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WMXJune 1, 2003
World Motocross Championship, Round 4,
Venue - Montevarchi, Italy

Motocross Grand Prix - Atsuta Goes Top Ten In Italian Heat

Former Japanese Motocross Champion Yoshitaka Atsuta put in his best performance of the season on Sunday taking eighth position at the Grand Prix of Italy staged at the hillside circuit of Montevarchi, some 45 kilometres south of Florence. Atsuta, riding a Honda 450F four stroke machine for the British based CAS Honda squad, recovered from a bad start to work his way up the field from 20th to 15th on the opening lap, and then set about picking off riders on the stony ground.

Suzuki rider Mickael Pichon suffered his first defeat of the season taking fourth position, but the reigning world champion retains his seven point lead in the MXGP category ahead of Belgian mounted KTM rider Joel Smets. Stefan Everts romped to his second victory of the day aboard a four stroke Yamaha, winning the 125cc GP before going on to take his second win less than one and a half hours later.

Everts said, "I think everyone thought I was mad racing in both classes with so little time between the moto's, but the race lines were familiar and I made two tremendous starts which made it much easier for me." The six-time world champion fired a warning shot across the bows of series leader Pichon: "The championship is just starting, Pichon was stronger in the first three races but I am only 18 points behind and there are still eight more races to go, it's going to be a long season, don't write me off too soon." said Everts.

Pichon was involved in a clash with Claudio Federici (Yamaha) which flattened his exhaust. Later the Frenchman said, "To be honest I was tired after only three laps of the race, the effects of my practice crash yesterday. At first I thought I could go a little faster but then I was struggling to hold on. I was sitting down a lot and not able to handle the bike as usual. It was like I was riding a 500! When Federici fell in front of me I would normally have been able to dodge around his bike but my reactions were not quick enough and I had to launch off it which flattened the exhaust. I was down on power but I doubt whether I would have been able to use the extra power anyway", he admitted.

Atsuta, whose parents were visiting from Japan, said, "I fell last week in England and twisted my knee, it has been painful in training but I tried to put it behind me. I felt that I was carrying good speed, the track was difficult to pass on but I found my way around virtually one rider per lap. I knew that the top five guys were not so far in front of me, I kept pushing. Maybe with another few laps I could have made it to fifth, that would have been great but I am still very pleased with ninth. I have proved to the team what I am capable of, it's now just a matter of keeping this up each week."

2002 World 250cc Motocross Championship runner-up Kiwi Josh Coppins made his GP comeback after major spinal and foot surgery, just four months after a horrifying crash in the USA and three months after his spine was fused. The Honda two-stroke mounted rider finished in 15th place, scoring six points to take his first steps on his long climb back up the classifications. Twenty-six-year-old Coppins, who qualified with ease in 13th position, said, "I had to be honest with myself, I was thinking that I would be lucky if I made it inside the top 30. I made a few quick laps which helped put my mind at rest, I had a reasonable pick on the start gate."

Coppins recovered from a bad start. "Starts are usually my strong point", he said. "My speed is coming back every time I ride the bike but I still lack a little confidence when I have people around me on the track. The track was very slippery so the first few laps I was over cautious not to hurt my ankle. I have picked up a knee injury because of muscle wastage in my left leg but that will come better with time."

The kiwi added, "I rode pretty crap for the first few laps, just trying to get back into racing mode, back to speed but struggling on left hand turns. I managed to pick up the pace, I expected to be fading during the race and then trying just to hold onto a placing but actually I started to make up ground. I was closing on James Dobb, and when we crossed the finish line we were side by side, I nearly took 14th from him.

CAS Honda team mate, Ulsterman Gordon Crockard, rode in extreme pain throughout the weekend after breaking a knuckle while racing in England last weekend. "My shoulder is still not right after seven weeks, now my finger is broken. The only solution is rest but I wanted to try here but it was no good", admitted the Irishman. Qualifying in 22nd position, Crockard needed a good start. "If I could have got out of the gate I would have tried to continue, but when you are last into the first turn and you have a broken finger and a shoulder injury it's hard to make any progress. I rode for more than half the race but it was useless and I pulled in." Crockard retired after fourteen laps, gaining no points in Italy but still holding onto seventh place in the title chase.

CAS Honda team manager Neil Prince said, " Yoshi (Atsuta) was in great form today, that was his best ever performance on a track that was very demanding. He came back from a poor start and fought his way to within sight of the top five. He had closed the gap on Caps, Aubert and Beirer, I am sure with a better start he could have gone top five easily. He has been riding with injuries like all of our riders but rode through it to take 13 points. Josh made a good effort, he is improving each and every time on the bike, it's only been three weeks now and we are working hard to make the continual changes needed to make him go faster."

Commenting on Gordon Crockard, runner-up at the previous round in Germany, Prince said, "Gordon shouldn't have been here, that's the simple fact of the matter. We made a decision to race but yesterday in practice and qualification the pain from his hand got progressively worse and today he just wanted a start, then he would have been towed along but it didn't happen. Now he will have a break and miss next week's GP in Bulgaria and rest for a few weeks. Gordon's not one to be sitting around but he needs rest and without it the injury will never heal."
World Motocross Championship, Round 4,
Venue - Montevarchi, Italy

1 Stefan Everts (Yamaha)
2 Joel Smets (KTM)
3 Claudio Federict (Yamaha)
4 Mickael Pichon (Suzuki)
5 Pit Beirer (KTM)
6 Johnny Aubert (Yamaha)
13 Marc Ristori (Honda)
1 Stefan Everts (Yamaha)
2 Steve Ramon (KTM)
3 Mickael Maschio (Kawasaki)
4 Andrea Bartolini (Yamaha)
5 Marc de Reuver (KTM)
6 Luigi Seguy (Yamaha)

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