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Echoes of Brno as Rossi wins yet again and Biaggi tumbles out

Echoes of Brno as Rossi wins yet again and Biaggi tumbles out

To top off an already dramatic race day at the Pacific Grand Prix of Motegi, Valentino Rossi cruised to his eighth victory of the 2001 season and opened up 67-point gap over his rival Max Biaggi. As happened in Brno, the challenge of his Marlboro Yamaha adversary ended, when on the sixth lap entering the final chicane Biaggi slid off the track and smashed to a halt. There was no picking it up and carrying on this time however for the Roman, who had to trudge back to the pits with the thoughts that his run of consecutive points-scoring races since Le Mans last year was now over and more importantly the title is practically out of his grasp. Second and third places went to the members of the West Honda Pons team, the Brazilian Barros beating his colleague Loris Capirossi into third.

Roberts had entered the first bend ahead of the rest with his customary quick start, but on the exit Biaggi passed him and took the race to the rest. Rossi quickly trailed him and the two pulled away from the rest. Roberts slipped back as Barros and Capirossi came through, and in front it appeared that a replay of last year´s race was about to unfold, without the presence of Roberts out in front. However on lap six of twenty-five the deciding moment came to pass, Biaggi pushing his bike too deep into the final S-section and sliding out towards the pit-lane. Rossi will hardly have been able to believe his luck as he was able to watch the crash from a safe distance. He went on to open up a good lead over Barros, who broke from Capirossi, and as the Brazilian closed the gap between them, Rossi was able to squeeze a little more out of his bike to leave two seconds distance to second place. It would remain like this to the finish line as Rossi wheelied though to collect the win.

Behind the front three a clutch of Japanese riders kept the home fans happy, Norick Abe made a remarkable recovery from his 16th place on the grid to take fourth, Ukawa proved his quality with fifth and Nakano took sixth as his teammate Jacque retired. Gibernau was beaten into ninth on the final bend by Checa and Roberts who both took him, and the Suzuki wildcard rider Yukio Kagayama completed the top ten.

Rossi now boasts a quarter century of points in the title race, and it will take just eight points in the next race to assure himself of the 2001 World crown. Biaggi in second has a twenty-point advantage over Capirossi in third, and Alex Barros is now just 16 points behind his colleague.

500cc, 2001

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