14 October 2001
Valentino Rossi: 500cc World Champion.
Valentino Rossi has completed his trilogy of world titles by clinching the 500cc crown in fantastic fashion at Phillip Island today, when he took victory by just 0.013secs over Max Biaggi in the Australian Grand Prix.
The scenic coastal circuit always seems to provide some of the best racing of the year, but the 2001 500cc Grand Prix will go down as one of the best ever, with a seven way fight for the lead seeing Rossi, Biaggi, Capirossi, Barros and Haga all ahead at some stage, while the fanatic Australian fans witnessing some breathtaking passing manoeuvres from start to finish.
Biaggi may have taken his seventh pole of the season yesterday, but the Roman knew his title chances have virtually evaporated after a string of crashes left him 67 points behind Rossi with just 75 available.
Nevertheless, the Marlboro Yamaha rider would doubtless still have a point to prove and a second consecutive 500cc victory at the magnificent Phillip Island racetrack would certainly help reduce the pain of losing the title to his countryman.
So, appropriately, the two Italian s who have dominated this years championship lined up side by side on the grid, with Alex Barros third – and racing despite spraining his neck in a practice crash, while Sete Gibernau would start a superb fourth for Suzuki after a banzai effort in the dying seconds.
As the red lights went out and the twenty-two rider field thundered into the sweeping fast first right hander, it was Rossi who took the lead – Biaggi being forced to back off after trying to tough it out around the outside, dropping him to fourth behind Barros and Jacque, with Haga storming up the grid from eleventh to overtake the Roman soon after.
The positions at the front remained until Barros took the lead on lap two, with Haga working his way past Jacque and into third at almost the same moment – then stuffing his Red Bull Yamaha inside Rossi just one lap later.
With 24 to go, Rossi retaliated across the start-finish line, while Biaggi began to creep up the field after hanging on to the tail of the five man lead pack for the opening laps.
Barros though was holding his own up front, and one of the hardest men to overtake in MotoGP was clearly suffering few effects from the neck sprain sustained in yesterday's second qualifying.
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