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Memories of `98 as Biaggi returns to Suzuka with Honda

Memories of `98 as Biaggi returns to Suzuka with Honda

Memories of `98 as Biaggi returns to Suzuka with Honda

In 1998 Max Biaggi caused one of the biggest upsets in recent years as he swept to victory in the opening round of the season at Suzuka, his first race on the Honda NSR500. The 250cc World Champion threatened to take the mantle of premier class dominance from Mick Doohan, but over the following five seasons his undoubted potential has yet to materialise into the number one plate many people feel he deserves, and after four years of relative underachievement with Yamaha he returns to Honda in a similar situation to that which he found himself in half a decade ago.

`Of course, I remember that race very well,´ recalls Biaggi. `It was a great result, but it was not a surprise. I had lapped in record time at Jerez and Barcelona before it, and was fastest here in the IRTA test before the GP. I suppose over the course of the season I was not experienced enough to win the title but I was close. With two races to go I still had a chance, but in the end the black flag at Catalunya made it not possible´.

Despite the comparisons often made between current World Champion Valentino Rossi and his Honda mentor Doohan, and their respective status within the HRC ranks, Biaggi insists 2003 will be a different challenge altogether. `I think with the four-strokes the gap between the factory machines and the private machines is bigger than it was in 1998 with the two-strokes´ he explains. `I am not complaining, but it does make things more difficult. All I can do is give my best, and we will see whether or not that is good enough to fight for the title when the racing starts. It will be difficult to challenge Valentino, but that is what I am hoping for´.
Biaggi jumped at the chance to return to Honda after revealing his deal with Pramac Racing and HRC last September. Now Sito Pons´ well respected team and sponsors Camel have been added to the mix, and the Italian has liked what he has seen so far. `I already knew they were a good team and now I can see it first hand. If I said I was impressed it would give the impression I think they are better than my old team, which would be unfair and disrespectful because they are also an excellent team. In fact, I would say they are about the same, and I am very happy with them.´
When asked to compare the championship credentials of his leased RC211V compared to the factory Yamaha M1 he rode last year, Biaggi is diplomatic and honest. `We will see whether or not it is better by the results – obviously it would not be very nice for me if I finished with a worse position than last year. We will just have to wait and see whether I deserve anything or not when the racing starts – all I can do is give my best´.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2003, SKYY VODKA Grand Prix of Japan, Max Biaggi

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