World 500 leader Valentino Rossi comes to Estoril with a burgeoning 29 point advantage over arch-rival Max Biaggi, following Biaggi's tumble at the Czech GP two weeks ago.

The increased margin allows Rossi to tackle the final races of 2001 from a position of some strength, though with 150 points still at stake, the youngster certainly can't afford to relax.

The Italian arrives at Estoril, the slowest GP track with a lap speed of just 147kmh, following a useful test session at Valencia in neighbouring Spain at the end of last week. The former 125 and 250 king spent two days experimenting with settings that will help him at Estoril and at the next GP at Valencia on September 23.

Although Rossi's intent is still race victories, he has hinted that he may be prepared to ride tactically at the final six races. With a good lead he certainly doesn't need to risk winning at any cost, though if he were to finish each of the remaining races in second place behind Biaggi, he would lose the title by one point.

As he says, it is the season's final outcome that matters more than any individual result.

"It's important to stay concentrated and not to forget the final target," says Rossi, whose Czech GP win was his sixth of the year. "Some of the tracks coming up will be good for us and some of them won't be so good for us. But I know that my team is working really well. We had some problems during practice at Brno, but we changed a lot of things on the bike and got it right. I think we can win the title if we keep working hard."

 

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