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Jun 2, 2002

Honda's Take On Mugello MotoGP

From a press release:<BR><BR>MotoGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2002<BR>ITALIAN GRAND PRIX, MUGELLO<BR>Race Day, Sunday June 2 2002<BR><BR>ROSSI ROMPS TO MAJESTIC HOME WIN<BR>Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RCV211V) took his fourth win of the 2002 season after 23 tough laps of his home circuit of Mugello. The reigning World Champion exercised faultless tactics throughout and was virtually unchallenged at the end, slowing as he pulled a celebratory wheelie over the line to take a margin of victory of 2.404 seconds from his great Italian rival Max Biaggi (Yamaha). Rossi's team-mate Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda RC211V) finished third.<BR><BR>Taking the holeshot from his fifth consecutive pole position, Rossi pulled out an immediate lead but could not shake off the attentions of the closing Yamaha pairing of Carlos Checa and Biaggi. Rossi's fellow Italian passed on lap seven and held him at bay until 11 laps remained. A determined Rossi re-asserted his authority over proceedings and soon made a gap that grew inexorably each lap, until he was over three seconds ahead in the closing stages.<BR><BR>Despite his eventual dominance Rossi was unconvinced that he could score an easy win, especially as he fell in warm-up and opted for a slightly softer compound rear tyre than most. "Earlier today I did not think it would turn out this way because I made a mistake and lost the front," said Rossi of his dramatic morning crash. "I think that was my first ever career crash in warm-up, so I realised that I had to ride more sweetly than yesterday. I knew it would not be possible to do the whole race at 100% but it means a lot for me to win in front of my home fans. It's very emotional to win again at Mugello, because I haven't done it since 1999."<BR><BR>Rossi's win improved his table-topping position, with the Italian rider leading by 43 points from Ukawa. "My lead is better but it is a long championship and we have to concentrate for all the season," stated Rossi post-race.<BR><BR>In a piece of pre-arranged theatre during the slow-down lap, two of Rossi's friends, dressed as local policemen, stopped him in front of his massed rank of fan-club members and issued him with a speeding ticket for travelling at nearly 200 mph.<BR><BR>With Biaggi second, the final podium spot went to Ukawa who battled past Checa, their race-long squabble settled on the penultimate blast down the long finish straight. "There is something special about this track that I don't like, because I usually crash or have some other bad luck," said a relieved Ukawa, whose RCV became the fastest-ever MotoGP bike, clocking 324.5kmh in final qualifying. "It all came down the last two laps in this race and luckily we have a slight speed advantage over the Yamahas here. I got third, so that makes me happy. I am still second in the championship but there is a big gap to Valentino."<BR><BR>A fighting fifth place for Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) came at the expense of his team-mate Loris Capirossi, who had held a lonely fifth on the first few laps but was overhauled after his soft compound rear tyre had given of its best.<BR><BR>Barros was bullish about his chances of staying on terms with the four-strokes, if he can find an absolutely perfect race set-up "We made a good tyre choice and I knew we could complete a good race," said the Brazilian. "We still have room for improvement and if I can solve the problems I have when entering a corner, where the bike does not turn, we can be right up at the front alongside the four-strokes. I made a great start but I got held up behind Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) and it took me a long time to pass him. The time I lost is the gap that separated me from Ukawa and Checa in the end."<BR><BR>Capirossi himself was rueful of his finishing position and his choice of soft rear rubber. "That was a very difficult race, especially as I chose a soft rear tyre," explained the 2000 season Mugello race winner. "After four laps I started to lose grip and I couldn't do anything about it. When Barros joined me I thought about following him but I could not maintain his pace and so I decided that the best thing was to finish the race."<BR><BR>Tetsuya Harada (Pramac Racing Honda NSR500) took a top-ten finish and just missed out on a higher placing by 0.331 seconds, much to his surprise. "Overall our race was not so bad," said the former 250 World Champion. "I got caught by Olivier Jacque (Yamaha) on the last lap but I didn't realize he was so close behind because of the signal on my lap board. The real distance back to him was less than the board said and he passed me right at the end. I am not so unhappy, however, because every weekend we are getting better."<BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Kanemoto Racing Honda NSR500) took 14th place and two championship points as others fell by the wayside. Track temperatures of 42°C exacerbated a problem he experienced midway through the race. "Basically I overheated the rear tyre in the first few laps and it started slipping, but I carried on to see if I could score some points. I didn't want to stop and pull in anyway because now we can see the effect on the tyre of these high temperatures."