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Rossi and Biaggi feud hots up

Rossi and Biaggi feud hots up

Italian pair Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi continued their long running feud in the Grand Prix of Japan, almost coming to blows both on and off the track. The race controversy came on the 5th lap, when Rossi came around the outside of Biaggi on the entrance to the start-finish straight. However, Biaggi kept his line and as Rossi tried to pass through a narrow gap the Marlboro Yamaha rider raised an elbow, forcing Rossi off the edge of the track and onto the grass. The Honda rider kept control of his NSR 500 however and followed Biaggi into the next corner. On the following lap, Rossi decided to go inside and made the pass at the very same point Biaggi had nearly finished his race. He crossed in front of Biaggi and braked, raising a one fingered salute to his countryman as they entered the first corner.

The young star, who went on to take the third MotoGP 500 victory of his short career, initially played down the incident in the post race press conference. ´I touched with Biaggi when I tried to go round the outside of him. He lifted up his elbow forcing me on to the edge of the gravel and I was quite scared. I had to become a motocross rider at 220km/h and I can guarantee you that´s not a nice experience on a 500. Then I went passed him and gave him a little wave - I was just nervous, it´s the race you know?.´

Biaggi was also somewhat coy in his description of the incident. ´Yes, there was lots of touching going on - I think I bumped into Ukawa, Nakano, Barros and Rossi but that’s racing. We had fun and I think the crowd did too. When Valentino tried to come past he could have caused an accident - I just put my arm up to stop us from crashing.´

However, the Italian press soon moved in to stir up the controversy and have documented a heated discussion said to have taken place between the two riders. Biaggi is believed to have referred to Rossi´s gesture as ´bad mannered´, telling the Nastro Azzurro sponsored rider that he shouldn´t have even tried the manoeuvre in the first place. ´Is that enough reason to try and put me out of the race?´ Rossi is quoted as asking. ´That´s your problem´ was Biaggi´s curt reply. ´If we both fall it´s bad for Italy´ Rossi retaliated. ´For me when the checkered flag is raised that is the end of the matter. But if you want to carry this on then let´s carry on - I´ll see you on the track´ he concluded.

Rossi later explained the incident in more detail. ´I gave him one of these´ he grinned, raising his middle finger. ´We had a really good fight over the first few laps. We touched a few times on the brakes but I don´t mind that because it´s racing. But on the straight he saw me coming on the outside and tried to push me off the track. He saw me and thought to himself ´you´re going off´ - this is very dangerous and I was pretty scared. I hope it doesn´t happen next time and we put it behind us, but I don´t really mind if not.´

500cc, 2001, Valentino Rossi

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