Rossi wins his second GP of 2002 while MotoGP newcomer Kato impresses in second place. Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) scored his second victory of the new four-stroke MotoGP era at Jerez this afternoon, extending his World...
Rossi wins his second GP of 2002 while MotoGP newcomer Kato impresses in second place.
Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) scored his second victory of the new four-stroke MotoGP era at Jerez this afternoon, extending his World Championship lead in front of a wildly enthusiastic 130,000-strong crowd. But the Italian was chase d hard by class rookie Daijiro Kato (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR500-Michelin), the first 500 two-stroke rider to seriously challenge the so far dominant four-strokes. Kato finished just 1.190 seconds behind Rossi after getting the better of a frantic tussle with South African GP winner Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin). Michelin riders dominated today's race, the fastest-ever Spanish GP, taking the first six positions, with Rossi a stunning 25 seconds faster than his winning pace in last year's 500 GP here. The dramatic increase in race pace can be attributed to the speed of Rossi's RCV plus the extra grip provided by Michelin's new S4 rear slick.
"That was a pretty good race for us," said Michelin Grand Prix manager Emmanuel Fournier. "All our tyres seemed to work well with normal levels of wear, even though we'd not raced on this surface before. The first three guys all ran the same spec tyres -- a medium-compound S4 16.5in rear and a medium version of our latest front. I think Valentino's strategy was good today -- he changed tactics after getting beaten at Welkom! Kato was very strong in the late stages, riding so hard to stay with Rossi. He's obviously still learning to ride the 500 and I think this race showed that HRC are also still developing their 500."
Rossi had to work hard for his 41st Grand Prix success. After getting the holeshot from pole position he slipped to third and then to eighth after Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki GSV-R-Michelin) got sideways into turn one and barged him off the racing line. Cool as ever, Rossi steadily worked his way back towards the front, slotting into second behind Ukawa on lap six. He stayed there for 11 laps while Kato worked his way forward, demoting Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500-Michelin) and Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500-Michelin) to fourth and fifth. Rossi finally took the lead with 11 laps to go when the three 500 riders were snapping at his heels.
"I felt Kenny hit me, I guess he must've made a mistake braking for turn one," said Rossi. "I was just lucky I didn't crash and after that it was like starting all over again. The bike was a little hard to ride with a full fuel tank but I managed to get into second and follow Ukawa's good rhythm. By the end I was sliding around a bit but I still think we could've gone three or four tenths quicker."
Kato, who won last year's Spanish 250 GP, was delighted with his first MotoGP podium finish. "I'm very proud," said the Japanese after only his third race in biking's premier class. "Now I will devote all my energies to closing the gap on Valentino."
Ukawa led 15 of the first 16 laps but had to be happy with third place which moved him into second in the World Championship. The Japanese had an entertaining duel for second with Kato and then for third with fourth-place finisher Capirossi. Both battles swung this way and that, the lighter two-stroke NSRs faster into the corners and the more powerful four-stroke RCV quicker on the way out. "That was a spectacular race!" grinned Capirossi whose team-mate Barros was just happy to be fifth and back o n the pace. The Brazilian led lap one and ended the race just four seconds down on Rossi.
Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha-d'Antin YZR500-Michelin) led the best of the rest in sixth, ahead of Nobuatsu Aoki (Proton KR) and Roberts, who achieved his first finish of the year after his team switched to Michelin tyres. "The tyres were consistent," said the American, whose Suzuki four-stroke only started its track-testing programme in January. "Now we know what we need to do to get better."