Results 125cc/250 Cc Races French GP

Colin MacKellar
by Colin MacKellar
I think we're still on the "no spoilers in the summary" thing, so I'll just let you know that it was business as usual for one of the riders and first time win for another. Read on.........

2001 French GRAND PRIXTRACK: Le MansDATE: 20 May 2001WEATHER: Warm, sunny 250cc Race Results (26 laps)------------------Pos No. Rider Nat Bike Time/Diff--- --- ----- --- ---- ---------1 74 Katoh Jpn Hon 44'29.5462 31 Harada Jpn Apr 0.2043 5 Melandri Ita Apr 13.5994 7 Alzamora Spa Hon 16.8135 10 Nieto Spa Apr 18.4296 15 Locatelli Ita Apr 20.0257 99 McWilliams Gbr Apr 42.8138 9 Porto Arg Yam 44.4299 44 Rolfo Ita Apr 45.07710 6 Debon Spa Apr 45.35111 66 Hofmann Ger Apr 47.25312 12 Nohles Ger Apr 55.50013 21 Battaini Ita Apr 56.47414 50 Guintoli Fra Apr 57.85315 18 Yuzy Mal Yam 1'04.735World Championship==================JPN RSA SPA FRA1 Katoh 100 25 25 25 252 Harada 76 20 16 20 203 Melandri 62 10 20 16 164 Locatelli 47 16 13 8 105 Nieto 38 5 11 11 116 Rolfo 35 11 8 9 77 McWilliams 33 8 10 6 98 Matsudo 24 13 7 4 -9 Porto 24 7 9 - 810 Alzamora 23 - - 10 13 Katoh makes it four from four

It was tougher this time, but again he showed himself to be the best rider in this season's 250 class. Daijiro Katoh (Telefonica Movistar Honda) was only challenged by fellow countryman Tetsuya Harada (MS Aprilia ) and for a change the Aprilia rider was able to match the pace of the Honda rider. Marco Melandri (MS Aprilia) would also have been up with the Japanese if he had not been handicapped by a sever shoulder injury sustained during qualification. Having set the fastest time on the first qualification day, he fell very heavily on Saturday and dislocated his left shoulder, ruling him out for the rest of qualification. Despite this, his time was only beaten late in the Saturday session, with Katoh and Harada taking pole and second place. With the assistance of the rider's friend, Dr. de Costa of the Clinica Mobile, Melandri was able to take his place on the starting grid.

From the start, it was clear the Katoh, Harada and Melandri were going to set the pace as they immediately started to move away from the rest of the pack. Katoh led into turn 1, but Harada was right behind him with Melandri just a few bike lengths back of them. As they stretched a lead, the battle for fourth involved McWilliams, Nieto, Alzamora and Matsudo, until the Japanese rider crashed out. McWilliams (Aprilia Grand Prix) had a strange race, making at least 3 separate mistakes that caused him to drop back down the field, pick up the pace again, only to make another mistake and drop back. In the end he had to settle for 7th. place, half a lap down on the winners.

On lap 8, Harada took the lead from Katoh, and Melandri closed up on the Honda rider. For 6 laps the Aprilia led the field, but Katoh matched his pace, passing on lap 16, with Melandri solely but surely dropping back. It was clear that neither Katoh nor Harada had a significant advantage round the track, with Katoh seeming to be slightly quicker for the first third of the lap, but Harada having a slight advantage for the rest of the track. By lap 17, Melandri was 4 seconds back on Harada, but with a 10 seconds advantage on Fonsi Nieto in 4th. place. Katoh had been unable to shake Harada off, so with 3 laps to go he let Harada past and shadowed him again until the last lap. Going into the first tight right-hander, he went up the inside and squeezed past the Aprilia rider, holding his advantage to the flag, with Harada not trying any crazy last lap tactics to take the victory. Melandri hung on to third place and Elio Alzamorra was very happy with his fourth place, his best 250 result to date. Melandri was totally drained after the race, stumbling to the victory podium, his left arm hanging at his side and sitting on his helmet whenever protocol allowed him. Pumping him full of pain killers got him the points today, but it could just as easily have gone badly wrong during the race with another crash as consequence. It's a tough ethical question whether it should be allowed.

Katja Poensgen (Dark Dog Racing Aprilia) didn't start the race after 2 practice crashes. On Saturday she high-sided in the same corner as Marco Melandri and also damaged her shoulder.

125cc Race Results (24 laps)------------------Pos No. Rider Nat Bike Time/Diff--- --- ----- --- ---- ---------1 54 Poggiali RSM Gil 43'33.3722 6 Giansanti Ita Hon 0.2183 24 Elias Spa Hon 0.2984 23 Borsoi Ita Apr 0.5155 9 Cechinello Ita Apr 0.9696 21 Vincent Fra Hon 7.3577 5 Ueda Jpn Hon 7.9408 4 Azuma Jpn Hon 8.4649 39 Hules Cze Hon 8.75110 29 Angel Nieto Spa Hon 11.52311 41 Ui Jpn Der 11.96212 17 Jenkner Ger Apr 12.49613 16 Sanna Ita Apr 12.51414 15 Angelis RSM Hon 20.66715 11 Sabbatani Ita Apr 35.012World Championship==================JPN RSA SPA FRA1 Azuma 64 25 6 25 82 Poggiali 56 11 20 - 253 Borsoi 55 13 13 16 134 Ui 50 20 25 - 55 Cecchinello 41 10 - 20 116 Ueda 38 - 16 13 97 Nieto 33 5 11 11 68 Giansanti 32 8 4 - 209 Vincent 32 7 10 5 1010 Sabbatani 22 4 9 8 1 Poggiali does it

Manuel Poggiali(Gilera Racing) on the fire red Gilera took his first GP victory, while the other Derbi-engined bikes struggled round the tight characterless circuit. Poggiali spent most of the race at the front of the field, challenged primarily by Mirko Giansanti (Axo Racing Honda) and Gino Borsoi (LAE- UGT3000 Aprilia) . The Gilera was clearly faster in a straight line and when Giansanti managed to pass in the sharp slow turns, Poggiali would take him back on the blast along the front straightaway. By two thirds race distance, it was clear that just 5 riders would be fighting for the win, with Toni Elias (Telefonica Movistar Honda) and Lucio Cecchinello (MS Aprilia) completing the group. In the closing laps, Cecchinello faded slightly, but Elias moved through to third place and briefly took the lead on the last lap. With some crazy late braking and pass moves up the inside, the last lap was heartstopping, but ultimately Poggiali led out of the last corner, followed by Giansanti and Elias neck-and-neck, with Giansanti taking it by half a wheel.

Next race Mugello June 3

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Colin MacKellar
Colin MacKellar

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