Malaysian GP: Michelin race report

Biaggi wins at Sepang, obliterates race record. Biaggi just beats Rossi and betters Sepang race record by an incredible 45 seconds. This afternoon's Malaysian Grand Prix was MotoGP racing at its very best -- four men battling back and fourth out...

Biaggi wins at Sepang, obliterates race record.
Biaggi just beats Rossi and betters Sepang race record by an incredible 45 seconds.

This afternoon's Malaysian Grand Prix was MotoGP racing at its very best -- four men battling back and fourth out front and the race record demolished in truly breathtaking style. Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) rode magnificently in feroc ious heat to beat arch-rival Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) by a half a second, Alex Barros (West Honda Pons RC211V-Michelin) and Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) crossing the line a close third and fourth.

Biaggi's race time was an incredible 45 seconds quicker than last year's Malaysian 500 GP, won by Rossi, proving that Michelin technology can handle the 200-plus horsepower MotoGP four-strokes in even the most torrid conditions. Sepang is generally acknowledged as the toughest event of the season but Michelin riders totally dominated the 21-lap race, filling the top 11 finishing positions, the first non-Michelin rider coming in 45 seconds behind the winner.

"This was a good weekend for us -- it proved that our four-stroke tyres are at a very good level now, even in such difficult conditions," said Michelin Grand Prix manager Emmanuel Fournier. "All the first three guys chose exactly the same fronts and rears, while Ukawa had a slightly different rear. Daijiro (Kato, Fortuna Honda Gresini RC211V-Michelin) used a different front from his usual favourite, he chose the same front as the other guys but didn't like it so much. And it was a good result for Shin ya (Nakano, Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) in his first race on a four-stroke."

Biaggi was as impressed as ever by his tyres. "Michelin are making very good tyres," he said after his second MotoGP win, which was also his tenth premier-class success and Italy's 600th all-classes GP victory. "The new four-strokes make much more power than the two-strokes but the tyres handle it well. Of course, you get wheelspin from the rear, but always with good traction. When you win it's the best day of your life and I'm very, very happy today because this is a very difficult race, the most d ifficult of the year."

Starting from second on the grid, Biaggi spent the early laps chasing pole-starter Barros, winner of last Sunday's Pacific GP, with Rossi and Ukawa chasing hard after passing Kato. Just after half-distance Barros missed a gear and Biaggi pounced, taking the lead and working hard to open a gap. At one point he had two seconds on his pursuers, who were elbow-to-elbow as they squabbled over second, Rossi suffering at least two collisions. In the final laps Rossi did break clear but couldn't get close enough to launch an attack on first place.

"The heat was incredible," added Biaggi, now second overall in the 2002 MotoGP series. "And when you see '+0.0' and '+0.2' on your pitboard all race it's very tough. But I like this kind of race -- push hard and control."

MotoGP champ Rossi, who had qualified eighth, his worst grid slot of the year, suffered set-up problems similar to last Sunday's Pacific GP when he was beaten by Barros. "My first problem was our settings," said the Italian. "Also, I lost too much time at the beginning when I made some mistakes overtaking Kato and Ukawa. Hopefully we will learn something from today to make things better for the next races."

Barros was happy enough with another podium finish in his second RCV ride, though frustrated at losing vital time while battling with Rossi and Ukawa. "Me and Valentino touched while we were fighting and that helped Max, for sure," he said. "After I dropped to fourth, Ukawa and Rossi were doing the same thing, which helped me close the gap, and when Ukawa made a mistake I got back into third."

Just 1.5 seconds separated the top-three finishers, Ukawa a further 0.7 seconds down and Kato another six seconds back in fifth. Nakano came through from eighth for his second-best result of 2002, passing Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) at two thirds distance. Checa just held onto seventh from Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki GSV-R-Michelin). Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500-Michelin) was top two-stroke finisher in ninth, bettering last year's 500 race tim e by 17 seconds.

-michelin-

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Alex Barros , Tohru Ukawa , Kenny Roberts Jr.
Teams Repsol Honda Team