Mugello produces M1’s best finish


The fifth round of the 2002 MotoGP World Championship, held at the Italian Mugello circuit on June 2, started and finished as an all four-stroke affair… and as it turns out Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team) and defending champion Valentino Rossi also turned it into an Italian civil war. Up until three quarters race distance less than a second covered the top four, which also included Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) and Tohru Ukawa (Honda), but at the wave of the chequered flag it was Rossi who crossed the line first to take an impressive home win.

After the paint swapping action of the first few laps Rossi, who was leading the race at the time, came under the attack from both YZR-M1’s. Biaggi then positioned himself to take charge of the Italian race on lap seven when he slipstreamed past the Honda at 322kmh, to record the highest top speed of the race. The Roman Emperor held his place for another six laps, until lap 13, when Rossi made his move. Biaggi dug deep and kept the pressure on the championship leader; finishing with his highest result of the year – 2.404 seconds behind Rossi.

After a stream of bad luck during qualifying, Checa, who was as high as second during the early stages of the race, put in a valiant effort to finish the day fourth – one tenth of a second behind Ukawa. This left the nearest two-stroke, Alex Barros (Honda), crossing the line four seconds further back. Meanwhile, in typical Norick Abe fashion, he made up for a poor qualifier, which saw him back in 19th position, leaping the Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin YZR500 into the leading pack to finish the Italian MotoGP seventh behind Loris Capirossi (Honda).

After a strong final qualifier Frenchman Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3) recovered from early grip problems to ride through to a creditable ninth, two places ahead of his teammate Shinya Nakano – who made up for a first lap excursion to finish 11th.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Max Biaggi 2nd:
“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. 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.”

Carlos Checa 4th: “We had some problems in practice, which lost us valuable time in preparing for the race. 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.”

YZR-M1 Project Leader, Ichiro Yoda: “We’ve taken another step forward. 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 Yamaha and Honda is in 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 race.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 6th:
“I made a great start to the race; I was up as high as fifth entering the first turn but the I was boxed in and I couldn’t get onto the right line. Because of this at least four or five bikes passed me into the next turn and I had to make it all up again. At first the tyre didn’t seem to provide the grip that I was hoping for, and then as the race wore on it improved and I was able to start pushing quite hard. I passed Laconi, but that took some time because his bike is so fast on the straights, yet it’s slow in the corners. As soon as that thing stands up it’s like Laconi says, ‘ bye, bye’ and disappears into the distance.

“But what was tougher than the race was trying to get through the crowd on the cool down lap. Around 100 spectators stopped me at the back of the track and one of them tried to take my helmet. I was actually forced off my bike, which fell over and broke the footpeg. I was lucky to get back to the pits. But at the end of the day 19th to seventh is nothing to complain about.”

Pere Riba DNF: “What can I say after only making one lap? I tried very hard not to lose touch with the pack and I crashed. It’s not a great way to end a weekend, but I am looking forward to our Assen test next week, just so that I can get some much needed track time.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tec 3
Olivier Jacque 9th:
“I got off the line ok, but then I had to shut off the power to avoid running into the back of another rider. When I got back on the power everyone had gone. I tried to make up for the start but I was lacking the grip until later in the race, at which stage there was quite a gap to the leaders. In the end I was able to go faster but it wasn’t enough.”

Shinya Nakano 11th: “My start began ok, but I think I slipped the clutch a little too much off the line and I lost a little time. Then at turn 10 I tried a little too hard to make up some distance and overdid it. I ran off the track and came back on the track last! My lap times were consistent and I felt comfortable after that, which is why I was able to work my way through the field to finish 11th, but that first mistake cost me.”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
John Hopkins 12th:
“I thought the race was going to be a challenge, but surviving that last lap with all those spectators, as I crossed the line, was scary – I nearly hit one! I got off to a good start, but I got squeezed out pretty early on and it took a while to get up to speed. I saw a few crashes but I focused on getting into the top ten. I made a few passes on the brakes entering turn one and felt like I was progressing well. But I made the mistake of making a mistake on the final lap and lost touch with Shinya and had to settle for 12th.”

Jean-Michel Bayle 13th: “I felt good from the beginning but my left arm started to pump up and it made it difficult through the chicanes to keep up the momentum. As for the softer Dunlop I was using, it performed better than I expected it would over race distance. The racing environment is the perfect place to discover things like that, which is what I’m here for.”