Portuguese GP Michelin race report

2000 MotoGP 500 World Championship, round 12 PORTUGUESE GRAND PRIX, ESTORIL Race Day, Sunday September 3, 2000 MICHELIN'S 16.5in REAR THE POPULAR CHOICE AS McCOY WINS AGAIN Demon-riding Australian Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha ...

2000 MotoGP 500 World Championship, round 12 PORTUGUESE GRAND PRIX,
ESTORIL Race Day, Sunday September 3, 2000


Demon-riding Australian Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) scored his second 500 GP victory today at Estoril, making light of strong winds that played havoc with much of the pack. McCoy, renowned for his thrilling sideways riding style, ran away with the race from the early stages, beating World Championship leader Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin) by almost five seconds. Roberts just fended off title rival Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) for second, crucially extending his points lead with just four GPs remaining.

Today's race was particularly significant because more riders than ever before chose Michelin's 16.5in rear slick instead of the firm's 17in rear. The 16.5in gives a larger contact patch at extreme angles of lean, a useful characteristic in the prevailing conditions, with strong winds blowing sand onto the track, reducing traction. The first five riders home all ran 16.5s. Alex Criville (Repsol Honda-Michelin), Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Rizla Honda-Michelin) and Alex Barros (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin) were the only top-ten finishers to choose 17s.

McCoy was amazed with the ease with which he won the race. His first-ever 500 win, at the season-opening South African GP, came after a heroic charge through the field. "At the start I got passed by Gibernau," said McCoy, who started from pole position from the first time in his career but lost the holeshot to Sete Gibernau (Repsol Honda-Michelin). "From there I followed him to see what he could do, then I thought I'd pass him and just keep it all together. I was watching my pit board and it went + 0.3, then +0.7 and the gap kept growing. That's not an experience I've had before. I've been waiting a long time for this win and now it's here, I feel great."

McCoy isn't in the hunt for the 500 title but today's race for second place could have been a pivotal moment in the contest for this year's 500 crown. Roberts started strongly from the front row, running third from lap one and then following McCoy past Gibernau before half distance. From there the American seemed to have second wrapped up but a strong late-race surge from Rossi brought the Italian to within two tenths of second place at the flag, chased all the way by compatriot Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin). Rossi had started from 12th on the grid after a problematic two days of qualifying but came through from 11th on lap one to third, breaking the track record on his final lap.

Roberts was delighted with second in such difficult circumstances. "That was not a strong race, the wind was so strong," he said. "It means you're not just working with yourself and the motorcycle and the tyres, but you're also fighting the wind. I was thinking of the championship and I'm happy to get out of here with second."

Rossi was also smiling at the end of the race, even though he narrowly missed the chance to take another bite of Roberts' points lead. "I think I rode a good race from 12th on the grid," said the young 500 rookie, now 46 points down. "Third is like a win for me but it's not good for the championship. I was sick on Friday, so we struggled with set-up but the bike was much better today."

Biaggi was just half a second behind at the flag, despite a nasty moment when Gibernau crashed at speed while just ahead of him. The Spaniard suffered a bruised neck and back but was otherwise unhurt. "I had to get off the throttle and swerve to avoid him," said Biaggi, winner at Brno two weeks ago. "The wind definitely affected my set-up but fourth place, close to the top three, isn't a disaster. Overall I think we're in good shape, I want to win again this year."

Regis Laconi (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) rode an aggressive race to fifth, his best finish of the year after a long skirmish with World Champion Criville, Tadayuki Okada (Repsol Honda-Michelin) and dogged privateer van den Goorbergh. Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha-D'Antin-Michelin) and Barros completed the top ten, crossing the line almost side by side. Jeremy McWilliams (Blu Aprilia Team-Michelin) took 11th on his newly fuel-injected RSW500, stealing the position from Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) on the very last lap.

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Valentino Rossi , Norifumi Abe , Alex Criville , Jeremy McWilliams , Alex Barros , Sete Gibernau , Laconi Régis
Teams Williams