Max Biaggi claimed a perfect lights-to-flag victory in the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, heading a Marlboro Yamaha one-two with Carlos Checa second and Shinya Nakano taking his first 500cc podium finish in third.

The 500cc stars lined up on the Sachsenring grid with Biaggi on pole ahead of Nakano, Barros and Checa, the Spaniard making his first front row start this year. Meanwhile championship leader Rossi was way down the order in eleventh after a torrid time in qualifying.

The last race before the MotoGP summer break, Biaggi and the Marlboro Yamaha team were desperate to claim a victory that would go at least some way towards closing the 26 point gap to Rossi.

However, few doubted that Rossi could win from eleventh - after all he had done just that two weeks previously at Donington - and a battle royal was on the cards between the two dominating Italians.

Also in the mix were Nakano and Barros, both of whom had sat on top of the times with mere minutes to go, before Biaggi had punched out his pole lap. Loris Capirossi, the third member of Italy's 500cc trio, had also been staring pole in the face before running wide on his West Honda Pons - leaving him down in seventh, but confident for race day.

Not racing today was Alex Criville, the Repsol Honda rider having had two huge crashes in qualifying yesterday and being told by Doctors to sit out today's German Grand Prix.

As the red lights went out to signal the start it was the Marlboro Yamahas that led the way with Biaggi ahead of Checa, and Abe (from seventh on the grid) up ahead of Barros and Roberts in third.

Meanwhile, Rossi had dropped a place to twelfth with Capirossi fairing little better being down in eleventh.

Lap two and Barros moved ahead of Abe - briefly - but the injured Japanese star fought back immediately and retook the position, while Leon Haslam's V-four debut ended prematurely as both he and Haruchika Aoki fell.

Lap 4 of 30 and Biaggi was setting the pace as he attempted to put some tarmac between himself and Checa - but more importantly Rossi - who was now up to eighth behind Olivier Jacque, with Capirossi following his countryman through the field.

Rossi though appeared to be struggling to pass Jacque and followed the Frenchman around the 3.704km track - and the Honda hero even fell victim to Capirossi as a aresult, who was really on a charge and duly overtook Jacque in the same spot the Italian had clashed with Criville yesterday.

The Nastro Azzurro rider found his was past the Gauloises Tect 3 machine at the end of lap eight, but by then Capirossi had overtaken Roberts for sixth, while at the front Abe was pressuring Checa for second as Nakano began setting the fastest laps of the race (in fifth).

The #1 Suzuki fell victim to the 22-year-old Italian on the very next lap, and Rossi now needed to close a 6.3second gap - and six places - to Biaggi. But Biaggi's main concern at that moment was Norick Abe, the Japanese rider having overtaken his teammate Checa.

However, Capirossi, who had looked so impressive in the early stages, was now under pressure from Rossi, who duly sliced inside his countryman for sixth just before the mid point of the race, instead of resisting Capirossi wisely tagged on to the back of the bright yellow Honda.

Up front Biaggi was responding with fastest ever laps, resulting in him building a 1.4 second lead over Abe, and increasing the gap back to Rossi to over seven seconds, as the #46 rider set about attacking Barros' black and white Honda Pons machine.

Also on the move was Shinya Nakano who was three seconds in front of Barros and closing quickly on Carlos Checa for third, who responded by upping his pace and overtaking Abe, leaving the two Japanese riders to fight for the final podium place.

Lap 24 and Rossi was still tangled up in battle with the West Honda Pons machines - and Olivier Jacque, who had joined the three way battle between Capirossi, Barros and Rossi.

Ahead of this battle was the lead group of Biaggi, Checa, Abe and Nakano, with the Roman now three seconds ahead of his teammate and pacing his way to the finish.

However, the battle of the race was that for fifth, and while Barros led the way Jacque was showing all of his old form to hold off Capirossi and Rossi, heading into the final two laps.

Soon after Tohru Ukawa fell from heavily his Repsol Honda - and was lying worrying still, before being strechered away for medical treatment.

Meanwhile, Nakano overtook Abe for a place on the podium, as Jacque overtook Barros into the first turn on the final lap for fifth. That battle continued all the way to the line as the Brazilian slipped inside Jacque at the final turn to reagin the place.

But the race belonged to Max Biaggi who took his third win of 2001 and led a Marlboro Yamaha one-two, with Checa third and Shinya Nakano holding off Abe for the final podium place.

Biaggi was naturally ecstatic as he completed his slow down lap adorned with Italian flags, as he waved delightedly to the fans before returning to the pits to literally leap into the arms of his Marlboro Yamaha team - who must have known by then that the points gap had shrunk to just 10 points between Biaggi and leader Rossi, who could only muster a seventh place finish.

Full results to follow...

1. Biaggi
2. Checa +3.249secs
3. Nakano +3.642secs
4. Abe +4.784secs
5. Barros +21.164secs
6. Jacque +21.385secs
7. Rossi +21.945secs
8. Capirossi +22.485secs



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