Rossi reigns supreme while Max takes 2nd


Valentino Rossi (Honda) defended his 2001 premier class title with an emphatic victory at the Brazilian round of the MotoGP World Championship, held in Rio on September 21. The Italian produced a perfect start that placed him first into turn one, before he came under the attack of Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) and Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team). The former slid by on lap two and remained in control until lap 13, when Rossi felt the ever-increasing threat of the slow-starting Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) was too much to ignore.

Checa, who’d qualified fifth, but was last off the grid after missing a gear, made a gritty comeback ride that saw him 15th out of 20 after lap one, 12th after lap two, fifth after lap five before latching onto the tail-end of the leading trio. It wasn’t long before Checa then made his move on Roberts and Biaggi in an effort to catch the sprinting champion elect. Then on lap 16 the Spaniard made his move at the end of the back straight, taking the lead and already building a buffer after just two corners. But that’s where it ended for the number #7 Yamaha, when the rear-end came round and Checa ended round 12 in the gravel-trap.

This left Rossi to take the win, and with the demise of Tohru Ukawa (Honda) on lap two, the championship. Biaggi claimed a strong second, promoting him to second place in the championship, while Roberts completed the four-stroke dominated podium.

Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) put in a strong performance to finish the day sixth, after a race long battle with Loris Capirossi (Honda, fifth) and Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3); the Frenchman eventually finishing seventh. His teammate, Shinya Nakano was one of six riders to crash out of the 24-lap race, including Daijiro Kato (Honda) who came off the worst after a first turn, four-bike pile-up.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Max Biaggi 2nd:
“It was very wet out there but I felt comfortable. I was trying to ride my own race and ride my best, then I saw my pit board saying ‘Ukawa out’, so I automatically slowed down because I was looking for the points to go to second overall in the championship. Considering how we started the year I think moving into second is a great result, so thanks to everyone in the team and at Yamaha. I’d also like to congratulate Rossi on winning the title, as he deserves it. Now I will focus on continuing my battle with Ukawa at the last four races.”

Carlos Checa DNF: “I thought I was in first gear for the start, but I wasn’t. After that I said: ‘Okay, I’ll try my best’. The bike and tyres were working very well, so I just concentrated on my riding and I was amazed at how fast I caught the leaders. When I was with Biaggi, Roberts and Rossi I took my time, then I took the lead from Rossi because it was more comfortable to have a clear track ahead, there was just too much water around when I was behind them. I flicked into that turn the same as I had before, but maybe something was different.
I was focusing on the front going into the corner and the rear lost grip, I don’t know why. So now I must look to Motegi. I’m confident because Yamaha have done a great job with the bike, you could see that today, that’s why I re-signed with them, I have 100 per cent faith in the M1 project.”

YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda: “Carlos was so, so fast, I couldn’t believe it. But he gave me a headache at the start – he was in neutral, not first, when the race started. His fighting spirit is incredible; he had caught the leaders so fast that he knew he could win the race if he didn’t make any mistakes. Max had maybe his best-ever ride in the wet and we’re very happy he’s now second overall, this is a good reward for all his effort. The M1 was once again very good this weekend. We have now scored three pole positions in a row and we are always running up front, even when the conditions are bad, I think this shows that our bike is very user-friendly.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 6th:
“The last wet race, in Portugal, I was lacking a lot of grip, but this time it was a different story – both tyres were offering very good grip and feedback. My speed and position was quite good in these conditions, but compared to the four-strokes, the wet really penalises the 500s much more. I did pass Jacque, and had a good dice with Capirossi, but I just wasn’t able to match his speed without the risk of crashing. I just hope the next race is dry.”

José Luis Cardoso 11th: “It wasn’t a great start because I was not able to avoid the first turn incident where Kato crashed. Eventually I ended up on the grass and I was a long way behind. Fortunately the team had worked really hard this morning to give me a good bike and I was able to make up a few places to finally finish 11th. I’d like to thank them for their efforts and I hope I get the opportunity to work with them again sometime soon.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Olivier Jacque 7th:
“We had a technical problem this morning during the warm-up, which meant that we didn’t get a chance to set the bike up as well for the wet as we would have liked. Given that, and the atrocious conditions, we didn’t do too badly. I had a good battle with Barros and Abe but nearly fell off twice trying to stay with them, and in the end I had to settle for seventh.”

Shinya Nakano DNF: “I nearly hit Carlos off the line which cost me a few places, but then I got past a few riders on the first lap to come up behind Garry McCoy and Loris. I went off the line to try and get past Garry and ended up highsiding. I’m very disappointed because I was feeling good on the bike and I felt that I could have gone well.”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
Garry McCoy 10th:
“My start was really good, I think I was third into turn one, but then I started having a problem with my visor and I couldn’t see that well. It certainly didn’t help, especially as I’m down a little on confidence in the rain. But around half way through the race, when someone passed me, I tried to stick with him, and by doing so my times dropped by around half a second a lap. The Dunlop rear was working well, but the front was pushing a little too much for comfort so I concentrated on getting to the finish.”

John Hopkins 14th: “No, I’m not happy with that, the whole weekend in fact; I’m already moving on to the next race at Motegi, getting my mind right for that. I lost the front, and that’s why I crashed. I guess I was lucky to be able to get back into the race, but I think it may have been a wrong front tyre choice and possibly not the best bike set-up.”