Digital Edition Subscribers: Read Roadracing World Magazine Now >
Roadracing - An Online Service of Roadracing World Magazine
Sep 21, 2002

Updated Post: Rossi Clinches MotoGP World Championship With Wet Race Win In Rio, Roberts 3rd

Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

Cinzano MotoGP Race Results:

1. Valentino Rossi, Honda RC211V, 24 laps, 49:09.516
2. Max Biaggi, Yamaha YZR-M1, -1.674 seconds
3. Kenny Roberts, Suzuki GSV-R, -18.764 seconds
4. Alex Barros, Honda NSR500, -24.759 seconds
5. Loris Capirossi, Honda NSR500, -32.354 seconds
6. Norick Abe, Yamaha YZR500, -34.360 seconds
7. Olivier Jacque, Yamaha YZR500, -44.250 seconds
8. Sete Gibernau, Suzuki GSV-R, -57.150 seconds
9. Jurgen vd Goorbergh, Honda NSR500, -69.987 seconds
10. Garry McCoy, Yamaha YZR500, -77.611 seconds
11. Jose Luis Cardoso, Yamaha YZR500, -80.837 seconds
12. Nobuatsu Aoki, Proton KR3, -110.774 seconds
13. Tetsuya Harada, Honda NSR500, -1 lap
14. John Hopkins, Yamaha YZR500, -1 lap, crash
15. Regis Laconi, Aprilia RS3, -2 laps, DNF, crash
16. Carlos Checa, Yamaha YZR-M1, -8 laps, DNF, crash
17. Jeremy McWilliams, Proton KR3, -20 laps, crash
18. Shinya Nakano, Yamaha YZR500, -21 laps, crash
19. Tohru Ukawa, Honda RC211V, -23 laps, crash
20. Daijiro Kato, Honda RC211V, -24 laps, crash

MotoGP World Championship Standings:

1. Rossi, 270*
2. Biaggi, 164
3. Ukawa, 156
4. Barros, 118
5. Checa, 116
6. Abe, 109
7. Capirossi, 86
8. Kato, 80
9. Roberts, 74
10. Jacque, 57
11. Hopkins, 51
12. Aoki, 47
13. Nakano, 45
14. TIE, Gibernau/Harada, 42

*With only 100 points available in the four remaining rounds of the 2002 MotoGP season, Rossi clinches his second consecutive World Championship.

More, from a press release issued by Red Bull Yamaha:



Garry McCoy and John Hopkins claimed 10th and 14th places respectively at today¹s rain-soaked Rio GP as the Red Bull Yamaha duo were foiled in their efforts to convert early weekend promise into a more positive outcome.

For Australian McCoy, it was a somewhat disappointing conclusion to round 12 of the MotoGP world championship after he had looked back to his best yesterday when grabbing his second front-row start in the last three races.
Unfortunately, the fine and hot conditions that greeted riders for the opening two days of qualifying were replaced this morning by a grey and gloomy skyline.

Conditions were at their worst for the 24-lap MotoGP race and both McCoy and Hopkins found it difficult to make the impact they hoped for as the rain worsened throughout.

McCoy was beset by a visor problem as the spray kicked up by riders in front of him seriously hampered visibility. McCoy's problem was compounded by rain leaking onto the inside of his visor.

One he felt more confident to push harder, the 30-year-old settled into a good rhythm and set his fastest time of the race on lap 19 despite the tricky conditions.

Hopkins battled his way back into the points having crashed his YZR500 out of 13th place on lap 10. He lost the front end and even though he was able to remount, he cited a poor set-up and poor tire choice for his problems.

GARRY McCOY, ­10th
World Championship 19th, 32 points
"The start was good and I was third going into the first turn. But then I started to get a lot of trouble with my visor. Every time somebody passed me it would fill with water. There must have been a problem and it made it really difficult for me to see anything. About halfway through the race I got my confidence back and when somebody passed me I tried to stay with them, and my lap times started to come down. The Dunlop rear tire was very grippy but I could have done with a bit more grip from the front. It was a pushing a little bit when I got on the gas."

