250/125cc Japanese GP Results

Colin MacKellar
by Colin MacKellar
This might just turn out to be a rather boring 250 season this year as Daijiro Katoh looks like he is undefeatable. His win in the 250 class was by one of the largest margins in years. perhaps we should get excited about who will take the number 2 spot and Harada is looking good. It's too early to say about the 125s, but it won't be a clear Derbi domination that's for sure. Veteran Azuma managed to give Honda their third victory of the day, with the factory bosses beaming ear-to-ear on the pit wall.

2001 Japanese GRAND PRIXTRACK: SuzukaDATE: 8 April 2001WEATHER: Warm, cloudy 250cc Race Results (19 laps)------------------Pos No. Rider Nat Bike Time/Diff--- --- ----- --- ---- ---------1 74 Katoh Jpn Hon 41'03.5962 31 Harada Jpn Apr 18.7633 15 Locatelli Ita Apr 18.8354 8 Matsudo Jpn Yam 23.1355 44 Rolfo Ita Apr 24.4236 5 Melandri Ita Apr 26.5997 21 Battaini Ita Apr 31.1428 99 McWilliams Gbr Apr 43.9539 9 Porto Arg Yam 45.88710 46 Sekiguchi Jpn Yam 48.49611 10 Nieto Spa Apr 53.50312 66 Hofmann Ger Apr 1'05.17213 87 Aoyama Jpn Hon 1'05.26714 12 Nohles Ger Apr 1'17.42215 50 Guintoli Ita Apr 1'18.183 Katoh totally dominant

It was actually a little embarrassing, especially for the other riders in the race. Daijiro Katoh (Telefonica Movistar Honda) was on a different level of consciousness throughout the event, setting a pole time more than a second quicker than Locatelli in second place and then running away from the field like they were at their first GP. Last season Katoh was very strong even at tracks he had not visited before. Now with that year behind him and the experience gained, he looks certain to take the crown. If his performance at Suzuka continues, they might just as well give him the trophy now.

Katoh took the lead after a cautious start half-way round lap 1, then extended his lead at a second a lap on the hardest tires Dunlop had for him. Behind his back there was initially a little shuffling of places amongst the factory Aprilia riders, with Roberto Locatelli (MS Eros Ramazzotti Racing) and Tetsuya Harada (MS Aprilia Racing) getting the better of Marco Melandri (MS Aprilia Racing). It was a miracle that Melandri was competing at all, as he dislocated his shoulder in a heavy fall during the second qualification session, but climbed on the bike for race day and heroically took 10 points with him to the next round. Aprilias totally dominated the field in terms of bikes being ridden, with a bunch of 6 factory bikes and many production machines. Other than Katoh, the only other Japanese rider and machine to challenge for the leading positions was Naoki Matsudo (Petronas Sprinta Yamaha), riding one of the 2000 factory Yamahas that took the world championship last year. He spent the race dicing with Marco Melandri and Roberto Rolfo (Safilo Ozydo Aprilia) and claimed 4th. place at the flag. In what became a rather boring race, the excitement lay in the fight for second place between Harada and Locatelli, who has surprised everyone with his speed on the 250 after taking the 125 crown last year. It was finally decided at the last chicane. Locatelli led into the chicane, but took in a tad too much speed and messed up the exit, allowing Harada to drag past him to take second place, definitely the best of the rest. Katoh looks unbeatable.

125cc Race Results (18 laps)------------------Pos No. Rider Nat Bike Time/Diff--- --- ----- --- ---- ---------1 4 Azuma Jpn Hon 40'59.1922 1 Ui Jpn Der 0.0673 16 Sanna Ita Apr 0.6044 23 Borsoi Ita Apr 0.8985 54 Poggiali RSM Gil 1.1516 9 Cechinello Ita Apr 1.3767 17 Jenkner Ger Apr 14.1738 6 Giansanti Ita Hon 14.6329 21 Vincent Fra Hon 15.73510 22 Pablo Nieto Spa Der 16.33311 29 Angel Nieto Spa Hon 17.38412 11 Sabbatani Ita Apr 17.99213 8 Scalvini Ita Ita 18.62114 15 Angelis RSM Hon 18.62815 57 Kikuchi Jpn Hon 23.655 Ui good, but Azuma better

Youichi Ui (L&M Derbi) is the strong favorite to win the 125 crown this year, but it won't be plain sailing. A rejuvenated Masao Azuma (Liegeois Competition) took the first victory in a typical knock 'em down and drag 'em out 125 race, with 6 riders fighting for the win. It looks like Manuel Poggiali (Gilera Racing Team) has finally come good after a season last year that showed a lot of promise, many crashes and a few good results. Riding a re-badged Derbi, Poggiali led the race for many of the closing laps, but got caught out in the last lap mayhem and dropped to 5th. Simone Sanne (Safilo Oxydo Racing) is another young rider, whose time may have come and he kept a cool head to claim the last place on the rostrum. The leading group also had the company of Nobby Ueda (FCC-TSR) for half of the race, until he crashed heavily on the exit from the Esses whilst leading the race. He was stretchered away, with what looked like an arm injury.

Next race South Africa 22 April 2001

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Colin MacKellar
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