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Max Biaggi takes clinical victory at dramatic Motegi encounter

Max Biaggi takes clinical victory at dramatic Motegi encounter

Max Biaggi takes clinical victory at dramatic Motegi encounter

The thirteenth round of the MotoGP World Championship was packed with drama right from the first corner until after the chequered flag at Motegi this afternoon, with Max Biaggi taking a clinical second victory of the season and escaping a combative and ultimately controversial battle for positions behind him.

Sparks began to fly almost as soon as the red light was out, as John Hopkins made a quick start but wildly missed his braking marker and swept Troy Bayliss, Carlos Checa and Colin Edwards into the gravel trap. Although the Ducati of Loris Capirossi offered a brief resistance at the front, it soon became a five way Honda battle for victory as Biaggi led Sete Gibernau, Nicky Hayden, Makoto Tamada and Valentino Rossi.

Rossi edged up to second and began to pressurise Biaggi, before a huge mistake saw the series leader run off into the gravel and return to the race in ninth place, over eight seconds down on the lead group. Whilst Biaggi worked on building a comfortable advantage, the positions chopped and changed in an intense battle for the podium and Rossi picked his way through the field with a string of scorching laps. The World Champion caught was back in touch with seven laps remaining and quickly moved to the head of the chasing group. However, Biaggi maintained a strong rhythm at the front to seal his second victory of the season.

Whilst Rossi took a comfortable second place, a bold overtaking manoeuvre from Tamada on the last lap nudged Gibernau into the gravel and sealed the final podium spot. However, the move was later adjudged to have been against regulations by Race Direction, who disqualified the Japanese rider from the race. The final podium position was consequently rewarded to Hayden, his first in MotoGP, with Gibernau collecting fourth. John Hopkins was also disqualified by Race Direction and was banned from the next round at Sepang in Malaysia.

The action at the front of the pack overshadowed a superb performance from Marco Melandri, who fought back from a terrible start which saw him back in nineteenth on the first lap. Within eleven laps the 250cc World Champion was up to sixth, fighting off the challenge of experienced campaigners Loris Capirossi, Alex Barros and Tohru Ukawa to consolidate a best ever finish of fifth after the disqualification of Tamada. Further back, wildcard rider Akira Ryo guided the Suzuki to tenth, just ahead of MotoGP rookie Ryuichi Kiyonari.

MotoGP, 2003

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