Marlboro Yamaha star Max Biaggi comes to Estoril this weekend aiming to repeat his stunning Czech Grand Prix win of two weeks ago.

However, despite braking the Rossi/Honda stranglehold on the 2002 World Championship, Biaggi knows the title is almost certainly out of reach - leaving the Roman to aim for as many GP victories as possible before he leaves the factory Yamaha team at the end of the year.

His Brno victory proved that the team's mighty YZR-M1 is a winning motorcycle, and the hard-working Marlboro Yamaha crew stayed on at Brno after the race to continue testing the latest upgrade parts from Yamaha and ?hlins. And they'll need all the engine and chassis performance they can get at Estoril, one of the most technically complex racetracks on the GP calendar.

Biaggi's masterful performance at the Czech GP has brought him to within six points of second overall in the MotoGP World Championship. After a steady start to the 2002 season, the Italian hasn't finished outside the top four in seven GPs, and his Brno win was preceded by three runner-up results, at the Italian, British and German GPs.

"Brno was a good day, I tried my best for the team and I offered my thanks to them for helping me to that win," recalled Biaggi. "At the beginning of this year we weren't able to fight for victory but Yamaha made a great recovery, the bike improved and now we're in the fight for winning races. It's never easy to build a good bike, if it was, everyone would have good bikes!"

Biaggi's Brno success also laid to rest the memory of his crash during last year's Czech GP, which blunted his push towards the 2001 500 crown. And he's hoping for a similar change of fortune at Estoril, where he slid off last year, remounting to finish fifth. The Portuguese venue, situated not far from the Atlantic ocean, is often lashed by strong winds which can blow dust and sand onto the tarmac, resulting in sudden and unexpected loss of grip.

"The worst thing about the track is the wind," confirmed Biaggi. "It's often very windy in this area, and quite dusty too, so when the wind blows, sand and dust get thrown onto the track, which makes the surface very slippery. It's unpredictable too, because one lap there might not be dust at a certain corner, and the next lap there is dust, and of course, you can't see it. This makes it complicated to work on tyre choice with my Michelin engineer Daniel Croispine, because you never really know where you are with the grip level.

"The track layout is so-so, Estoril isn't bad but it's not my favourite," admitted the Roman Emepror, who is yet to confirm who he will ride for next year. "I like the final few corners because they're quite fast. But the slowest corner just before that section is so slow, you can't even believe how slow!"

Biaggi started the 2001 Marlboro Portuguese GP from pole position. He finished the previous year's Portuguese GP in fourth position. Sunday's Marlboro Portuguese GP concludes the long run of European events that constitute the bulk of the MotoGP World Championship season.

The MotoGP circus has been performing on the Continent since May's Spanish GP, but after Sunday's racing the action moves out of Europe, with riders and teams embarking on a gruelling intercontinental tour that takes them from Brazil to Japan and from Malaysia to Australia, all in the space of five weekends. They return to Europe for the season finale at Valencia on November 3.


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