GP Results From Welkom

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
The race winners from the weekend's events in Welkom should come as no surprise to anybody. Well, then again, maybe the machinery was never a question but, perhaps, one or two (or three) of the triders who stood atop the podium were questionable.

Or maybe not...

Honda riders dominated today's second round of the MotoGP WorldChampionship at Welkom, Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RCV211V) andValentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RCV211V) having the race all tothemselves on their V5 four-strokes. Ukawa won their private duelon the very last lap, Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500) taking adistant third on his two-stroke NSR to join the HRC men on the podium.

Former All-Japan 250 champion Ukawa was ecstatic with his first MotoGP win,achieved over reigning 500 World Champion Rossi, the man who beat him tothe 1999 250 World Championship. The pair ended the race eight secondsahead of Capirossi and 26 seconds ahead of the rest of the pack, making itlook easy around this slippery and notoriously bumpy circuit.

"Today was just like when we were racing 250s, but the result was not!"smiled Ukawa, who scored his first MotoGP podium at last year's Welkom GP."I think we both showed that the RCV is already performing well and thebike seems to get better at every race with many new parts coming throughfrom HRC. I was able to win when Valentino made a mistake on the last lap.I had chosen a hard rear Michelin while he had chosen a medium tyre and Icould see he was having a lot of slides through the rights during the finallaps. When he made a mistake I passed him okay and though he came back atme again I won. I'm very happy!"

Despite his defeat, Rossi extended his lead in the World Championshipbecause Ukawa crashed out of the Japanese GP two weeks ago. The Japanese isnow third on points, behind Carlos Checa (Yamaha) who finished fifth today.

"My rear tyre was a little too soft for the right handers towards the endof the race," said Rossi who led most of the way until he let Ukawa pastwith eight laps to go to study his rival. "My plan had been to get a goodstart and run a very fast rhythm but Ukawa came with me. After those fewlaps behind him I went ahead again and pushed harder to break away butstill he came with me. I made my first mistake braking for a hairpin andthough I recovered from that to make another attack, I arrived too fast andI couldn't make the corner."

Capirossi rode a determined race on his NSR well ahead of the rest of thepack. He crossed the line almost 18 seconds ahead of Daijiro Katoh (FortunaHonda Gresini NSR500) riding his first dry race in the MotoGP class.

"I'm happy to be the first two-stroke finisher," said Capirossi. "But thisrace proved that the gap between the two-strokes and the four-strokes isalready quite big and I expect it to get bigger. I tried my best over thefirst few laps and was able to stay quite close to Rossi and Ukawa, but asmy tyres went down I wasn't able to run their pace."

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Brent Avis
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