Shell 500cc Japanese GP Review

TOUGH START FOR SHELL ADVANCE AT SUZUKA McCoy out, brave Borja battles on for a point Australia's new Shell Advance team came through a gruelling 500cc World Championship debut to leave Suzuka with their first point on the board after Sunday's...

TOUGH START FOR SHELL ADVANCE AT SUZUKA

McCoy out, brave Borja battles on for a point

Australia's new Shell Advance team came through a gruelling 500cc World Championship debut to leave Suzuka with their first point on the board after Sunday's season-opening Japanese Grand Prix.

Young New South Wales rider Garry McCoy was quickly introduced to the realities of racing at the top, going off on the opening lap in an incident with Japanese Nobby Aoki, but McCoy's Spanish teammate Juan Borja bravely shrugged off the pain from an injured shoulder to end the race as leading privateer and score Shell Advance's maiden point.

"We had dramas of one kind or another for most of the weekend," said team owner Jeff Hardwick, "but at least we can say we got a point on the board ­ which was more than Mick Doohan did!" Four-time World Champion Doohan did not finish, leaving 500cc debutant, Italian Max Biaggi, to storm home to his first success in the premier category.

"We were really looking forward to the race," said chief engineer Clyde Wolfenden, "because testing in the week before had been so promising. Juan¹s Honda NSRV was the quickest twin on track." In fact Borja's practice times, close to 2 minutes 9 seconds dead, would have been good enough for a top ten place on the grid.

As it was, the Spaniard endured bad luck throughout the first two days of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. He came off in first official practice when a radiator hose came adrift, and was pitched off the bike again when the same thing happened in the afternoon. After three laps on Saturday morning Borja was off again ("Lots of wrecked bikes, lots of expense!" joked Wolfenden) and could take no part in qualifying.

Borja's practice time was good enough for 16th and best privateer placing on the grid, with McCoy just behind in 18th as he got to grips with the power of the 500cc machine on a circuit he had previously raced on in the 125cc category.

"Testing went pretty well," said McCoy, "though setting up a 500cc bike for that circuit was a bit of a handful. We tried something different to make it go faster, playing around with the suspension in particular, and I was quite happy going into the race."

"I made a good start, passing people like Checa and Kocinski, and I was passing Simon Crafar into the hairpin when Nobuatsu Aoki came screaming across from the outside to the inside and just left me with nowhere to go. I just went straight over the top of him. At least it's a slow corner! It's the first time I've put the bike down, so at least I've got that thought out of my head now."

Garry picked the bike up, saw the handlebar twisted into the tank, and made back towards pit lane. When he got there he discovered he had no front brakes, so he had to keep going through the chicane and eventually stopped with the help of only his rear brake and the dirt. "I felt I mixed it reasonably well with a 500cc field in the short time I had out there," reflected McCoy. "I certainly felt comfortable getting back into a racing situation after all the testing we had done. Maybe I just got a little bit carried away with passing all those people! But the race itself seemed different, and I found myself in a completely different state of mind once it was under way. It was so good to be racing again."

Borja, meanwhile, gritted his teeth and rode around to make sure the team got off to a scoring start. The Spaniard has pulled the muscles on his left side from the shoulder up through the neck, and though he will will not have made a full recovery by the second round in Malaysia on April 19 he is confident of racing then.

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About this article
Series General
Drivers Max Biaggi , Garry McCoy , Mick Doohan , Nobuatsu Aoki , Juan Borja