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Biaggi heads Marlboro Yamaha one – two!

20 May 2001

Marlboro Yamaha Team put their dismal start to 2001 well and truly behind them by taking a one-two finish in France today, with Max Biaggi leading home Carlos Checa - despite an off track excursion in the early stages.

Biaggi had taken his first pole in 2001 in a thrilling final qualifying yesterday, and duly converted it into a rapid getaway today – but it was second on the grid Kenny Roberts who would lead the field around the first corner, with Checa up to third after a rocket start from the second row and Alex Criville fourth.

Main loser at then start was Valentino Rossi who slipped from third to ninth, behind Sete Gibernau, and being pushed by Noriyuki Haga.

Biaggi tried to pass Roberts along the start/finish straight at the end of lap one – but Roberts resisted. Meanwhile Rossi had moved into seventh on lap three of twenty-eight, after passing Loris Capirossi.

Biaggi again tried to pass Roberts along the main straight at the end of lap 3, but again Roberts shut the door, firmly but fairly, while the still injured Carlos Checa remained on the rear tyre of his Italian teammate.

Biaggi finally found a way past the #1 Suzuki on lap 5, successfully slipstreaming Roberts into turn one having learnt from his earlier attempts.

However, Biaggi's lead would not last long as he ran wide at a chicane allowing both Roberts and Checa past. Checa then put an impressive move on Roberts by out braking the American under the Dunlop Bridge into a tight left hander.

Lap 11 and Biaggi re-passed Roberts to make it a Marlboro Yamaha one – two, while both Haga and Ukawa crashed out from their Red Bull and Repsol Honda machines respectively.

Checa continued to lead, with the red and white duo at the front now building a lead from Kenny Roberts. Meanwhile, Rossi continued his fight back to the front by passing Alex Criville for fourth on lap 15, and the Italian was soon closing rapidly on third placed Roberts.

Lap 16 and Biaggi out braked his teammate to take the lead of the French Grand Prix once again, while Rossi pulled out a similar move on KR at the end of the main straight.

The rapid Roman soon began pulling a lead out over his Spanish teammate, and was 1.7secs ahead at the end of the lap, with 11 still to go, while Rossi zeroed in on the #7 Marlboro Yamaha.

10 to go and the courageous Checa actually began to pull away slightly from the pursuing World Championship leader, who needed to find 3.8secs to catch the Spaniard, while Roberts was being put under pressure from Criville for fourth.

Criville slipstreamed past Roberts on lap 21, the two almost touching as Criville swept inside into the first turn, with Abe now also within striking distance of the Suzuki.

Abe went by later in the lap, making full use of the superior straight-line speed of the Yamaha compared to the Suzuki. The Antena 3 rider was not content with fifth however and was soon past the Repsol Honda and immediately set about closing the 6sec gap to Rossi.

Meanwhile, back at the front with 5 laps to go, Biaggi held a 3sec lead over Checa, with Rossi a further 3secs back from the Spaniard's #7 machine.

A lap later and Rossi was beginning to inch up on Checa, reducing the gap to 2.3secs, but the Spaniard responded by holding the gap steady after getting the hurry-up from the Marlboro Yamaha pits.

2 to go and Biaggi's lead was up to 4.2secs over the brave Carlos Checa, who in turn looked comfortably capable of holding off Rossi despite his less than perfect physical condition, following his heavy crash at the previous GP in Spain.

On to the last lap and Biaggi calmly made his way round for his first win in 2001, with Carlos Checa taking a well deserved second, while Rossi's run of wins finally came to end – but he still extends his already huge championship lead.

Full results to follow….

1. Biaggi
2. Checa +3.266secs
3. Rossi +4.830secs
4. Abe +14.561secs
5. Criville +14.977secs
6. Roberts +23.180secs
7. Capirossi +29.597secs
8. Barros +31.205secs
9. Gibernau +32.499secs
10. vd Goorbergh +33.019secs
11. Nakano +36.476secs
12. Walker +1min 15.798secs
13. Cardoso +1min 19.446secs
14. Veneman +1lap
15. Janssen +1lap