Italian GP: Yamaha Team race report

MARLBORO YAMAHA M1's BEST RESULT YET Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa rode to second- and fourth-place finishes at red-hot Mugello this afternoon, the team's best result of the new MotoGP era. Biaggi led the race for six...

MARLBORO YAMAHA M1's BEST RESULT YET

Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa rode to second- and fourth-place finishes at red-hot Mugello this afternoon, the team's best result of the new MotoGP era. Biaggi led the race for six laps and Checa missed the podium by just 0.119 seconds, proving that Yamaha's latest improvements for the M1 are working very well. Biaggi and Checa had new chassis and seat/tank units here, allowing them both to qualify in the top three for the second race in a row.

"We've taken another step forward," said YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "We got third in France and now we're able to fight with both Honda four-strokes. Watching the race on TV, it looked like the difference between us and Honda is acceleration, so our next step will be to work at improving engine performance. Also, Carlos' bike didn't seem quite as fast as it should've been today, so we're checking his machine. Like Max, he rode a great race, especially since he didn't have so much time to set up his number-one bike. Next week we test at Valencia, where we'll work to get the best out of the new chassis and hopefully get an even better result at the next races."

The Marlboro Yamaha Team tests in Spain next Thursday and Friday.

BIAGGI LEADS ITALIAN GP, FINISHES CLOSE SECOND

Watched by 65,000 mad-keen fans, Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Max Biaggi led six laps of today's Italian GP, eventually finishing the race in second, just 2.4 seconds behind arch-rival Valentino Rossi (Honda), his best-ever four-stroke MotoGP result. The pair were together for much of the 23 laps, hounding each other around the sun-baked, high-speed Mugello circuit, until Rossi upped the pace in the final stages.

"Second isn't first but I'm totally satisfied because I did my best today and because we weren't so far away from winning," said Biaggi, who started the race from second on the grid, his best-ever M1 qualifying performance. "I'd like to thank Yamaha for recovering so well after the first few races. We got a new chassis that works a little better than the last one, so now we can start making some more improvements. This morning we tried a different geometry set-up in warm-up but went back to the older, safer set-up for the race. I started well, but when Rossi was behind me, I felt like he was just waiting."

Biaggi also set the second fastest lap of the race, behind third-finisher Tohru Ukawa (Honda) and his M1 was the second fastest bike at Mugello, clocking 322.8kmh (200.6mph).

CHECA MISSES PODIUM BY A FRACTION

Carlos Checa rode an utterly determined race to fourth place this afternoon, crossing the line just a few metres behind Tohru Ukawa. But the Marlboro Yamaha Team man's result could've been better if his bike hadn't lost a touch of speed which made it difficult for him to better his Japanese rival, who was riding the fastest machine in the race. Quickest in qualifying on Friday, luckless Checa's problems began yesterday when his number-one bike, running the impressive new chassis, suffered a glitch during final qualifying.

"We had some problems in practice which lost us valuable time in preparing for the race," said Checa. "I got away well and managed to pass Max and Ukawa a few times but in the end I couldn't stay with them. I tried hard to find a way back past Ukawa on the final lap but just couldn't do it. After the flag at the end of the start-finish straight there were a lot of people already on the track which was very dangerous as we were still doing over 300kmh; for sure the organisers must work on this problem. Now we go testing at Valencia, where we will work at finding the best settings for the new chassis and resolving the problems we had here."

ROSSI MAKES IT AN ALL-ITALIAN DAY

MotoGP leader Valentino Rossi won his first premier-class Italian GP today, following winning performances from compatriots Manuel Poggiali (125) and Marco Melandri (250). Rossi bounced back from a tumble in warm-up to score his fourth victory of the year. "I made a mistake this morning, which put me under some pressure, so I tried to ride the bike more sweetly for the race," he said. "I pushed from the start but couldn't break away, so I waited, tried again and it was okay. It's a good emotion to win at home."

<pre> RESULTS 1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211V) 43'40.837 2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) +2.404 3. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211V) +11.289 4. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) +11.408 5. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) +15.371 6. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) +20.010 7. Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin (YZR500) +26.447 8. Regis Laconi (FRA) MS APRILIA Racing (RSV3) +30.333 9. Olivier Jacque (FRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 (YZR500) +30.428 10. Tetsuya Harada (JPN) Pramac HONDA Racing Team (NSR500) +30.759

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) 120 2. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) 77 3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) 55 4. Norick Abe (JPN) 52 5. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) 43 6. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) 40 7. Alex Barros (BRA) 40 8. Daijiro Kato (JPN) 39 9. Nobuatsu Aoki (JPN) 28 10. Regis Laconi (FRA) 26

-myt-

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Norifumi Abe , Alex Barros , Tohru Ukawa , Tetsuya Harada , Olivier Jacque , Nobuatsu Aoki , Marco Melandri , Manuel Poggiali , Laconi Régis