Having claimed the 500cc World Championship last time out at Phillip Island, Valentino Rossi rubbed further salt into the wounds of his fellow competitors by confidently winning the Malaysian Grand Prix, while the three way battle for second raged.

The young Italian had already proved he had no intention of backing off for the final two races of 2001, as he qualified second on the grid in one of his best qualifying performances since Catalunya.

However, on pole, and continuing the Italian dominance of the class, was Loris Capirossi, the West Honda Pons rider now desperate to convert his qualifying speed into a race victory for the first time this season, while qualifying ace Max Biaggi could 'only' manage third fastest after a crash in the final session, with the front row completed by Red Bull Yamaha's spectacular Garry McCoy.

Related Articles

When the red lights went out, and the 500cc field threaded through the first right-left chicane, it was Olivier Jacque who led from Loris Capirossi, before Kenny Roberts went inside both of them to take charge.

By the end of the first or 21 laps the top six - Roberts from Capirossi, Biaggi, Rossi, Barros and McCoy - began to break away from seventh placed Norrick Abe.

Roberts, who has a 100% win record at Sepang, looked in full command at this stage, but at the back of the Americans mind must have been the thought that he's led many races early on this year, but has faded down the order in almost every one of them.

Lap 3 and Kurtis Roberts crashed out of the Malaysian Grand Prix, after a disappointing weekend, while at the front McCoy produced an amazing out braking manoeuvre at the final hairpin to go past Rossi and Biaggi for third.

Soon after Capirossi deprived Roberts of the lead, with McCoy also going past the American - but much worse was to follow for the Suzuki star when Max Biaggi missed his braking point and crashed once again as he slammed into the side of the #1 machine, sending them both into the gravel trap, and retirement.

Meanwhile, McCoy was crawling all over Capirossi for the lead as the Australian slid everywhere around the superb circuit, with the Italian just holding his nerve in the face of the Red Bull riders onslaught.

McCoy finally made the move stick on lap 6 when he moved inside the West Honda Pons bike at the same corner where Biaggi and Roberts had collided. Watching the tussle up front had been Rossi, but he needed to get a move on as Abe, Barros and Nakano began to catch the top three.

Rossi responded by taking second from Capirossi just one lap later, by which time Abe was ready to challenge for the podium, being pushed all the way by Alex Barros.

McCoy was unable to shake off the pursuing pack, and by lap 9 Rossi was just 0.3secs behind, but that would change when Rossi came close to losing his Honda on the exit of a medium speed left hander - forcing him to sit up briefly. However, by the end of the lap Vale was back on McCoy's rear wheel, the Yamaha appearing to pull away slightly along the straights, before Rossi would close up once again.

Into the hard braking area at the final hairpin for the tenth time and Rossi ran a little wide - allowing Capirossi through to second, briefly, before the yellow Honda snuck back in front at a tight left hander later in the lap.

Into the hairpin on lap 11 and Rossi left his braking to the absolute last millisecond - sending his Honda's rear wheel skipping in all directions, but it allowed him to close right up on McCoy and the resulting slipstream along across the start/finish line saw him take the lead into turn one.

Mirroring Rossi's move was Norick Abe, the d'Antin rider slipping inside Capirossi for third in the first tight right-left turn, as the Japanese enjoyed his best showing since Jerez.

Over the next few laps Rossi began to pull away from McCoy, while Abe had his hands full fighting Capirossi - and perhaps distracted by the black and white machine running wide at the hairpin on lap 14, Abe lost the front as he tried to take a tight line inside 'Capirex.' Abe would rejoin in thirteenth, but any chance of a podium finish was clearly gone.

Meanwhile, within two laps Capirossi had recovered significantly to take second from McCoy, while Nakano had now closed to the rear of the #5 Red Bull machine to make it a tight three way battle for second.

McCoy and Capirossi swapped places once again later in the lap, all of which helped to increase Rossi's lead to almost four seconds, with five laps to go.

With two to go the battle for second was still as close as ever, with McCoy, Capirossi and Nakano still nose to tail, the deadlock being broken into turn one after Capirossi pulled out an amazing late braking move on McCoy and tried to hang on for one more lap.

Onto the last lap and Nakano, who had cleverly avoided tangling with the McCoy/Capirossi fight over the preceding laps, began to challenge McCoy for the final podium place - but the pint sized Aussie was having none of it and defended all the way to the flag.

Meanwhile, Rossi cruised to the flag - pulling a 'no footed' wheelie all along the front straight to the flag to record his tenth win of the year in fantastic fashion.

Full results to follow...

1. Rossi
2. Capirossi +3.551secs
3. McCoy +4.722secs
4. Nakano +5.005secs
5. Ukawa +8.807secs
6. Criville +12.192secs
7. Barros +15.682secs
8. Gibernau +18.772secs