Spin-King Rossi Dominates Sweltering Sepang GP
The new 500 king rides it sideways to beat Capirossi & McCoy for his tenth victory of the season
Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) didn't need to win this afternoon's Malaysian GP but he did anyway, and he did it in rousing sideways style, comfortably beating Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons-Michelin) and Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) for his tenth victory of 2001.
Seven days after securing the 500 title with victory in Australia, Rossi could've been forgiven for taking things relatively easy today, especially considering the stifling 35-degree heat and 55 per cent humidity that makes racing a red-hot motorcycle such a hellish proposition at Sepang. But even a muffed getaway from second on the grid didn't cool his enthusiasm and he worked his way through from eighth to engage in a spirited tussle with leaders Capirossi and McCoy, hitting the front just after half-distance. He then broke the lap record twice to put the result beyond question, executing some glorious powerslides during the final laps.
"In this heat there's only one way to ride, and that's sliding and spinning," said Rossi, who chose a hard front/medium rear tyre combination. "It's big fun to ride a 500 like that, I like it a lot! My first lap was a nightmare because I missed second gear away from the grid, then when I caught Loris and Garry it was difficult to ride with Garry because his style is so different, it wasn't easy to get close enough to pass. Once I arrived in the lead I made four laps at a very good rhythm but the end of the race was still very hard." Michelin Grand Prix manager Jacques Morelli believes this was one of Rossi's greatest rides. "He was very fast and you could see that he now really knows how to control the 500, though the high track temperature here does make it easier than usual to slide the rear," said Morelli. "I think he was very motivated to make the break because he doesn't find it easy to ride with McCoy because their styles are so different, they use different braking points, different lines and different corner speed."
While Rossi quickly opened a four-second lead, Capirossi and McCoy were engaged in a frantic duel for second place, with Shinya Nakano (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3-Michelin) joining in the fun whenever he could find an opening. The Italian and Australian swapped back and forth, Capirossi finally gaining the upper hand by setting his quickest lap on his final lap. Nakano briefly stole third from McCoy on that last lap, just 1.5 seconds covering the trio at the flag.
"The race was difficult for all of us and our tyres," said Capirossi who ran a soft rear and hard front. "My rear was working very well all the way to the end, so I could do my fastest lap on lap 21. I fitted a soft rear and pushed hard when I got the lead early on, but my front was too hard to work with the rear. But I'm happy with second because it puts me just four points behind Biaggi with one race to go."
McCoy led the mid-stages but however hard he tried he couldn't make the break. Using his hugely entertaining sideways style to the max, he didn't quite have the pace to match Capirossi at the end. "It's good to be on the podium because we've struggled to do that this year," said McCoy who has missed five races through injury. "It was a hard race because you really have to fight the bike here and that's tough in these conditions. I tried a couple of times to get a gap on the others but my pitboard always said `plus zero' and then Valentino came past."
Nakano scored his best result since he took third at July's German GP. "I got badly shut out at the first corner," he said. "On the last lap I passed Garry twice but each time he took me straight back. I'm disappointed to miss the podium by so little but I'm happy with my race."
Tohru Ukawa (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin) rode another great race, coming through from 14th to fifth, finishing well clear of team-mate Alex Crivillé (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin), Alex Barros (West Honda Pons-Michelin) and Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin).
There were a number of tumbles in the torrid conditions, Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) taking out Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin) in the early stages and Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha-D'Antin-Michelin) falling while challenging for second. The Japanese remounted to finish 13th.