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.
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.