Honda’s Version Of How Rossi Won The 500cc World Championship

Honda’s Version Of How Rossi Won The 500cc World Championship

© 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.


From a press release:


Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda NSR500) secured his richly deserved first 500 World Championship at Phillip Island today.

The brilliant young rider did it in stunning style – winning the most exciting race of the season by just one hundredth of a second from arch-rival Max Biaggi (Yamaha). Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500) and Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) were right behind at the flag, just 0.714 seconds between the foursome, and with only 2.832 seconds covering the top nine finishers, this was the closest-ever 500 GP.

All the way through the most important weekend of his life Rossi had been insisting that he wanted more than the eighth-place required to wrap up the title. And he was true to his word, playing his part in a race-long dogfight around this most spectacular of tracks.

The battle royal drew gasps of awe from the 40,000 spectators and plumes of smoke from the bikes, as Rossi & Co made contact on more than one occasion. Rossi led the first lap but after that he had to fight corner by corner with Biaggi, Capirossi, Barros, Olivier Jacque (Yamaha) and Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha). He shuttled back and forth through the group, surviving one heart-stopping brush with Barros at the end of the 190 mph start-finish straight, and every time he tried to make the break out front, his rivals would come with him. He made his final-lap-winning move at the slow MG turn, just 500 yards from the finish line, diving under Biaggi and holding his advantage to the line.

“I didn’t think about the championship, I just concentrated on the race, because trying to finish eighth would’ve been more risky,” said Rossi after his ninth win of the year. “The early laps were a little dangerous maybe, because Haga and Barros were very aggressive, so I was keeping one eye on them and one on the track. Then when the tires started to wear, Loris and Biaggi arrived. Everyone was pushing so hard and getting some wheelspin, so I worked at saving my tires, and at the end my tires were in good shape. I had one place to overtake Biaggi and it worked okay.

“There are many reasons why I won the title, not least because I have the best package of machine and team. I’d like to thank everyone who helped me to do this–Honda, my engineer JB and the rest of the crew. It’s been a great year, I think we’ve made a great show all season, not just today. The level of racing has been very high, especially among us three Italians. We race very hard because we want to win.”

Rossi’s success gives Honda its 11th 500 World Championship and he’s the sixth Honda rider to win the title. American Freddie Spencer (Honda NS500) won the marque’s first 500 crown in 1983, and since then Wayne Gardner (Rothmans Honda
NSR500, 1987) Eddie Lawson (Rothmans Honda NSR500, 1989), Mick Doohan (Repsol Honda SR500, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998) and Alex Criville (Repsol YPF Honda NSR500, 1999) have also won 500 titles for the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer.

Rossi’s Island win also confirmed Honda as the 2001 500 Constructors’ World Champions. Honda has now won this title 13 times. Capirossi was one of the first riders to offer his congratulations to Rossi. “I’m so happy for him, Valentino has been fast everywhere this season, he deserves the title,” said the Italian, who won his first 125 title in 1990 with Honda at the Island. “I got a bad start today and the bike was difficult to ride on a full tank. After six laps it was better so I started pushing harder, but by the time I’d got to the front I’d used most of my rear tire. It’s a shame, I still haven’t won a race this year.”

Barros dominated the early stages of the race, leading eight of the first nine laps, but after half distance he had a tougher time. He never stopped fighting, however, and was side by side with Capirossi as they battled for the final podium placing. “I’m not so happy with the result but the bike worked perfectly,” said the Brazilian. “Biaggi made contact with me a few laps from the end and I lost a lot of places, which made victory impossible.”

Tohru Ukawa (Repsol YPF Honda NSR500) rode a great race, coming through the pack from 12th on the first lap to catch the leading group. He ended up a brilliant fifth, just 1.288 seconds behind Rossi. “I used too much clutch at the start, which lifted the front too much, I’ve got to learn to play with the clutch,” said the Japanese. “After that I fought hard and racing for the podium later on was fun.”

More frustrated was 11th finisher Alex Criville (Repsol YPF Honda NSR500). “Starting from the fourth row I needed a good start and I didn’t get one,” he said. “After that I got held up by the v-twins which are slower through the fast sections of the track.”


1. Rossi (WORLD CHAMPION), 275 points

2. Biaggi, 203

3. Capirossi, 179

4. Barros, 160

5. Nakano, 135

9. Criville, 101

11. Ukawa, 96

Upcoming rounds:

10/21 Sepang, Malaysia

11/3 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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