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Nov 4, 2001

Dueling Team Press Releases From Rio Grand Prix

From Honda:<BR><BR>Rio Grand Prix, Jacarepagua, Brazil<BR>Saturday, November 3, 2001<BR><BR>HONDA RACING PRESS INFORMATION<BR><BR><BR>Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda NSR500) snatched a brilliant last-corner victory from Carlos Checa (Yamaha) at Rio this afternoon, bringing his season total to 11 wins. This latest success puts him second in the most-wins-in-a-season league, equal with fellow Italian legend Giacomo Agostini, who won 11 500 GPs in 1972, and just one victory behind record-holder Mick<BR>Doohan (Repsol Honda NSR500), who won 12 GPs in 1997. It also moved him to eighth equal in the all-time GP winner list. Rossi has now won a total of 39 GPs, putting him equal with Fifties 250 and 125 star Carlo Ubbiali.<BR><BR>The victory was also truly historic, for it writes Rossi's name in the history books as the last-ever winner of a 500 Grand Prix. The MotoGP World Championship moves into a new era next season when 990cc four-strokes join the series and Rossi will be part of that revolution aboard Honda's RCV V5 four-stroke. But his last 500 win was anything but easy. Watched by 40,000 fans, Rossi had to fight hard throughout the two-part race, stopped and restarted due to a rain shower, the overall results decided on aggregate time from the two segments. And he made life tougher for himself for the restart, choosing the wrong front tire for the conditions. But he was still able to ride hard enough to chase Checa over the line, winning the race by a tantalizing 0.143 seconds, thanks to the time advantage he'd had over Checa from the few laps run before the rain came.<BR><BR>"That was a very difficult race and I didn't event know I'd won until I spoke to one of my team on the slowdown lap," said the dazzling 22-year old who started the race from row two, only his fourth start of 2001 off the front row. "I chose an intermediate front for the restart when I should've gone for a cut slick because the track was very soon dry. Checa used a cut-slick front and I had to push very hard to stay with him, so hard that I nearly lost the front and crashed a few times. Now I'm looking forward to tonight's party - it's going to be a long night! After that, I go on holidays for one month, then I have my first full test on the RCV at Jerez at the end of November. I hope the weather is good for the test because I want to really get to know and understand the machine. Honda say the bike has improved a lot since I last tested it when I was in Japan for the Suzuka Eight Hours at the end of July."<BR><BR>Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) had been looking in great form before the rain, running in the lead group, but he couldn't continue at that pace after the restart and slipped behind Rossi, Checa and third-finisher Max Biaggi (Yamaha) to finish a distant fourth. "I wanted a good result for the fans," said the man from Sao Paulo. "But tire choice was a lottery for the second race and I didn't make the best choice."<BR><BR>Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500) was next up, crossing the line 1.6 seconds down on his team-mate. It was a disappointing result for the Italian who had been hoping to beat Biaggi and move to second overall; instead he ended the season third, still his best-ever 500 campaign. "But I'm happy enough," he said. "Today's was a difficult race and I ended the year third overall, like on the podium! I knew it'd be difficult to get second, now I'll take a rest and try to improve next year."<BR><BR>Alex Criville (Repsol YPF Honda NSR500) completed the two-part race in seventh place, seven seconds down on sixth-home Norick Abe (Yamaha). "The second race was much better for me and I was hopeful of a good result," he said. "But I chose an intermediate rear which wasn't the right tire as the track quickly dried, so I couldn't maintain a good pace."<BR><BR>Most disappointed man at Rio was undoubtedly Tohru Ukawa (Repsol YPF Honda NSR500). The Japanese racer had scored his first-ever 500 pole position in superb style on Friday and thus had high expectations of scoring his first 500 victory. The former 250 GP winner lived up to those hopes in the first few laps, leading the race from 2000 champ Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) and Rossi. But the weather spoiled everything for Ukawa, who crashed on the second lap of the restart, while holding a close second place on corrected time. "For once I got good starts in both races but this time I didn't finish," said Ukawa who's recently made a habit of starting badly then charging through the pack. "I knew I could fight for the win, or a podium finish at least, but then I went and made a mistake when overtaking Alex. It's a real shame but now I must look towards next year."<BR><BR><BR><BR>From Suzuki:<BR> <BR>TYRE GAMBLE GOES WRONG FOR SUZUKI RIDERS<BR><BR>World Grand Prix, Round 16, Race Result, Jacarepagua, Brazil, Saturday, November 3, 2001.<BR><BR>Team Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki riders Kenny Roberts Jr and Sete Gibernau were victims of unpredictable weather at today's Rio GP, the last race of the 2001 season.