Max Biaggi hopes of repeating his Motegi victory were dashed early at Sepang yesterday when he struggled to match the pace of race leaders Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau and would eventually be forced to accept the final podium place behind them.

As if seeing his hopes of stealing second in the championship from Gibernau fade further wasn't enough, Max also had to 'endure' arch-rival Rossi's world championship winning celebrations, as the Repsol rider took his fifth title (one more than Biaggi) and his third in the premier class (three more than Biaggi).

To his credit, the Roman hid his competitive disappointment well - making public statements of congratulations to Rossi, but also admitting he hopes things will become much harder for the 24-year-old in the near future, perhaps when Max takes over his role as Honda's number one rider, should Vale move to Yamaha.

"I must congratulate Rossi on winning the Championship," said the Camel Pramac Pons rider. "This season has been more difficult for Valentino than last season and I hope that next year will be even more difficult for him."



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