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MotoGP riders return to happy hunting ground in South Africa

MotoGP riders return to happy hunting ground in South Africa

MotoGP riders return to happy hunting ground in South Africa

After a scintillating start to the 2002 World Championship at a soaking Suzuka circuit, the MotoGP riders and staff head south of the equator this weekend to contest the eighth South African Grand Prix. For the fourth consecutive year the venue is the Phakisa Freeway circuit in Welkom, a track where several riders can look back on some of their best ever results in the top class.

Valentino Rossi leads the rider standings with 25 points after his imperious victory in Japan and is looking to take his sixth successive win in the top category, having topped the podium in each of the final four races of last season. The current World Champion won the 250 race at this circuit in 1999 and took pole position and the race victory in 2001. It promises to be a weekend of reckoning for the Italian, who will be hoping to demonstrate that his 4 stroke Honda RC211V can be just as devastating in the dry as it was at Suzuka in the wet.

Rossi is not the only rider in the MotoGP category to have fond memories of the Phakisa Freeway and will be well aware of the competition which saw just 2.904 seconds covering the full qualifying grid in Japan. Max Biaggi is looking to score his first points of the season with a repeat of his victory there in 1999, as is fellow Yamaha rider Garry McCoy, who took his first ever win in the class at Welkom in 2000.

Loris Capirossi, Sete Gibernau, Tohru Ukawa and Carlos Checa have all scored podium finishes at this circuit over the last three seasons and Checa, in particular, will be keen to do well once again. The Spanish Yamaha rider is looking to establish himself as Rossi's main rival for the MotoGP title by taking his third consecutive podium finish and will be confident of challenging for the win after losing out to the Italian by mere seconds at his last two attempts.

MotoGP, 2002, Africa's Grand Prix

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