<BR><BR>In a race stopped by rain after four laps and restarted for the remaining 20, the team gambled that the rain would continue and sent both riders out on full wet tyres. Instead, against their private forecast, the rain stopped and the well-drained 4.933km Nelson Piquet circuit dried at once. Roberts and Gibernau were among several wrongly-shod riders condemned to cruising round at the back of the field. Gibernau finished 12th, in the points but one lap behind, with Roberts 16th, another lap adrift.<BR><BR>It was a disappointment for both. Roberts had started from the front row of the grid and led the first and third laps. He was second by less than half-a-second on lap four, when the race was stopped. After the restart he realised at once he was in trouble, and pitted at the end of the first lap with the idea of changing tyres. <BR><BR>Instead he went out again, cruising round in the hope of picking up points. Gibernau was ninth and moving forward on lap four. He fell on the next lap as the rain began, but was able to restart in any case. Like Roberts he was in trouble from the start; but without stopping he was able to claim four points, to make sure of a top-10 championship finish. He was ninth overall; defending champion Roberts was 11th.<BR><BR>Today's race, watched by an enthusiastic 40,000-strong crowd, was the last ever for the 500cc class. From next year, the premier category will be open also to 990cc four-strokes. The winner was 2001 champion Valentino Rossi.<BR><BR>SETE GIBERNAU - 12th Position<BR>"I thought I had a good chance in the first race. I didn't start too well, but I was catching up the leading group and feeling strong when it started to rain and they had to stop the race. In fact I crashed because of the rain, but I was able to make the restart. After that, the position was simple. We made a wrong choice of tyres, and that was it. It was obvious from the start and all I could do was ride carefully and wait for the finish. Now we have to go home, and work hard to prepare for a better season next year."<BR><BR>KENNY ROBERTS - 16th Position<BR>"We simply made the wrong decision. We had advice from the weather people that it was going to carry on raining, and it was still wet and drizzly on the line for the restart. Until we actually left the line. It's disappointing. I felt we would have done well here, given different circumstances. But in the end there were too many ifs."<BR><BR>GARRY TAYLOR - Team Manager<BR>"We took the same gamble on the same meteorological advice at Valencia - and there it worked. We finished first and third. This time, it went against us. That happens sometimes when you gamble. In fact we had Kenny's spare bike ready on slicks in case he decided to change after the warm-up lap, but he stayed out there, and the die was cast."<BR><BR><BR>from Marlboro Yamaha:<BR><BR>RIO GRAND PRIX, JACAREPAGUA<BR>Race Day, Saturday, November 3, 2001<BR><BR>MARLBORO YAMAHA DENIED THRILLING RIO VICTORY<BR>Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi played a starring role in today's thrilling season-ending Rio GP, run as a two-part aggregate race after rain interrupted proceedings. Cheated of victory by a backmarker at the very last turn, Checa finished second, just a fraction behind Valentino Rossi (Honda) with Biaggi third. This was the third time this year that the Marlboro Yamaha Team duo have stood together on the podium, following their one-two performances at the French and German GPs.<BR><BR>"Maybe Carlos could've won without the backmarker, but that's racing," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "The good thing is that he rode a great race, and Max too, it was very exciting for all of us. Now we have finished this year, so the 500 class is history and we can now focus 100 per cent on developing the new YZR-M1 four-stroke for next season."<BR><BR>Today's Grand Prix was the 580th and last 500 Grand Prix before up-to-990cc four-strokes join the MotoGP World Championship from the start<BR>of next season.<BR><BR>CHECA SECOND BUT SO UNLUCKY<BR>Carlos Checa led most of this afternoon's restarted Rio GP, only to run out of luck at the very last turn and lose the race. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man had been in the midst of the leading pack before the rain shower that brought out the red flags, ending that four-lap segment in fourth place. He was right on the pace again when the race was restarted. Running front and rear cut slicks in the tricky conditions, he took the lead from Rossi on aggregate time on lap 16 and stayed out front, just a fraction ahead of his Italian rival, who had completed the first four-lap segment 0.195 seconds ahead of Checa. So when Checa found privateer Anthony West (Honda) on the racing line at the final corner of the last lap, Rossi was able to get close enough to win the race by 0.143 seconds on aggregate time.