaway. Eighth on lap one, the Italian took a while to come through, moving into third with 11 laps to go. He had chosen a harder rear than his rivals and suffered wheelspin until the tyre came on song.
"I couldn't get on the throttle as hard as I wanted to," he explained. "I had to work hard to overtake a lot of riders and by the time I was third, Checa was four or five seconds ahead. I was on the limit but he rode well and I couldn't get close enough to attack. But third is okay today, I still lead the championship."
Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha-D'Antin-Michelin) rode a brilliant race, coming through from 11th to take fourth from last year's winner Alex Crivillé (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin). Roberts slipped down the order to finish sixth, his best finish of the year and well ahead of Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons-Michelin). Noriyuki Haga (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) and Tohru Ukawa (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin) crashed out while going well. Friday provisional pole sitter Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) missed round four of the 2001 series after breaking a wrist when he crashed yesterday