Portuguese Grand Prix, Estoril Race Day, Sunday September 9 2001 Rossi Takes Giant Lead Towards First 500 Crown Italian superstar wins again while Biaggi's crash gives Rossi gaping championship advantage Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro ...
Portuguese Grand Prix, Estoril
Race Day, Sunday September 9 2001
Rossi Takes Giant Lead Towards First 500 Crown
Italian superstar wins again while Biaggi's crash gives Rossi gaping championship advantage
Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) rode to his seventh win of the year at scorching Estoril today while title-rival Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) tumbled out of third place. It was Rossi's second win in a row and Biaggi's second crash in a row, and though Biaggi did remount to finish fifth, Rossi's points advantage now stands at a hard-to-beat 43 points with five races remaining.
The World Championship leader won in convincing style, keeping a determined Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons- Michelin) behind him in the tense final laps. Last year's winner Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) inherited a lonely third place from Biaggi for his first podium in five months.
The race, run in 30-degree heat, broke all records. Although this year's trend has been for dramatically faster race times, Estoril saw the biggest jump of the season so far. Today's race was an incredible 42 seconds quicker than last year's albeit windswept Portuguese GP, and the lap record was broken by over 1.5 seconds. As usual, riders and teams attributed a good part of this massive improvement to extra traction and endurance provided by Michelin's 16.5in rear slick. "We go faster every race and I don't know where it's going to stop!" smiled Michelin Grand Prix manager Jacques
Morelli. "Rossi rode a great race and I think he could've gone faster, but it's still too early for the championship, anything can happen in bike racing."
The race started in chaotic fashion, with the ultra-tight first turn claiming four riders. Tohru Ukawa (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin) was the first to go, tumbling moments after starting from the front row for the first time. Then Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha-D'Antin-Michelin) went down, his bike taking out Alex Barros (West Honda Pons-Michelin) and slamming into Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin).
Starting from pole for the fourth successive race, Biaggi was ahead of the chaos and led the first two laps with Capirossi and Rossi hot on his heels. But one lap later Rossi took the lead and stayed there, though Capirossi did manage to get alongside a couple of times. The two NSR riders slowly edged away from their compatriot, who had settled for a safe third when he slid off with seven laps to go. Biaggi hurriedly remounted to rejoin the race in sixth, immediately engaging in a spirited battle for fifth with Noriyuki Haga (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin), who crashed out with three laps to go.
Rossi crossed the finish line 1.756 seconds ahead of Capirossi. "This was an important race for the championship, though mainly because Biaggi crashed," said the youngster, now well on his way to becoming the second man to wear the 125, 250 and 500 triple crown, following the feat of Briton Phil Read who won all three titles in the Sixties and Seventies.
Rossi also paid tribute to Capirossi's efforts: "Loris rode very hard today, he stayed with me all the race. My race went to plan, the bike and tyres worked well and I was lucky to avoid the first-turn crash." Capirossi had no answer to Rossi's speed. "I tried everything but could do nothing," he said.
McCoy was delighted to be back on the podium for the first time since the Japanese GP. "I hope this is something of a recovery," said the sideways hero who missed five races after breaking a wrist at May's French GP. "I missed the turn-one havoc but still got held up, then I was all alone and only really racing my pit board."
Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) was next up in fourth, ten seconds back from McCoy and seven seconds in front of his team-mate. "The crash was another strange one, I wasn't doing anything different," said Biaggi, who also crashed out of the lead of the Czech GP two weeks earlier.
World Champion Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin) equalled his best result of the year with another sixth-place finish after an entertaining battle with Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Proton Team KR-Michelin).