<BR><BR>Daijiro Kato (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR500) fell from his machine on lap ten of the race, while lying 11th, attempting to push into the top ten from an unaccustomedly lowly qualifying position of 16th. "Luckily there was no damage," he said. "I didn't have a great start because the bike reared up but I got into a good rhythm and made up a lot of places before the front went away. Definitely not a good weekend."<BR><BR>Robby Rolfo (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR250) took a battling eighth place in a somewhat strung-out 250 GP. Having started a lowly 14th after some troubles with his set-up in qualifying, Rolfo was as good as his pre-race word and attacked the Mugello circuit from the off. "That was a difficult race but I am happy with the way I started and the way I raced," he said. "It's a pity we only found a solution for our set up problems today or else my starting position and the race itself would have been very different."<BR><BR>Team-mate Emilio Alzamora (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR250) had the reverse fortune, finishing 11th, but scoring some valuable points. "I didn't start well and I had difficulty getting into a fast rhythm," said the Spaniard, a former World Champion for Honda in the 125 class. "I had a good bike but it would have been better to have this bike from Friday. Luckily we will now test to be sure I have the best set-up for my home race in Barcelona."<BR><BR>Haruchika Aoki (Arie Molenaar Racing Honda RS250R/W) was the top non-factory Honda rider, finishing just behind Alzamora in 12th. Jason Vincent (By Queroseno Racing Honda RS250R/W) scored a point for 15th place, with his fellow Briton and team-mate Leon Haslam 18th and last rider classified. Local Aprilia rider, Marco Melandri, won the race.<BR><BR>Sixteen-year old Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Jr Team Honda RS125R) missed out on a podium finish by only 0.060 seconds after 20-laps of stunning 125GP action. Up to sixteen riders were involved in the fight for the lead but only a handful challenged for the podium places on the final lap.<BR><BR>Too far behind eventual winner Manuel Poggiali (Gilera) to make any challenge, Pedrosa was slipstreaming Pablo Nieto (Aprilia) but lost his podium place after the sudden appearance of Yuichi Ui (Derbi), pulling out from his draft on the run to the flag. "All weekend we've been battling and we knew it wouldn't be easy," said Pedrosa who sits fourth in the championship, 20 points behind leader Poggiali. "The last lap was especially hard and I lost third position in the last few yards. I was able to use Nieto's slipstream but even that wasn't enough and Ui passed us both."<BR><BR>Andrea Ballerini (FCC-TSR RS125R) was the next Honda rider home, in 10th place, but only 2.255 seconds from the winner. Masao Azuma (Liégeois Competition Honda RS125R) finished 13th, after being as high as third.<BR><BR>Joan Olive (Telefonica Movistar Jr Team Honda RS125R) was involved in a first-lap, three-rider crash that also claimed Mirko Giansanti (Scot Racing Honda RS125R.) Both were unhurt.<BR><BR>The 2002 GP season continues at Catalunya, in Spain, on June 16.<BR><BR>HONDA TEAM QUOTES<BR><BR>MotoGP:<BR><BR>Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda, 1st: "I started this morning in not the best way with a crash in the warm up. My first ever in Sunday morning warm up. The crash was good in a way, it made me realise I had to ride the bike a little more sweet. I have had a problem with traction over the weekend and we fitted a slightly softer tyre compared to Tohru and the Yamahas. I tried to get away at the beginning but could not make a break. I go hard again half way through and the tyre is OK. I am happy to win at last in Mugello with MotoGP. The championship is very long and we need to stay concentrated. The other teams are getting closer."<BR><BR>Tohru Ukawa, Repsol Honda: 3rd: "That was a very tough race for me. Mugello is not my favourite track and I have never gone very well in the past. We struggled in qualifying and after this mornings warm up we made a set-up change that we hoped would be in the right direction. However it was not. Luckily we have a slight speed advantage over the Yamahas here and I think third for me at Mugello is good and good for the championship."<BR><BR>Alex Barros, West Honda Pons, 5th: "Firstly I would like to thank my team for the excellent work they have done over the weekend which has given me a fighting chance in the race. We made a good tyre choice and I knew I could complete a good race. We still have room for improvement and if we can solve the problems I am having when entering a corner, where the bike does not turn, then we can be right up at the front alongside the 4-strokes. I made a great start, but I got held up behind Roberts and it took me a long time to pass him, and this time is the gap which separated me in the end from Ukawa and Checa."