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Valentino Rossi: 500cc World Champion.

By lap 6 Haga was back into second ahead of Rossi, as the Japanese ace showed the form that made him such a threat in World Superbikes, however, try as he might Haga couldn't find a way past the black and white Pons machine in front.

Over the next few laps the top five (Barros, Haga, Rossi, Biaggi and Jacque) were never separated by more than 1sec, as Rossi and Haga traded places on every lap, while Biaggi stalked the trio ahead.

Biaggi duly overtook Rossi for the first time in the GP on lap 9 of 27 as he slipstreamed the Honda NSR along the main straight, while Jose Luis Cardoso, who had pulled into the pits with mechanical problems, had been involved in some sort of accident apparently while in the pit lane, leaving the Spaniard needing medical treatment.

Haga finally found a way past the Honda ahead on lap 11 and the Japanese star led the 500cc Australian GP for the first time, only for Barros to sneak back ahead half a lap later, before the #41 climbed into “P1” once again.

A heart stopping moment for Rossi followed soon after as the field fanned out along the main straight: Barros swerved to try and overtake Haga, but unknown to him Rossi was right behind him and the Brazilian rear wheel hit Rossi's front – at 190mph, with both fortunately staying upright.

The top five continued to battle neck-and–neck around every inch of the 4.448km coastal circuit, with the lead pack being caught by sixth placed Capirossi, McCoy, Ukawa et al as the half way point approached.

Rossi took the lead of the race on lap 16, with Biaggi now in second as the two battled it out for yet again, the third Italian was also on his way, with Capirossi carving quickly through the lead pack and into fourth behind his teammate and ahead of Haga.

Last year's victor Biaggi overtook “The Doctor” towards the end of the lap and with 10 to go the two were separated by just 0.010secs, as the top six – Biaggi, Capirossi, Rossi, Barros, Haga and Jacque - now began to pull away.

Lap 19 and Capirossi completed a magnificent fight back by taking the lead from Biaggi, with Rossi third in the now all-Italian one-two-three, with the trio shuffling positions in a thrilling dice over the next few laps.

Lap 22 and McCoy's lack of pace appeared to be caused by some sort of Clutch problem, while Olivier Jacque worked his way into third behind Ross and Biaggi (leading), with the two West Honda Pons pilots battling with Haga.




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