| Italian Valentino
Rossi raced his REPSOL RC211V Honda to a magnificent victory at today's
Rio Grand Prix to win the inaugural MotoGP World Championship. The multi-talented
23-year-old from Tavullia, on Italy's Adriatic coast, gave a superb demonstration
of wet weather riding to counter each challenge his rivals posed him.
Rossi sped away from them all to win the race, and title, by 1.6s from the
Marlboro Yamaha of archival Max Biaggi, just as he did to clinch the 2001
title in the 500cc World Championship. Rossi had gone into the race needing
to finish 11 points clear of his teammate, Tohru Ukawa, but the Japanese
crashed out of the race on lap two. If Rossi could hold Biaggi off then,
barring an accident or technical problems, the title was his. Rossi rarely
crashes and the RCV has yet to let him down!
"It's like a dream come true but difficult to take in right now as my head
is still full of the race. But I want to thank my team and Honda for giving
me the bike to win this title," said a delighted Rossi at the post race
Kenny Roberts (Telefonica MoviStar Suzuki) finished third 17 seconds behind
Rossi with Brazilian Alex Barros (West Honda Pons) fourth and his teammate
Loris Capirossi fifth.
Sebastian Porto (Petronas Sprinta Yamaha) won the first grand prix of his
career at the 104th attempt with a superb start to finish victory in the
250cc race. Argentine Porto also scored the first ever 250 GP victory for
his country and for his race team. He led home Roberto Rolfo (Team Fortuna
Honda Gresini) at the end of the 22-lap race. Franco Battaini (Imola Circuit
Aprilia) finished third, well clear of Marco Melandri (MS Aprilia). Melandri
now heads the title chase by a massive 45 points over Fonsi Nieto (Telefonica
MoviStar Repsol Aprilia) who crashed out of the race seven laps before the
checkered flag, his title aspirations in tatters.
Masao Azuma won a rain affected 125cc grand prix in quite spectacular style.
The Tribe by Breil Honda rider had managed no better than 18th in qualifying
but set the fastest time in the race day warm-up, held in wet conditions.
At the end of lap one he was up to 12th place, and improved lap by lap despite
the terribly slippery track. He eventually caught and passed the leading
duo, and championship contenders, Arnaud Vincent (Imola Circuit Aprilia)
and reigning 125cc World Champion Manuel Poggiali (Gilera), four laps from
the finish to win by almost two seconds from Vincent, with Poggiali third.