Max Biaggi was way ahead of the controversy that was eventually to surround the Pacific Grand Prix when he won by 3.754secs from Valentino Rossi, in front of 56,000 Japanese race fans, in fine autumn weather at Motegi yesterday.

In what would later be described by Biaggi as one of the best races of the season, it was Sete Gibernau who took the early advantage, with Biaggi tucked in behind him, followed by Hayden, Rossi and Tamada.

On lap three Biaggi took the lead and soon began to pull a slight gap over the Spaniard. However, Rossi was soon up to second and crawling all over the Camel Pramac Pons' rider's rear wheel - but Rossi efforts to find away past would result in the #46 out braking himself - running wide - and dropping back to ninth.

His arch-rival's error removed the pressure from Biaggi and his first on track victory of 2003 was never to be threatened by another rider again, Max being comfortably clear of the frantic battles developing behind him.

It was indeed a glorious victory being in front of the Honda bosses and on a 'customer' spec machine - he would later dedicate his triumph to the late Daijiro Kato.

"This was a tough and complicated race because the rhythm was fast from the start," said Biaggi after his 41st career victory. "I made a good start and got ahead of Gibernau on the brakes. When I learned what happened to Rossi I just tried to maintain the rhythm and build up a good lead.

"Two laps from the end I nearly fell. I really thought I was going to ground as the bike wobbled, but it was a miracle that I managed to stay on the bike," he revealed. "This has been one of the best Grands Prix of the year and I would like to dedicate it to Daijiro Kato."

"I am very happy with this victory and especially for the fact that Max and the whole team have performed fantastically and I would like to really congratulate them on their great work," smiled Sito Pons. "It seems like we are finally coming to terms with the new engine configuration and Max can ride as he would like. It has certainly been the best race of the season so far."

Team-mate Tohru Ukawa, meanwhile, finished eighth after losing touch with the leaders at the first corner when Hopkins, Checa and Bayliss crashed in front of him.

"What really affected my race was the incident involving Hopkins on the first corner which made me lose touch with the leaders and I was not able to reduce this difference during the rest of the race," claimed the Japanese. "The bike was sliding a lot on the inside of the corners, but I cannot be happy with the race when I finished 20 seconds behind the winner."

"I feel sorry that Tohru could not round off the progress he has shown with a podium finish, but after his big crash on Friday he has not been 100% fit for the rest of the weekend," sympathised Pons.



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