World Championship leader makes it look so easy after toying with hard-riding Abe Former 125 and 250 World Champion Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) won his third 500 GP in as many outings at Jerez today, taking a comfortable ...
World Championship leader makes it look so easy after toying with hard-riding Abe
Former 125 and 250 World Champion Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) won his third 500 GP in as many outings at Jerez today, taking a comfortable victory despite a strong challenge from on-form Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha- D'Antin-Michelin).
The pair spent much of the 27 laps together after shaking off a determined charge by Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons-Michelin), but when Rossi decided to put his head down, he easily left Abe to cross the finish line 2.307 seconds ahead, standing up and taking a celebratory bow.
And yet Rossi didn't rate his 19th 500 ride a total success. "It wasn't a perfect race, we didn't make the best tyre choice and I was a bit wary when I saw Abe sliding around ahead of me," said the man who started from pole. "I thought I'd be able to do 43s early on but I could only manage 44s with the full fuel tank. When Abe overtook me, I look behind and saw no one so I knew it was just him and me. After that I worked out where I could attack and made my move. With less fuel I then found I could get into the 43s and I also had a better rhythm than earlier on."
The win puts Rossi 31 points clear of Abe and also made him the first rider to win at Jerez in all three classes, the Italian having taken 125 victory in 1997 and 250 success in '99, when he went on to take those crowns. The 22-year-old's third win of 2001 also takes him another step closer to his dream of becoming the first man to win the triple crown of 125, 250 and 500 titles since Briton Phil Read conquered the classes in the sixties and seventies.
"I don't think Valentino rode as fast a race as he could have ridden," said Michelin Grand Prix manager Jacques Morelli. "He was waiting for his moment and showed he could go fast at the end. Most of the top guys were on the same choice of tyres so I don't think there was much difference between them from that point of view."
Abe, who chose the same medium-compound Michelins as Rossi, was delighted with second place, a real boost for his Madrid-based Antena 3 Yamaha-D'Antin crew. "I rode a good race at the beginning," he said. "I was riding hard though the front started pushing later on, so I couldn't quite stay with Valentino. But it was a great race for the team, I was taking care not to crash because I know this is such an important event for them. There's 13 races to go, now we'll see if we can have another go at Valentino."
Alex Crivillé (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin) scored a superb third-place result, chasing down Abe in the closing stages after coming through from 12th on lap one. The race gave the Spanish hero his first podium since Assen last June and his fight through the pack prompted massive cheers from the 126,000-strong crowd, as well as barrages of firework explosions.
"It's good to be back on the podium," said the 1999 World Champion, who is getting stronger and stronger this year after a difficult 2000 season. "We had a few problems in practice but we found a good bike balance for the race. This result is good for Repsol, for Honda and for me. It feels like 1999 again!"
Crivillé's charge denied Shinya Nakano (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3-Michelin) his first 500 podium. The 500 rookie rode another great race, starting from the front row for the third time in his three 500 races. The Japanese ace ended Jerez just 1.3 seconds down on third place and 1.8 seconds ahead of compatriot Tohru Ukawa (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin), who came back from a heavy practice spill yesterday.
Alex Barros (West Honda Pons-Michelin) was sixth after a steady, consistent ride ahead of reigning World Champion Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin), who took his third successive seventh-place finish. "We're getting trampled all over at the moment," said the American who crossed the line well clear of Capirossi. Italian Capirossi had qualified second and made it into third after a poor start but was unable to hold the leaders' pace, later running off the track and dropping to 11th.