Rio Grand Prix, Jacarepagua
Race Day, Saturday November 3 2001
MARLBORO YAMAHA DENIED THRILLING RIO VICTORY
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi played a starring role in today's thrilling season-ending Rio GP, run as a two-part aggregate race after rain interrupted proceedings. Cheated of victory by a backmarker at the very last turn, Checa finished second, just a fraction behind Valentino Rossi (Honda) with Biaggi third. This was the third time this year that the Marlboro Yamaha Team duo have stood together on the podium, following their one-two performances at the French and German GPs.
"Maybe Carlos could've won without the backmarker, but that's racing," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "The good thing is that he rode a great race, and Max too, it was very exciting for all of us. Now we have finished this year, so the 500 class is history and we can now focus 100 per cent on developing the new YZR-M1 four-stroke for next season."
Today's Grand Prix was the 580th and last 500 Grand Prix before up-to 990cc four-strokes join the MotoGP World Championship from the start of next season.
CHECA SECOND BUT SO UNLUCKY
Carlos Checa led most of this afternoon's restarted Rio GP, only to run out of luck at the very last turn and lose the race. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man had been in the midst of the leading pack before the rain shower that brought out the red flags, ending that four-lap segment in fourth place. He was right on the pace again when the race was restarted. Running front and rear cut slicks in the tricky conditions, he took the lead from Rossi on aggregate time on lap 16 and stayed out front, just a fraction ahead of his Italian rival, who had completed the first four-lap segment 0.195 seconds ahead of Checa. So when Checa found privateer Anthony West (Honda) on the racing line at the final corner of the last lap, Rossi was able to get close enough to win the race by 0.143 seconds on aggregate time.
"I saw the chequered flag and I thought I'd won," said Checa. "When I found out the result it was probably the worst feeling of my life. I've been chasing this win for three years with my team, the team did a great job here, the bike felt good and I thought I'd found my opportunity. West turned around as we were coming at him, Rossi saw him too, then I met him in the middle of the turn, so I couldn't open the throttle where I usually do and that was enough to lose me the race. I don't know what West was thinking.
"This is such a frustrating way to lose and the people that run this sport must do something about the blue-flag system. On Friday I complained that there were no blue flags to warn lapped riders to move over, but it hasn't made any difference."
BIAGGI SECURES SECOND OVERALL
Max Biaggi took a hard-ridden third place at Rio to secure second overall in the last-ever 500 World Championship. Starting from the third row, the Italian was in the thick of it from the first laps, and was the only man who could run with Carlos Checa and Valentino Rossi after the restart.
"This was a very tough weekend for me," said Biaggi, winner of three races this season. "This track is so bumpy that we couldn't get the bike set up to suit me. I couldn't use my speed because I wasn't getting enough feeling from the front, that's why I qualified tenth. I think the damp conditions helped today, though maybe my choice of an intermediate front wasn't perfect.
"It's great to get second in the championship. Okay, so second isn't brilliant but it's all I could do today. Over the last few days I've read a lot of newspapers telling me how motivated Capirossi was to beat me for second overall, so I wanted to ride a good race to make sure of second. Now we look forward to next year and the big question mark of four-strokes. We've got a lot of testing ahead of us and I hope we can have a great machine for 2002 so we can go one better than this year."
ROSSI TAKES 11TH WIN
World Champion Valentino Rossi continued his relentless trophy hunt at Rio, securing his 11th victory of the 2001 season and his sixth victory from the last seven races. Once again things fell just right for the Italian youngster, who'd been getting well out of shape as he battled to stay with the flying Checa. "I made a mistake with my front-tyre choice, I should've used a cut slick, not an intermediate," he said. "I pushed so hard that I nearly lost the front and crashed a few times, and when we finished the race I didn't know who had won. I only found out when I stopped and asked one of my team members. Now I'm looking forward to the end-of-season party, it's going to be a long night! After that, I've a one-month holiday, then I start testing Honda's four-stroke at Jerez at the end of November."
Local star Alex Barros (Honda) finished the race fourth, just ahead of his team-mate Loris Capirossi. <pre> RESULTS 1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 45'57.414 2. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team +0.143 3. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team +6.980 4. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons +19.053 5. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons +20.655 6. Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA-d'Antin +20.829 7. Alex Criville (SPA) Repsol YPF HONDA Team +27.894 8. Jose Luis Cardoso (SPA) Antena 3 YAMAHA-d'Antin +45.110 9. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 +2'25.532 10. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 1 lap
FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 1. Valentino Rossi 325 2. MAX BIAGGI 219 3. Loris Capirossi 210 4. Alex Barros 182 5. Shinya Nakano 155 6. CARLOS CHECA 137 6. Norick Abe 137 8. Alex Criville 120 9. Sete Gibernau 119 10. Tohru Ukawa 107