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
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.