Max Biaggi arrives at Sepang with plenty of reason to smile; he won the race last year for Yamaha, the event is just one week after his victory at Motegi... and his main rival Valentino Rossi looks to be leaving Honda, handing Max increased status within HRC next year.

"The victory in Japan was a cause of great satisfaction and a real confidence booster," he said. "Now I hope that the settings, which worked so well in Motegi, also work here in Sepang so that I can ride the bike well and enjoy it to the limit.

"I like the circuit a lot. The track is quite fast and very wide which means there is more than one racing line to be taken. I also like the weather conditions," he revealed, going against the opinion of his competition. "The intense heat doesn't bother me at all, in fact I love it and I perform better in these conditions because the physical condition you are in matters a lot, as do tyres.

"I am a rider who, through my riding technique, doesn't rely too much on tyres and if we manage to set up the bike like we did in Motegi, I can be in the running once again for the victory," he said. "Although a victory is always important for a rider, it is also important to know that you are in a position to battle for the victory, independently of the final result."

"The race in Motegi was an unforgettable experience for our team as Max Biaggi took his second victory of the season after a superb race. It will be difficult to repeat the feat next Sunday, but I think that Max and the team have the capability and sufficient skill to achieve the same result," said team boss Sito Pons.

Team-mate Tohru Ukawa has lower aims, and would probably be delighted if he could drag a podium out of the three remaining races, which could be his last in the MotoGP class.

However, with Rossi rumoured to be leaving Honda, Ukawa could yet retain his place next season, but needs to perform - fast.

"I have a good feeling with the bike and am motivated and focussed to try my best and finish the season off with some good results. We trained in Sepang during the preseason and the test sessions here went very well," he said.

"Tohru has recovered fully from his crash in Japan and has before him a good opportunity to demonstrate the talented rider that he is," said Pons diplomatically.



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