Rossi maintains points lead after rainy Valencia GP
VALENCIA GRAND PRIX, VALENCIA, Race Day, Sunday September 23 2001
Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) came within 0.293 seconds of winning his
second GP of the year at Valencia today. The Brazilian rode a dazzling race in
treacherous damp conditions and but for a cautious tire choice might have beaten
eventual winner Sete Gibernau (Suzuki). The pair fought side by side for the
last two thirds of the crash-ridden race, with reigning World Champion Kenny
Roberts (Suzuki) finishing just behind in third.
World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda NSR500) scored
his worst finish of the year after making a particularly conservative tire
choice to ensure he didn't fall on the ice-like track, made perilous by a brief
pre-race shower. He ended the race in 11th but only lost one point to
title-rival Max Biaggi (Yamaha).
Barros led more laps than Gibernau and looked the strongest of the trio until
the crucial final laps, by which time the racing line was dry and he didn't have
enough grip to tackle the Spaniard. He had chosen an intermediate front and
slick rear, while the Suzuki duo went for slicks all round, and the fact that he
could stay with them spoke volumes for his riding and the user-friendly
performance of his NSR500.
"I tried everything but during the last laps I couldn't catch Sete on the brakes
because he had a slick front and I didn't," explained the Brazilian. "The early
laps were unbelievable, this track is so slippery in the wet. Anyway, I'm happy
with the result which compensates me for my bad luck at Estoril, when I was
taken out at the first turn. It's also helped my championship position and now I
hope for good results at the last four races."
The early laps were chaotic with many riders falling victim to the hazardous
surface. First to go was Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500) who slid out
of the lead at the very first corner. The Italian had already fallen on the
warm-up, starting the race on his spare bike. "I had a rain front tire and
intermediate rear but even that wasn't enough for the conditions," he said.
Tohru Ukawa (Repsol YPF Honda NSR500) rode a determined race for fifth, crossing
the line sixth, just a fraction behind Olivier Jacque, both men finishing a fair
way behind Carlos Checa (Yamaha). "I did the worst first lap of my life today,"
said the Japanese, who completed lap one in tenth spot. "I had to slow to avoid
Capirossi and that lost me several places. Then the same thing happened when
Haga and Aoki crashed, which lost me a huge amount of time. After that I tried
to maintain a good pace but it was a difficult race."
Rossi was just pleased to have score some points, and though title-rival Max
Biaggi (Yamaha) took tenth place from him in the final laps, his series
advantage shrank by just one point and he goes into the final four 'flyway' GPs
42 points ahead of his compatriot. "So much effort for so little return," said
Rossi, who ran intermediates front and rear and comfortably led the race until
the track began to dry. "Thinking of the championship we had to choose
conservatively, so we didn't risk too much in the early laps. Then I had to
accept the others passing me and just make sure I finished."
Former World Champion Alex Criville (Repsol YPF Honda NSR500) was one of many
who fell victim to the conditions. Fighting a determined battle with Gibernau,
he got forced off line and on to the damp, losing the front as he entered a
turn. "Sete took the inside line and I had to leave him some room and run wide,"
said Criville. "I could've won this race, I made the right tire choice and
easily caught the leaders."
Results: 500cc GP Valencia, Spain
1. Sete Gibernau (Suz)
2. Alex Barros (Hon)
3. Kenny Roberts Jr. (Suz)
4. Carlos Checa (Yam)
5. Olivier Jacque (Yam)
6. Tohru Ukawa (Hon)
11. Valentino Rossi (Hon)
500cc WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPSHIP POINT STANDINGS (After 12 of 16 rounds):
1. Valentino Rossi (HON 225/8 wins)
2. Max Biaggi (YAM 183/3 wins)
3. Loris Capirossi (HON 147)
4. Alex Barros (HON 127)
5. Shinya Nakano (YAM 116)
9. Alex Criville (HON 91)
11. Torhu Ukawa (HON 74)
10/7 Twin Ring Motegi, Japan
10/14 Phillip Island, Australia