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Randy Mamola talks about the Grand Prix of Japan

Randy Mamola talks about the Grand Prix of Japan

As a former grand prix rider what I saw at Suzuka was a very close fightwith numerous overtaking manoeuvres in a very clean professional way butthen the incident between Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi went two stepsfurther than we´d witnessed previously.

It was a case of trying to run somebody off the race track. It´s one thing closing the door on somebody to protect your line but it´s another thing to run somebody off the track. Atnormal speed it was very difficult to see what happened as they came downthe start and finish straight. When it was shown again in slow motion itappeared to me that Max lifted his bike up and moved towards the outsidewhen he saw that Valentino had a run going. When he did that, they weregoing to touch and to avoid locking handlebars Max put his elbow out toprotect himself, which made it look even worse. I´m a friend of Max but Ihave to report what I saw. Max was very aggressive in the race in terms ofbeing over protective of his position on the race track. Other riders wereequally aggressive and riding fairly. What Max did in that particularincident I considered to be unsportsmanlike.

One lap later Valentino moved Max out of the way but he did not run him offthe race track. He cut in front of him drastically to show Max that two canplay that game. They both handled the press conference after the race by playing theincident down but afterwards the words were a lot stronger. Max came toRossi and asked him what he was trying to do and that they could carry thison elsewhere.

This has to stop. It´s one thing to play things up in the press but whenother peoples lives are at risk it´s a very different situation. If Rossihad crashed he could have brought down a lot of other riders at 140mph.There was a whole bunch of things going on in that race but you feltanything was wrong or that was a bit cheeky until Max was involved withUkawa, McCoy and then Rossi. For some reason Max was riding veryaggressively and protectively.

Like everybody else I want the Max Biaggi/ Valentino Rossi rivalry tocontinue but I asked both riders to please keep it clean. You could not have asked for a better opening race at the start of theseason. All weekend there was a tension in the air of nervousness and notjust from the riders and the teams.The quality of the field in the 500ccclass has so much depth to it and it´s easily the strongest field I´veknown since 1979 when I was first involved in the championship. The buildup to the race through practice and qualifying was electric and I hope meand my fellow Eurosport commentators were able to convey this to you.

The hard part of writing the column today is that so much went onthroughout the weekend and in particular the 500cc race. There was so muchgoing on you could almost write a book about it.

What a great qualify session for West, the new sponsor of the Pons Hondateam and their people at the circuit were over the moon at the pole settingperformance of Loris Capirossi. While everybody was looking at Valentinoand Max it was Loris who came out and shattered the lap record and what ashame he had such a problem with his rear tyre in the race.

Of course the man of race day was Valentino Rossi but even when he wasleading, the race was exciting working out who was going to finish on thepodium. Valentino started from the second row and I think he was aroundtenth by the time they reached the hairpin and eighth at the end of thefirst lap. He really had to fight his way into the lead and made it workfor him with a clear track in front of him. The guys behind slowedthemselves down dicing with each other and he built up a three second lead and held the gap. While Rossi was doing all that you had Tohru Ukawagoing forward and backwards, Garry McCoy who eventually finished second lead the race and then dropped back but only one second back from theleader and Shinya Nakano who led the race in the early stages.

500cc, 2001

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