2000 MotoGP 500 World Championship, round 15 PACIFIC GRAND PRIX, MOTEGI Race Day, Sunday October 15 2000
KING KENNY WALKS IT ON DUAL-COMPOUND MICHELIN
Newly crowned 500 World Champion Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin) showed why he's the new king of bike racing's premier class with a dominant start-to-finish victory at cool and cloudy Motegi today.
After securing the crown with a conservative ride to sixth at Rio last weekend, the American showed all his speed here, opening an eight-second lead at half-distance to cross the line six seconds ahead of Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin), who won a thrilling duel with Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin). All three men used Michelin dual-compound rear slicks designed for Motegi. The tyres have a hard crown to cope with the excessive amount of low-gear acceleration at this track.
"The team gave me a perfect bike and tyres that worked from start to finish," said Roberts. "It's great racing without the pressure of getting points; now I want to go and win the last race at Phillip Island."
While Roberts made the break from second on the grid, his most likely rivals were all held up by slower riders over the first few laps. It took Rossi and pole sitter Biaggi until lap seven to break clear and give chase. But their battle was between themselves, rather than with Roberts, and it turned out to be a breathtaking contest, drawing roars of appreciation from the 66,000 fans. Rossi held the upper hand most of the way, until Biaggi swept by seven laps from the flag. But on the last lap the youngster went ahead, Biaggi running wide as he tried one final counter-attack.
"I shut all the doors on him, it was a great race between us," said Rossi. "I tried so hard to beat Biaggi and just managed it on the last lap. Kenny was too fast today, I said last week that we didn't see the true Kenny at Rio."
While Roberts ran a 16.5in rear, both Biaggi and Rossi chose 17s, preferring the bigger tyre's easier steering characteristics at a track that doesn't feature many long corners, the extra-grippy 16.5's strong point.
"My bike and tyres were good today," said Biaggi. "My start wasn't bad but someone hit me at the first turn and I lost a lot of places. The first three laps were very hard, I did some fairing bashing with Barros and by the time I'd got going, Roberts had already said 'bye-bye'. I caught Rossi and had a big fight with him but it was tough to get close enough to pass. I got him with seven laps to go, but he got me on the brakes on the last lap. I had one last go but ran wide. I tried everything, so third is okay."
Team-mate Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) rode a strong race to fourth, coming back from a so-so start and three practice crashes.
"I'm also older and wiser today!" grinned the Spaniard, celebrating his 28th birthday today. "The bike was good, so I could pass the guys ahead of me after my bad start, but I had to go very deep to get by them and was pushing the front a bit. My rear tyre was perfect and the front was good too."
Suzuka winner Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha-D'Antin-Michelin) finished two seconds down on Checa and a fraction up on '99 World Champion Alex Criville (Repsol Honda-Michelin), both men enjoying some hectic racing with seventh-finisher Alex Barros (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin). Barros and team-mate Loris Capirossi (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin) had both qualified on the front row but got involved in some lap-one barging that left them 11th and tenth at the end of the first lap. Capirossi crossed the finish line eighth, just ahead of Nobuatsu Aoki (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin).
Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) retired from the race after running off the track while down in 12th.