World Championship 11th, 51 points
"I'm not very happy at all. Pretty much from the start I realized that we didn't have the right set-up and we'd got the wrong tire choice. I'll hold my hands up and say I got it wrong because both were my decisions with what to run with. I just went for the wrong choice on tires and set-up but that is all part of learning and getting more experience. I got two points but hopefully things will be better in Japan."

"It was a disappointing afternoon, especially considering that Garry had started from the front row of the grid. It was good to see John pick the bike up and finish the race again but obviously it is not a race that we want to remember. All we can do is look forward to better things in Japan."

More, from a press release issued by Marlboro Yamaha:

Race Day, Saturday September 21 2002


Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa played starring roles in this afternoon's rain-soaked Rio GP, pole-starter Biaggi finishing an excellent second, Checa storming through from last place to first, only to slide off when victory seemed within his grasp.

Checa's ride through the pack awed the 41,000 fans who'd braved the Rio weather but he got no rewards for his effort, his M1 refusing to start after he'd slid into a trackside gravel trap.

"Carlos was so, so fast, I couldn't believe it," declared M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "But he gave me a headache at the start -he was in neutral, not first, when the race started. His fighting spirit is incredible; he had caught the leaders so fast that he knew he could win the race if he didn't make any mistakes. Max had maybe his best-ever ride in the wet and we're very happy he's now second overall, this is a good reward for all his effort. The M1 was once again very good this weekend. We have now scored three pole positions in a row and we are always running up front, even when the conditions are bad, I think this shows that our bike is very user-friendly."

Max Biaggi isn't a great fan of riding in the rain but the Marlboro Yamaha Team star was in sparkling form at rain-lashed Rio this afternoon, riding to a superb second-place finish that moves him to second overall, ahead of Tohru Ukawa (Honda) who fell on lap two. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man started well from pole position, holding third place just behind Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) and Valentino Rossi (Honda). When Rossi took the lead, Biaggi also passed Roberts and was then briefly demoted back to third by team-mate Carlos Checa, ending the race just 1.6 seconds down on Rossi.

"It was very wet out there but I felt comfortable," said Biaggi after his sixth podium finish of the year. "I was trying to ride my own race and ride my best, then I saw my pit board saying 'Ukawa out', so I automatically slowed down because I was looking for the points to go to second overall. Considering how we started the year I think moving into second is a great result, so thanks to everyone in the team and at Yamaha. I'd also like to congratulate Rossi on winning the title, he deserves it. Now I will focus on continuing my battle with Ukawa at the last four races."

Carlos Checa staged one of the most remarkable comebacks in modern racing history today, recovering from dead last to take the lead seven laps from the flag, only to fall a few corners later. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man found himself in neutral when the race started and was last away from the grid but was quickly down to business, carving through the pack at astounding speed, often lapping over a second faster than the leaders and at one stage 2.5 seconds quicker.

"I thought I was in first gear for the start, but I wasn't," said the calm and philosophical Spaniard. "After that I said: 'Okay, I'll try my best'. The bike and tyres were working very well, so I just concentrated on my riding and I was amazed at how fast I caught the leaders. When I was with Biaggi, Roberts and Rossi I took my time, then I took the lead from Rossi because it was more comfortable to have a clear track ahead, there was just too much water around when I was behind them. I flicked into that turn the same as I had before, but maybe something was different. I was focusing on the front going into the corner and the rear lost grip, I don't know why. So now I must look to Motegi. I'm confident because Yamaha have done a great job with the bike, you could see that today, that's why I re-signed with them, I have 100 percent faith in the M1 project."

Valentino Rossi wrapped up the first-ever MotoGP title with his fifth consecutive Rio race victory, adding the crown to his previous successes in the 500, 250 and 125 World Championships. He was virtually assured of the crown after sole title-rival and team-mate Tohru Ukawa fell on lap two.

