Max masters M1’s first win


Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team) put in a masterful performance in the Czech Republic, on August 25, to score the YZR-M1’s first ever MotoGP World Championship win. The Brno magician backed up his pole position performance on the four-stroke to take the holeshot, and the race win by 2.755 seconds over the ever-improving Daijiro Katoh (Honda) – now four-stroke mounted. Although Biaggi was regularly in the firing line of defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda), the Roman Emperor never faltered and led every lap until the chequered flag.

Misfortune struck Rossi on lap 15, of 22, when his rear tyre came apart and he was forced into the pits. With a new rear tyre fitted Rossi returned to the fray in 18th place only to withdraw a few laps from the finish. This left Tohru Ukawa (Honda) to take third from Sete Gibernau (Suzuki), with Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) completing the four-stroke dominated top five. The Spaniard produced the perfect start, entering turn one behind his teammate in second place, before struggling with set-up difficulties to finish the race 14.029 seconds behind Biaggi.

Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) was the first of the Yamaha YZR500 two-strokes in eighth, followed closely by Alex Barros (Honda) and Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3). After a relatively strong qualifying performance by the Red Bull Yamaha WCM team, Garry McCoy and John Hopkins ended the Brno MotoGP with a 13th and a DNF respectively – the latter withdrawing with a holed radiator.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Max Biaggi 1st:
“This victory means a lot to me, I gave everything I could. That kind of race is very tough, tyre choice is very difficult, so is bike set-up, and then you have to ride to look after the tyres. I rode hard from the start and my pit board told me just how close Rossi was. I was getting signals ‘+0.1’, +0.2’, +0.0’, so they would have overtaken me even if I’d made the tiniest mistake. So I stayed calm and used my brain to choose the right lines and save my tyres.

“When I saw ‘+2.0’ I was dreaming that this could be my first MotoGP victory but I never knew what had happened. I always look in front because I want to stay concentrated, so the only way I know what’s happening behind is from my pit board. I just thought Kato had overtaken Rossi.

“We struggled at the first three races this year but the bike improved and we recovered. It’s never easy, if it was, everyone would have a good bike. So I won this one for everyone in the team, thanks to them.”

Carlos Checa 5th: “We changed the set-up for the warm-up but the results weren’t so clear. So we started the race with a slightly different setting, but I immediately felt that I wouldn’t be able to keep the front-running pace. I think we lost our way with the set-up of the new chassis, we just need to spend more time experimenting with different settings, so tomorrow’s tests will be very useful.”

YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda: “I’m very happy, for sure. One year ago here Max crashed, so this is like a revenge for us. I’d like to thank Max and everyone else at Yamaha and in the team they have all worked so, so hard these past few months.

We’ve made many improvements to the M1 since the start of the season, but the most significant have been these: engine-management system for better throttle-to-tyre connection, engine-braking system for better corner entry, and a chassis with more front-end performance, for better turn-in. Now we will keep working because we want to take more victories and go for next year’s MotoGP title.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 8th:
“I had some problems with the front sliding, but this was only after mid-race distance, around seven or eight laps in. But the start was great; I think on the first lap I was already eighth behind Kenny, which was so good considering. I followed him for a while and he was not so bad, but then I decided to make the pass and try for McWilliams. That’s when the front started to slide and I just couldn’t close the gap any further. If I tried any harder I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it to the end. I think today was enough.”

Pere Riba DNS: “After this morning’s warm-up I had a think about it, the leg and the situation, how far behind I was with my times, and I decided that it was better not to race. If I crashed in the race then it would only set me back further, and it would be for nothing, so I thought it was better to rest and see how things go for Estoril.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Olivier Jacque 10th:
“That was a difficult race. The handling of the bike was not so good, especially on the exit of the turns, while I was trying to get the power down, which made it difficult to keep my pace up. Near the end the bike started to feel better and my times improved, but it just wasn’t enough to make up what I had already lost.”

Shinya Nakano DNF: “I was hit from behind twice on that opening lap. The first time was into turn one, which pushed me wide and I lost a few places, the second unsettled the bike while I was entering the left-hander and I crashed. What can I say, other than I’m disappointed?”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
Garry McCoy 13th:
“I managed to get off the line really well but between turn one and turn two there was a lot of fairing bashing going on and it forced me wide, which let everyone by. It then happened again, and by the end of the first lap I’d gone from fourth to 16th. It just shows you’ve really got to get a good start to stay in with a chance. Once I got through that I thought I just try and make some headway. This was the best I could do today.”

John Hopkins DNF: “I got off the line well, and I was up there on the first few corners when Ukawa ran wide and showered me in rocks from the edge of the track. They hit my screen, which cracked, and my helmet too. And after a little while I notice water on the inside of the fairing. Soon after that I found my rhythm and started to improve my times when the bike lost power, forcing me out of the race. It turns out one of the rocks had also gone through the radiator and that caused one of the cylinders to seize up.”