Monsoon conditions dominated today's two-part Italian GP, Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Max Biaggi riding the storm to take a crucial third-place finish. In a day of high drama at Mugello, team-mate Carlos Checa was not so lucky, exiting the race...
Monsoon conditions dominated today's two-part Italian GP, Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Max Biaggi riding the storm to take a crucial third-place finish. In a day of high drama at Mugello, team-mate Carlos Checa was not so lucky, exiting the race with clutch-slip problems.
The fifth round of the 2001 World Championship was the most testing of days for Biaggi, Checa and their rivals. The race got underway over an hour late, after rain had delayed the 125s and 250s, and was turning into a classic confrontation as Biaggi fought with Brazilian Alex Barros (Honda) and fellow Italians Valentino Rossi (Honda) and Loris Capirossi (Honda). But then the rain came, the race was red-flagged and started again on a soaking track, with results counting on aggregate. Minutes after careering around on slicks, the riders were racing around in a monsoon, their rain tyres kicking up bow waves as they sped past the pits.
Once again, Biaggi was in the leading group but he lost ground as the rain intensified in the closing stages, by which time the conditions had already claimed a number of victims. But there were to be more crashes -- on-the-road leader Norick Abe (Yamaha) fell with three laps to go and a lap later World Champion Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) also went down. With one lap left Rossi and Alex Criville (Honda) passed Biaggi but Rossi was pushing too hard and crashed out on the last-but-one turn, putting Biaggi back into third on corrected time.
"There's nothing you can do about the weather," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "Max did a great job, riding really well in the dry and getting a podium at the end of the day. Riding a 500 in such conditions is never easy. We had some problems in the wet last year but this year's bike definitely works better on wet tracks. I feel very sorry for Carlos and I hope he can get a good result at Barcelona."
The Marlboro Catalan GP happens on June 17, when Yamaha's YZR-M1 four-stroke GP bike makes its public debut, tester Norihiko Fujiwara riding several exhibition laps on race-day morning. Biaggi and Checa will also stay on after the GP to test both their YZR500s and the YZR-M1.
BIAGGI STAYS COOL TO GRAB THIRD
Max Biaggi kept his head in the most atrocious conditions today to take a fine third place and lift himself to second in the World Championship, 21 points behind Valentino Rossi. Biaggi led in the dry and then led the early stages of the second 'leg' on aggregate. He later slipped to fourth but stayed on while others fell down to claim his third podium of the year.
"I was a bit surprised to find I was third," said Biaggi who was fifth on the road. "It was such a hard race -- if you were behind someone you couldn't see a thing, you had to brake by memory. And I was getting wheelspin even in sixth, just like everyone else, I'm sure. I had two big moments as the rain got heavier, losing the front the first time and then the rear, which is when Criville and Rossi came by. They were going very fast, then Rossi crashed where I'd lost the front the lap before. It was so difficult that I'm happy enough with third, it's good for the team and for the championship."
CHECA EXITS PART TWO
Carlos Checa withdrew soon after the restart, suffering clutch-slip problems with his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR500. The Spaniard had been moving forward in the dry after a steady start but his hopes of following his second-place finish at the French GP with another good result were dashed.
"I could already feel I had a problem on the warm-up lap and the clutch was slipping straight after the start," he said. "There was nothing I could do but pull in. It's a shame because I felt confident racing in the wet, I had good tyres, but in the end that meant nothing. I just hope the weather is better at Barcelona."
Alex Barros scored his first win of the year today, triumphing at the end of a long and gruelling afternoon. "It was so difficult to go into the wet race with no wet practice," he said. "I had to take some risks and it got worse as the race went on, as the rain got heavier and everyone started pushing harder. This win has come at a good moment, this is the first GP at which I've felt comfortable all year." Loris Capirossi took second to complete a one-two for Sito Pons' team.
ROSSI FALLS TWICE
Valentino Rossi crashed twice today, once on the warm-up lap before the restart and then again on the final lap just after he'd taken second on aggregate time. "I couldn't see much in the rain, including my pit board, so I didn't know where I was," he said. "I just kept pushing and pushing."
<pre> RESULTS 1. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 49'26.006 2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons +8.359 3. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team +8.509 4. Alex Criville (SPA) Repsol YPF HONDA Team +8.996 5. Haruchika Aoki (JPN) Arie Molenaar Racing HONDA +20.651 6. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI +24.723 7. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol YPF HONDA Team +27.745 8. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 +32.768 9. Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin +51.357 10. Noriyuki Haga (JPN) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM +1'08.505 11. Jose Luis Cardoso (SPA) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin +1'18.026 12. Jurgen vd Goorbergh (NED) Proton Team KR +1'49.333 13. Mark Willis (AUS) PULSE GP 1 lap.
CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team RETIRED
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 1. Valentino Rossi 91 2. MAX BIAGGI 70 3. Loris Capirossi 65 4. Norick Abe 64 5. Alex Barros 60 6. Alex Criville 57 7. Shinya Nakano 50 8. Kenny Roberts 37 9. Tohru Ukawa 36 10. Sete Gibernaus 29 11.CARLOS CHECA 28