Malaysian GP: Race report

MARLBORO YAMAHA RULE TOUGHEST GP OF YEAR Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 rider Max Biaggi won a thrilling Malaysian GP in withering heat and humidity at Sepang this afternoon, coming out ahead of a frantic four-man skirmish with Honda rivals...


Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 rider Max Biaggi won a thrilling Malaysian GP in withering heat and humidity at Sepang this afternoon, coming out ahead of a frantic four-man skirmish with Honda rivals Valentino Rossi, Alex Barros and Tohru Ukawa. Team-mate Carlos Checa had a more difficult day, coming home seventh.

Despite the boiling conditions, with temperatures soaring to 36 degrees and the track surface at 45 degrees, Biaggi's race time bettered last year's Malaysian 500 GP by an astonishing 45 seconds. That lightning-quick pace was further proof of the awesome speed of the new-generation MotoGP four-strokes, and none more so than the ever-improving M1, which had 15kmh more speed this weekend than during winter tests here.

"Max made a great job today," grinned M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda, celebrating the bike's second win. "He now understands the character of the machine, so he can set it up well. During practice and qualifying we worked hard to perfect the spring balance and chassis balance to help the tyres, and also the engine character to make the bikes easier to ride out of the corners. This worked well for Max but not so well for Carlos; he's had a difficult weekend and didn't have so much confidence in the bike."

Biaggi won the M1's first victory in August. The bike has also scored four pole positions.


Max Biaggi's Sepang triumph was a crucial and landmark success for the Marlboro Yamaha Team man. Not only did the victory lift him to second overall, it was also his tenth premier-class GP win, the M1's second success and Italy's 600th. The Italian rode a breathtaking race in what was his 150th consecutive GP start (he hasn't missed a race since the French GP in 1992), completing the first lap in second, then moving past leader Alex Barros just after half distance and staying ahead till the flag. He crossed the line half a second ahead of compatriot Rossi, the trio of RCV riders bumping and barging into each other for much of the race.

"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 difficult of the year," said a beaming but sweat-drenched Biaggi who started from second on the grid. "I managed to stay second after the start, and when I saw Rossi and Ukawa closing on me and Barros, I went ahead and tried to run a good pace. The heat was incredible, and when you see '+0.0' and '+0.2' on your pitboard all race it's very tough and not easy to concentrate. But I like this kind of race - push hard and control. I must say thank you to Michelin who are making great tyres. The four-strokes make much more power than the two-strokes, so of course the rear tyre does spin, but with good traction. I 'd also like to dedicate this win to my team and to Yamaha. They all put in so much effort, even though I won't be with them next year, but I think I've also proved that I don't give up."


Carlos Checa qualified just a fraction of a second off the front row in yesterday's final qualifier but was unable to reproduce that pace over race distance. Sixth after the first lap, the Marlboro Yamaha Team star got up to fifth on lap three but then slipped back, ending the race defending seventh place from Kenny Roberts Junior (Suzuki).

"We weren't able to set up the bike for this track, we lost our way and I've not felt confident all weekend," said Checa, who celebrates his 30th birthday on Tuesday. "I didn't have the grip to keep rolling the bike into the turns and I couldn't open the gas out of the corners, I was almost stopped mid-turn. My team worked hard and we tried many things but now we need to analyse what happened here, maybe we will compare our race data to Max's data."


MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi fought his way into second after a ferocious race to the finish with Alex Barros and Tohru Ukawa, with whom he made contact at least twice. "Our settings weren't perfect," said Rossi after his second successive defeat. "I made some mistakes, like when I tried to overtake Barros and ran wide. But I hope this race helps us to make the bike better for the next races." Barros took third, Ukawa fourth, just 2.2 seconds separating the first four men home.

1. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 44'01.592
2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211v) +0.542
3. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons (RC211v) +1.572
4. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211v) +2.238
5. Daijiro Kato (JPN) Fortuna HONDA Gresini (RC211v) +8.475
6. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 (YZR-M1) +23.000
7. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) +24.360
8. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI (GSV-R) +24.709
9. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) +27.669
10. Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin (YZR500) +41.811

1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) 310
3. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) 182
4. Alex Barros (BRA) 159
6. Norick Abe (JPN) 123
7. Loris Capirossi (ITA) 109
8. Kenny Roberts (USA) 92
9. Daijiro Kato (JPN) 91
10. Olivier Jacque (FRA) 66


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Norifumi Abe , Alex Barros , Tohru Ukawa , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Olivier Jacque