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Historic win for Valentino Rossi and Honda in Suzuka

Historic win for Valentino Rossi and Honda in Suzuka

Valentino Rossi secured Honda´s 500th GP victory by charging home first in the 500cc Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka.

In an electrifying start to the World Championships Rossi nudged his way through the field after a bad start and eventually won by just under a second.

It was the third win of the day for the manufacturer after Masao Azuma and Daijiro Katoh had triumphed in the 125cc and 250cc races respectively.

The opening laps of the race were simply awesome as a group of 8 riders continually swapped positions. Pole position holder Loris Capirossi was one of the early leaders along with Garry McCoy, Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano.The race was a story of two charges. The first was by Rossi who barged and taunted his way past numerous riders including arch rival Biaggi, hit the front and then built up a strong advantage of nearly three seconds.

Next, Tohru Ukawa began to pick up pace and set the fastest lap as he overtook McCoy and Biaggi then set about chasing Rossi. The Japanese Repsol Honda rider chanced his luck too often though and ignored a slide coming out of the chicane moments before high-siding himself off the bike.

Ukawa wasn´t the only faller in a race that saw many mistakes. It was a tough day for the 500cc rookies. Chris Walker didn´t even last a lap as he tangled with Jose Luis Cardoso at the chicane and both riders went out. Noriyuki Haga, who had already crashed twice over the weekend, again went off course. 1999 World Champion Alex Criville ran into the gravel on the opening lap but recovered to finish ninth. Reigning 250cc Champion Olivier Jacque retired mid-way through the race and wildcard rider Akira Ryo also crashed.

After Ukawa had fallen the battle for second and third began more frantic with McCoy coming under pressure from Biaggi and Abe trying very hard. The tiny Australian finally took his Red Bull Yamaha to the runner-up position with Biaggi third and Abe fourth. Shinya Nakano completed an impressive 500 debut by coming fifth, followed by Alex Barros and World Champion Kenny Roberts in seventh.

Capirossi in eighth beat Criville, Carlos Checa and Jurgen van der Goorbergh respectively. Leon Haslam had a fine ride on the Honda V-twin by finishing thirteenth.

500cc, 2001

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