"This is like a dream for me, but it's too soon to express how I feel," he said. "The race wasn't easy, it was so wet I couldn't see. That's why I took the lead from Kenny, so I could see where I was going." Rossi's last four victories have all been inherited from riders crashing ahead of him, but, as racing's favourite maxim says: to finish first, first you must finish.

More, from a press release issued by Proton Team KR:


Round 12: Rio GP, Jacarepagua
Race: Saturday, September 21, 2002

Nobuatsu Aoki: 12th
Jeremy McWilliams: Did Not Finish

Proton Team KR ran out of luck today at the Rio GP. After the strongest-yet qualifying performance, with Jeremy McWilliams starting from the front row of the grid and Nobuatsu Aoki close behind, the race started going bad from the first corner. Aoki was hit by another rider and pushed off the track, rejoining in a distant last place. Jeremy escaped the carnage, and was running a strong fifth after four laps ... only to crash out when unexpectedly cold conditions caused his engine to seize.

The race was run in streaming wet conditions, which would usually favour the lightweight three-cylinder two-stroke 500, especially at a track where its agility and high corner speed more than compensated for a relative lack of top speed compared with the new-generation 990cc four-strokes.

McWilliams started strongly, fourth at the end of the first of 24 laps of the 4.933km circuit. He was holding up well after being passed by Brazilian rider Alex Barros. Then the engine nipped up without warning as he entered the first corner to start lap five. The rear wheel locked, and he was thrown heavily over the high side, landing hard and suffering a small fracture to his right collarbone.

Aoki's problems began when Sete Gibernau's Suzuki failed to stop for the first corner. He collided with Aoki, and though the Japanese star managed to stay on the bike, he ran right across the gravel trap and onto the grass at the far side, giving him a long and slow journey to regain the tarmac. The collision left him with a painful injury to his right elbow, but he ignored the stiffness and swelling, and made for the finish as best he could, ending up as the last rider on the same lap as the leaders.

The sodden race was won by defending champion Valentino Rossi, who also secured the first MotoGP four-stroke world championship as a result. Next season, Proton Team KR will return with a 990cc V5 four-stroke of their own, but will first conclude this season with a rearguard defence of 500cc two-stroke honour.

A terrible afternoon. I started well and I was just tipping in to the first corner when Sete ran right into me. His handlebar hit my elbow a painful blow - it's very swollen now. It took a very long time to get back to the track, miles behind everybody else. Apart from my painful arm, my other problem was that my front wet tyre didn't work as well as it did in the morning warm-up, so it was very difficult. I just have to hope for better luck at Motegi, my second home GP, in two weeks.

The race was going really well until that point -it was dead easy. We don't have a really good wet rear tyre yet, and considering that I think I was doing rather well. I was fifth, and I felt I could hold on to that for a while, though I'm not sure what would have happened later on. The pace may have increased, but I was able to stay with Barros quite easily. The engine seized right as I closed the throttle and went down a gear for Turn One. The rear locked and it high-sided me. It was all over in a split second. I landed heavily and I have a small fracture, but I'll definitely be back for Motegi in two weeks.

TOM O'KANE - Chief Race Engineer
It seems that Jeremy's engine suffered a cold seizure. It was running 60-65 degrees in warm-up, and we added extra tape to mask the radiator, but in the race there was a lot more water splashing around, and the engine was running ten degrees cooler. It just nipped up one of the cylinders.

More, from a press release issued by Team Suzuki News Service:


MotoGP – Round 12, Jacarepagua, Brazil, September 21, 2002

Team Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki rider Kenny Roberts Jr. took his best result of the year so far and his first rostrum finish on the new four-stroke GSV-R racer in a rain-sodden Rio GP today, leading half the race, and finishing third.

Team-mate Sete Gibernau finished eighth to make a double top-ten for the team, in a brave ride after being involved in a first-corner incident that meant he finished the first lap last but one.