<BR><BR>"I saw the chequered flag and I thought I'd won," said Checa. "When I found out the result it was probably the worst feeling of my life. I've been chasing this win for three years with my team, the team did a great job here, the bike felt good and I thought I'd found my opportunity. West turned around as we were coming at him, Rossi saw him too, then I met him in the middle of the turn, so I couldn't open the throttle where I usually do and that was enough to lose me the race. I don't know what West was thinking.<BR><BR>"This is such a frustrating way to lose and the people that run this sport must do something about the blue-flag system. On Friday I complained that there were no blue flags to warn lapped riders to move over, but it hasn't made any difference."<BR><BR>BIAGGI SECURES SECOND OVERALL<BR>Max Biaggi took a hard-ridden third place at Rio to secure second overall in the last-ever 500 World Championship. Starting from the third row, the Italian was in the thick of it from the first laps, and was the only man who could run with Carlos Checa and Valentino Rossi after the restart.<BR><BR>"This was a very tough weekend for me," said Biaggi, winner of three races this season. "This track is so bumpy that we couldn't get the bike set up to suit me. I couldn't use my speed because I wasn't getting enough feeling from the front, that's why I qualified tenth. I think the damp conditions helped today, though maybe my choice of an intermediate front wasn't perfect.<BR><BR>"It's great to get second in the championship. Okay, so second isn't brilliant but it's all I could do today. Over the last few days I've read a lot of newspapers telling me how motivated Capirossi was to beat me for second overall, so I wanted to ride a good race to make sure of second. Now we look forward to next year and the big question mark of four-strokes. We've got a lot of testing ahead of us and I hope we can have a great machine for 2002 so we can go one better than this year."<BR><BR>ROSSI TAKES 11TH WIN<BR>World Champion Valentino Rossi continued his relentless trophy hunt at Rio, securing his 11th victory of the 2001 season and his sixth victory from the last seven races. Once again things fell just right for the Italian youngster, who'd been getting well out of shape as he battled to stay with the flying Checa. "I made a mistake with my front-tyre choice, I should've used a cut slick, not an intermediate," he said. "I pushed so hard that I nearly lost the front and crashed a few times, and when we finished the race I didn't know who had won. I only found out when I stopped and asked one of my team members. Now I'm looking forward to the end-of-season party, it's going to be a long night! After that, I've a one-month holiday, then I start testing Honda's four-stroke at Jerez at the end of November."<BR><BR>Local star Alex Barros (Honda) finished the race fourth, just ahead of his team-mate Loris Capirossi.<BR><BR><BR>From Proton:<BR><BR> <BR>PROTON RETIRES FROM STOP-AND-GO RIO GP <BR><BR>Round 16: Rio GP, Jacarepagua Race Report: Saturday, November 3, 2001 <BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh: Did Not Finish <BR>Proton Team KR rider Jurgen van den Goorbergh retired from today's Rio GP, last race of the 2001 GP season, after rare mechanical trouble struck on the first lap of a race that was stopped three laps later when it started to rain. Because he was not running at the time, Jurgen was not eligible for the restart, leaving the Dutchman angry and disappointed after a weekend that had promised a lot for his last race with the team. <BR><BR>Jurgen had qualified well, on the third row of the grid, and was fastest in race-morning warm-up. But his troubles started directly the lights went green, with gearshifting difficulties. Even so, he finished the first lap in 12th. But the problem rapidly got worse, and he was forced to stop out on the track without finishing the second lap. <BR><BR>It was particularly disappointing because it had been something of a struggle to make the race. Ruled out of the previous round after suffering concussion in a practice tumble, he was still suffering a week before the Rio GP, and not sure whether he would be fit enough to start. He was given medical clearance just in time to fly to Brazil, but even during practice was having trouble concentrating. Day by day he got better, however, and by race day he was feeling fit, and confident of finishing the season with a good result. <BR><BR>The race, watched by a 40,000-strong crowd, was won by new 500cc World Champion Valentino Rossi. The four-plus-20 laps of the 4.933km Nelson Piquet circuit were the last ever race in the classic 500cc class. From next year, the premier category will be open also to 990cc four-strokes. <BR> <BR><BR>JURGEN VAN DEN GOORBERGH <BR>"You could say that was disappointing. Or even more than disappointing. I came here to race, and I believe I did a good job to make it through to race day. This morning I was fastest, which shows I was capable of a good result. Then in the race something broke. It's a shame to finish the season this way - the bike has been quite reliable all year. Until this important day". <BR> <BR><BR>KENNY ROBERTS - Team Owner <BR>"The bike ran all weekend with no problems. Then we got to the race, and it had a problem These things always seem to come at the wrong time - but that's the way it goes sometimes". <BR> <BR>