Max mounts the podium


After leading the first leg of a two-part rain-effected Italian MotoGP 500 race Marlboro Yamaha rider Max Biaggi ended up third overall, based on the aggregate race time for the fifth round of the world championship –held at Mugello, June 1-3. The Italian lead the final five laps of the dry seven lap opening leg, building a half a second buffer over the competition which proved beneficial for the full wet 16 lap re-start.

Biaggi repeated his first start and took the early race lead before eventual race winner (based on aggregate times) Alex Barros (Honda) slipped by to lead his teammate Loris Capirossi to a one-two finish. Although on the track Biaggi slipped back through the field, he never relinquished second place on the time sheets until the eighth lap of the second leg. Biaggi now sits second in the championship, 21 points behind Rossi (91pts).

Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) put in an astounding performance in the wet to challenge the two lead Honda riders (on the time sheets) in the dying moments of the race, but the championship number four lost the front of his YZR500 when he hit a puddle at the apex of the chicane three laps from race end. He was leading the race at the time and remounted to claim seven points by finishing ninth on the day.

He wasn’t alone, the terrible conditions claiming its fair share of victims. The tally was seven, including Valentino Rossi (Honda) and Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) - the former crashing twice; once on the warm-up lap and the second time he repeated Abe’s mistake on the final lap.

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3 rider Shinya Nakano, and Noriyuki Haga (Red Bull Yamaha) played it safe in their first wet 500 race to claim eight and tenth overall respectively. Meanwhile Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) was forced to retire from the re-start due to a slipping clutch.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Max Biaggi 3rd: “I was a bit surprised to find I was third. It was such a hard race. If you were behind someone you just can’t see a thing and it forced you to brake instinctively. And I was getting wheel spin even in sixth, just like everyone 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 (Alex) Criville and Rossi came by. They were going very fast and then Rossi crashed in the same spot I’d lost the front the lap before. It was so difficult that I was happy with third, for the team and the championship.”

Carlos Checa DNF: “I could already feel I had a problem on the warm-up lap and the clutch was slipping straight after the start. 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.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Shinya Nakano 8th: “It was my first wet race on a 500 and there was a lot to learn. Not only did we have to guess the setup for the wet I also haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to do a wet start on such a powerful bike. This was my biggest problem in the race, I was just wheel-spinning off the line. Then for the first few laps I didn’t really know how hard I could push. Hervé told me to simply treat this as a test rather than a race so I was very surprised to see I was eighth in the end.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 9th: “It sounds strange, because I crashed when I could have won the race, but I still feel I rode really well today. Where I lost the front I’d braked in exactly the same place as I had every lap before, but that time it just let go so quickly I didn’t have time to catch it. I’m sure I hit a puddle or something but it was still my mistake.”

José Luis Cardoso 11th: “It was my first ride on the V-four in the wet and I found I had to be smoother than on the bike I rode last year. It meant I had to get a rhythm and not be too aggressive. It was also a little difficult to get a perfect setup because we had no base setting for the wet, so we just made everything softer.
“The first part I had a good start and my plan was to stay with the second group but they’re still just a little too fast for me.”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
Noriyuki Haga 10th: “During the first leg I had some rear chatter coming through the bike, but as the laps wore on it improved and I was feeling really good just as the rain began. For the wet race I jumped on the second bike, but since I’d never raced in the wet on a 500 before it was a little hard to chose the right suspension settings.
“I had a good start in the second leg, and for a while I was fifth. I found the front offered good grip but I was struggling a little with the rear, and that’s why I couldn’t stay with them. Given the conditions, and my lack of experience I am happy with the result.”