Roberts was following up fourth place at Portugal two weeks before, and overcame a fourth-row grid position and appalling conditions to burst through to the front, taking the lead on the second of 24 laps of the 4.933km Nelson Piquet circuit outside Rio de Janeiro. Roberts had been fastest in the damp morning warm-up, and with the rain now falling constantly the 2000 World Champion stayed in front until after half distance, when he lost the position to eventual winner Valentino Rossi.

Kenny dropped to fourth in a fierce battle up front, and was promoted to third when one of the protagonists, Carlos Checa, fell off after taking the lead. Rossi went on to win, securing the first MGP World Championship, with Max Biaggi second and Roberts a secure third.

Sete had an equally dramatic afternoon, for different reasons. A problem going into the first corner meant he collided with another rider, triggering a chain reaction that ended with Sete and three other competitors right off the track and over the gravel trap, losing a lot of time before being able to rejoin. In spite of the pain from his dislocated collarbone sustained two weeks ago, Gibernau set about improving his position, pulling through from 18th on the first lap to an eventual eighth.

KENNY ROBERTS – Third Position
"I was in the right place at the right time after starting from the fourth row of the grid, and I was up to second by the third corner. I knew from warm-up that I had a good pace. My pit board was only showing me the gap with Valentino, so I was trying to look at other people's boards to see how the race was panning out. After 12 laps, Valentino passed me. I decided I would do everything he did, but he opened the gas in a place in the corner where I couldn't even think of it. Then Biaggi and Checa came by me on the back straight – I didn't expect them at all, and it gave me quite a fright. As the fuel load lightened I wasn't able to load the front wheel as I needed, and the new clutch was dragging the back down. The team and the factory are working hard on making the bike better - you can measure the improvement. At the start of the year I could barely ride the bike in the wet. Now I can lead the race and finish on the rostrum."

SETE GIBERNAU – Eighth Position
"I had a problem slowing for Turn One, and I couldn't get the bike to stop. I hit another bike and ran right off the track. It took a long time to get back on, and my race was already over by then. After that, I just did my race as best I could, and managed to get back into the top ten."

GARRY TAYLOR – Team Manager
"It was awesome to see Kenny come from the back of the grid into second in just three corners, and then to see him lead the race for 12 laps. Finishing on the podium is not quite perfect, but it's pretty close, and obviously shows how Suzuki have got the bike from where he could barely ride it in the rain to almost being able to dominate. It looks as though the Kenny who won the title is back, but we knew that he'd never really gone away. Sete had a brave ride, in a lot of pain, with a lot of disadvantages in tough conditions. The bike is obviously getting a lot better; and I have to say that the Michelin tyres were fantastic."

More, from a press release issued by Honda:


Race Day, Saturday September 21st, 2002


Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V) scored his tenth win of the 2002 season and in doing so was crowned champion of racing's premier class for the second successive year, with only 12 of 16 rounds completed. The latest triumph of man and machine also means that Honda's RC211V and Rossi have taken the first title win in the new era of four-stroke based MotoGP regulations.

Rossi's championship winning race performance was the culmination of a dramatic and incident filled 24-lap event at the Nelson Piquet circuit, situated in the outskirts of Rio. His main championship rival Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V) fell after completing only one lap, and from then on Rossi appeared content to sit behind Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) until lap 14, when the Italian rider subsequently took the lead, a lead that was only headed for a corner or two during the rest of the 118.392km race. A rash of crashes meant that there were only 14 finishers at a drenched Rio circuit.

Showboating to the finish by repeatedly backing the rear of his V5 Honda into the fast turn one, despite the soaking track surface, Rossi kept his head throughout to end his race 1.674 seconds clear of second place rider Max Biaggi (Yamaha); the only other man in with a pre-race mathematical possibility of overhauling Rossi's points total.