<BR><BR>Loris Capirossi, West Honda Pons, 6th: "This was a very difficult race, especially because I chose a softer rear tyre, and after four laps it started to lose grip and I could not do anything about it. When Barros joined me I thought about following his wheel, but I could not maintain his pace and so I decided that the best thing was to finish the race because if I had pushed any harder I would have ended up sliding off."<BR><BR>Sito Pons: "I am very satisfied with the work of the whole team, including the technical staff, mechanics and the two riders. I sincerely believe that we could not have done any better today. For us it is like we have finished first and second as it is clear that the Honda and Yamaha four-strokes are on another level. Anyway this race is good preparation for the next race in Barcelona where I am sure that we will be competing with the four-strokes for a podium finish. All the team, and especially our riders, are very motivated and looking forward to the second race in Spain."<BR><BR>Tetsuya Harada, Pramac Honda Team: 10th: "In the last lap Jacque passed me, because I was given a wider gap sign from the pits so I kind of relaxed. Anyway it was a very tough race because I was fighting with Laconi, I could pass him on corners, but on the straight his bike was so much faster than mine and he would pass me back, but then slowed me down on the driven parts of the track."<BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh, Kanemoto Honda,14th: "After the morning warm-up we decided to run a harder rear tyre. We knew it was not as grippy as the one we used in qualifying but we felt it would have the endurance we needed in the increased temperatures of today. I had a good feeling with the bike in the beginning of the race but after five-six laps the temperature in the tyre came up and became too hot, then the bike started to move around under me.<BR><BR>"We did not take a step forward this week but we learned a lot and gave Bridgestone a lot of information about the kind of conditions we saw today. We now go to Brno for a two day test annd I believe we will be able to give more information to Bridgestone to help with the development of the tyres we need to find that vital extra half to one second we need."<BR><BR>Team owner - manager Erv Kanemoto was in philosophical mood at the end off the race. He said. "Basically the choice of rear tyre we made was too hard and it built up temperature. On reflection maybe it would have been better to what we had in qualifying but we were worried about endurance with the sudden rise in temperature. We stood still in some ways this weekend "<BR><BR>250cc:<BR><BR>Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda Gresini, 8th: "A difficult race for me but I'm happy about the way I started and also with my racing. It's a pity that it was only today that we found the best solution for our set-up, if I had a bike so perfect from the start of practice I would have started at the front and the race would have been different."<BR><BR>Emilio Alzamora, Fortuna Honda Gresini, 11th: "I didn't start well and I had difficulty to find a fast rhythm. I had a good bike, but would have been better to have this bike from Friday. Luckily we will now test to be sure I have the best set-up for my home race in Barcelona."<BR><BR>Fausto Gresini: "I'm not satisfied with the result: the problem was starting from too far back on the grid. Now our objective is to help Roberto and Emilio to qualify in better positions and improve their results. I'm sorry for our fans, we hope to give more satisfaction in the future."<BR><BR>125cc:<BR><BR>Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 4th: "All weekend we've been battling, and we knew the race wouldn't be easy. The last lap was especially hard, and I lost third position in the last yards. I was able to use Pablo Nieto's slipstream but even then that was not enough, and then Ui passed us both. In the end the tyres were badly worn. I gave my maximum but it wasn't enough. The next race is Montmelo, and we will keep on working hard. Of course I dream of a good result there, because we are racing at home."<BR><BR>Andrea Ballerini, FCC Honda, 10th: "Very happy. I got a good start and was running well at the back of the group. The bike was running well, especially the tyres, and I was confident. The big problem I had came when Bianco crashed in front of me. The front end of his bike hit mine and damaged the rear mudguard, which then dragged on the tyre for the rest of the race. I had no chance to finish higher than 10th. "<BR><BR>Andrea Dovizioso, Scott Racing Honda, 12th: "I didn't get a good start but I caught a few riders in the first few laps but got up to 12th at the finish. The bike ran really well. The only problem I had was with front end chatter on the downhill sections."<BR><BR>Masao Azuma, Tribe by Breil Honda, 13th: "I tried my best in the race, I got from 19th on he grid to be with the lead group. The bike was running really well and I could pass the Aprilia's on the straight. But halfway through the race my tyres went off and I had to ride very hard. I could make up some time on the brakes but it was not enough."
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