The rivalry between Valentino Rossi and Max Piaget is one that is etched in the memory of many followers. Young Rossi handled the upcoming Biagi aggressively in his early days as a 500cc driver. There was already a clash between the drivers in the first race of the season. At Suzuka, Biyagi made an attempt to push his young compatriot off the track. It ended with a Russian victory and a middle finger for the Marlboro Yamaha rider. In Catalonia, there was a brawl behind the podium, which manager Carlo Bernat called “too low” in motorsport history.
At Phillip Island, a circuit where Rossi celebrated some great successes, the two drivers collided again. Rossi said, referring to the fact that 2002 was the start of the MotoGP motorcycle era. “I only had one season of experience in 500cc and was determined to win the title. It was my only and last chance. Biagi was in the same boat, but I wanted it more.”
What followed was a duel of giants on beautiful Phillip Island. Not only Biagi and Rossi fought, but also Alex Barros and Olivier Jacques. By the end of lap 24, Rousey had taken the lead in what would have taken him to the world title. The Biagi was stronger than its smaller opponent in certain parts of the track, but it was precisely in the long left corner coming into the straight that the Honda NSR500’s traction was superior to the Yamaha Biagi.
Two rounds before the end, Biagi regained the lead and took the lead over Rossi. Every hectometer, Rossi successfully tried to crawl towards the red machine again. On the last lap, he was really back on the wheel and overtaking Lukey Heights before the final sharp right turn. Rossi put his Honda past Biagi and prevented his opponent from coming off well in the last corner. Again, long and flowing angles prefer Rossi.
“These are the best to drive,” Rossi said in 2006, but the feeling of beating an opponent on the last lap is even better: “I like to beat my opponents on the last lap. It’s the best way to win the race. Sure, sometimes it’s better to avoid problems and drive away. , but there are times when you know you won’t be able to drive far. At times like this it’s best to wait until the last round, and this is the final show. Round after round watch your opponent’s lines, the way he takes the turn and check his strengths and weaknesses. You hit the point where he is weakest. But you also know that you only have one chance to surprise him.”
Rossi also became the world champion on Phillip Island with second place, but the win gave him more sparkle. Crew chief Jeremy Burgess, stopwatch in hand, watched intently as Rossi flew past for the last time. This time before Biagi. The world title in the 500cc class was a reality. The success was celebrated in a big way, including a cake by Randy Mamula. Three years later, Rousey claimed another world title in the same manner, that year defeating Sete Gibernau at Phillip Island to win his first world title at Yamaha.
Randy Mamula in Valentino Rossi, Honda
Foto: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
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