For Rossi, winning the first ever MotoGP championship under the new combined 990cc four-stroke/ 500cc two-stroke formula was more than just an ambition achieved. Proof of his joy was evident during an extravagant post-race celebration, which saw Rossi hold a replica World Cup soccer trophy aloft for the cameras, alongside members of his fan club dressed in Brazil strips - a homage to the host country's status as the most successful nation in world football

"It is fantastic to win this world championship. It's my fourth world title and that is like a dream for me," said the 23-year-old Italian-born London resident. "We were really hoping for a dry race because we had worked so hard to get better settings for the dry. But it was wet and it is always difficult in these conditions.

"On the second lap I read 'Ukawa Out' on my pit board so I was happy to follow Kenny Roberts. Then the rain started to fall too hard to let me see properly in the spray from his rear tyre. I knew which way the track went, but I could not actually see it, so I decided to overtake. I could see the track clearly from then on but I knew from my pitboard that Max Biaggi was closing behind and realised he would not give up. When Carlos Checa came past it was like he came from another planet until he fell. After that I wanted to keep the gap to Biaggi behind and make sure of the win."

Summing up his 2002 season to date Rossi said: "We did a lot of work on the new machine in the winter and Honda came up with a very good bike from the beginning of the season. So we had a clear advantage for the first three or four races. Then the other manufacturers started to catch up, but to win ten races and take the title four races early is fantastic."

Rossi's impressive points total, after 12 of 16 races, is 270, with Biaggi now second on 160 and Ukawa third on 156.

Local hero Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) was the top two-stroke finisher, in a fine fourth place, overcoming his lowly start position with some élan.

"I am not frustrated to be one place off the podium at my home race," said a smiling Barros. "I rode well and I won the two-stroke race so I am very pleased about that. I did not have the same traction as the four-strokes but my back tyre performed very well. Now I am fourth in the championship and if I ride the four-stroke in Motegi then I will be able to fight to keep this position."

Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500) finished seven seconds behind his teammate, after displaying caution and aggression in equal measure.

"I am happy because I consider I had a good race," said Capirossi. "I did not make a good start and in the beginning I took it easy in order to gain more and more confidence in the difficult track conditions. When I felt more comfortable I stepped up the rhythm, but I had a lot of difficulty passing riders in front of me."

Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Kanemoto Racing Honda NSR500) started well, fourth into the first turn, but fell back to a final ninth place after failing to find sufficient grip from the front end of his machine over full race distance.

Said the disappointed Dutchman; "I could do 2:04.5, maybe 2:04.0 laps but no more; that was my limit because the front tyre would not allow me to go any faster. I am a little disappointed because we had a good first two or three laps."

A 13th place finish for Tetsuya Harada (Pramac Honda NSR500) was the result of the Japanese rider having to ride conservatively due to a lack of grip.

"We have been having problems with the set-up from the beginning of the year until now," said Harada. "In the dry we have a lack of grip and in the wet we also have a lack of grip. In any conditions it is the same for us. I did not try to push hard because of this today and was careful to bring the bike home."

Tohru Ukawa saw his slim chances of overall championship success disappear when he fell from his machine on lap two, while lying in fourth position. The fully wet track proved to be the undoing of many riders, but for Ukawa, the price he paid was heaviest of all.

"Obviously I feel disappointed," said Ukawa from pitlane. "The whole team has worked very hard over the weekend and I feel like I have let everyone down. I knew I had to put in a good start from the third row of the grid and at the end of the first lap I was fifth. Then I fell. I don't know why yet. Me or the machine? We need to look at the data and then we will find out. I just need to think positive and look forward to the remaining four races to do my best."

Daijiro Kato (Fortuna Honda Gresini RC211V) was forced off the track on the opening lap and failed to finish the race, having gone too far into the trackside gravel beds to return to the tarmac.

"I didn't see who touched me but I felt a bang on the side of the fairing and I found myself in the gravel trap - and fell," said a regretful Katoh. "I'm very sorry because we had a really good setting for the wet conditions."