Second place puts title in Rossi's reach

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The Independent Online

Valentino Rossi can relax after his second place in the Pacific Grand Prix here in Japan all but assured him of a third straight world title.

Max Biaggi won comfortably but he had a dramatic 24 laps, slipping to ninth after a mistake before battling his way to second. That moved him within 17 points of the title after Sete Gibernau's last-corner fall dropped him to fifth.

Gibernau was promoted to fourth when Makoto Tamada was disqualified for irresponsible riding, but he is 58 points behind Rossi with 75 available from the last three races.

Rossi was relieved to salvage second after his seventh-lap fall. The Repsol Honda rider said: "I made a mistake in the braking and lost control of my bike. The situation was bad, with Gibernau in second place and me in ninth. I rode well, made the fastest lap and because Gibernau had some problems I made some good points."

Tamada's exclusion also lifted Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden onto a MotoGP podium for the first time in his career.

The Ulsterman Jeremy McWilliams was unhappy after his crash on the third lap, accusing his Proton KR team of ignoring him. "I'm not hurt, but I'm angry. I've been complaining about the brakes, but it seems I had to crash before anyone will heed me. The brake gets too hot because of the front mudguard, and I just had no brakes for the hairpin. I'm glad I crashed there rather than at the bottom of the hill, because then people would have just said I was trying too hard."

Newcastle's Chris Burns retired after one lap with a clutch problem, ending hopes of his first MotoGP finish. He said: "I was hoping for so much today, having sorted some problems out. The bike was easier to ride than yesterday."

In the 250cc world championship, the Welsh teenager Chaz Davies scored more points with an 11th-place finish for KF Concept Aprilia.