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MotoGP Japan: Rossi crashes, Ducati wins

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September 17, 2005

MotoGP Japan: Rossi crashes, Ducati wins

MotoGP Japan: Rossi crashes, Ducati wins

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September 18, 2005 Loris Capirossi took the Ducati Desmosedici to its second Grand Prix win at Motegi here today, winning at Honda’s own circuit, and relegating the Honda RC211Vs of Max Biaggi (Repsol) and Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta) into second and third place in front of 68,000 fans. The race was one of massive attrition with nine of the 20 starters failing to finish, among them championship leader Valentino Rossi, and leading contenders Marco Melandri, Alex Barros, Sete Gibernau and Shinya Nakano.

For Capirossi, it was a dream weekend – he qualified on pole, half a second faster than anyone else in the field, and a full 1.2 seconds faster than Rossi, prompting the champion elect to pay the ultimate compliment to his friend and countryman when he said after practice, “I think all the riders can only dream about the pace Capirossi had today.” In the race, Capirossi and the Ducati were the best combination on the day and unlike his prior win where he was clearly not as quick as Rossi, this time he would have won the race regardless of Rossi's crash. Congratulations to Loris and Ducati.

It was Ducati's second win in MotoGP, and Capirossi's tenth podium finish on a Ducati in MotoGP. It was also the first MotoGP win for an Italian rider on an Italian bike in Japan. Such was Capirossi's early pace that he broke the previous lap record at the second attempt, then again on lap three, dipping under the magic 1'48 bracket to record a new lap record of 1'47.968. His desire to lead took him inside Marco Melandri on lap 10 but he pushed the front too hard on the final left of the lap and almost fell, recovering to rejoin third. He regained second on lap seven, and took the lead on lap 19, to enjoy a final margin of victory of 1.479 seconds.

"It's fantastic for everyone involved in the team," said Livio Suppo, Ducati MotoGP Project Manager. "It was especially satisfying to win here in Japan. A win is a win, but here it is even better. We must thank Loris first of all, because he rode perfectly the whole weekend, then Bridgestone, because the tyres worked well all weekend, and of course the guys who have been working on the bikes, both here and back in Italy. It's not just the tyre and the rider; it is also the machine. It is a dream that has come true. Carlos also made a good race, and even if a lot of people crashed he was still not far away. A good team result and very good for our morale, with the next races coming up so soon."

Loris Capirossi took the jump from 2005 podium finisher to race winner at Motegi, fighting hard in the early laps with Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi, but easing away in the final laps to score a clear win. He earned himself sixth place in the championship standings, as well as his victory.

“It's great to take the win today, but it has not just been about today," stated Capirossi. "From Friday to Saturday to the race it has been good for Ducati Marlboro, for Bridgestone, for the team. Bridgestone made a great job here at Motegi and the tyres have been working well; we did a lot of consecutive laps in practice at high speed. I had good rhythm in the race but sometimes when I tried to overtake I was past the limit. When I went into the lead I knew I was faster than Max and then I knew it would be my race. It's great to win for Ducati and Bridgestone in Japan."

The stop-start Motegi circuit had caused considerable set-up problems for both GauloisesYamaha M1s, and putting Rossi in his lowest qualifying position since he qualified 11th at the German GP in 2001. Last year at Qatar, he was relegated to the rear of the grid due to the now infamous Gibernau team protest, but had actually qualified higher. Rossi’s remarks were to prove ominous. “The last time I was so far back on the grid was at Qatar last year but I made a lot of positions up over the first four laps so I will try to do that again, only this time finish the race!”

Indeed, Rossi made a blinding start from eleventh on the grid and passed seven riders by the fourth lap. Seven laps later he suddenly came together with Marco Melandri (Honda) as they pitched into the notorious turn ten and collided into the gravel, leaving Max Biaggi (Honda) and Loris Capirossi (Ducati) clear at the front. The race was eventually won by Capirossi, who passed Biaggi six laps from the end and opened up a 1.4 second advantage to claim his first win of the season.

This was a fast-paced race with a close grid determined to get through the difficult turn one without incident. The field managed to negotiate the corner successfully and it was Marco Melandri (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) who hit the front from the off.

The Honda man had pulled out a lead of 0nearly a full second over Capirossi by lap two and as the Ducati rider sensed his compatriot was set to charge, he put in an early fastest lap to claw back some ground.

By lap three he was on Melandri’s tail and soon a lead trio of Melandri, Capirossi and Biaggi, with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and Tamada hanging onto them, had broken clear of the pack. By lap seven they were well clear of the field and one lap later it seemed as if Rossi, Tamada, and Carlos Checa (Ducati), who had now joined then, could not stand the pace.

By lap ten Max, who was lying third, held a 1.7 second advantage over Rossi. But Capirossi was determined to demonstrate to the Roman that he had the means to make life tough. He shadowed him for two laps before making a bid for the lead and then as Max began to pressure Melandri, so Rossi upped his pace in an attempt to stay with the leaders.

But on lap 13 Rossi and Melandri tangled. Both fell and did not restart. This left Max and Capirossi out on their own with a 3.2 second advantage over Tamada. Checa, John Hopkins (Suzuki) and Colin Edwards (Yamaha) continued the pursuit in fourth, fifth and sixth – but they weren’t close to the hot race rhythm of the front three.

It was clear that this would be a dogfight all the way to the flag. On lap 19 Capirossi made his move for the lead. Max was more than prepared to make him struggle for it, but Capirossi had the edge and in the closing stages he extended his lead to gain a margin of 1.9 seconds.

While the protagonists were fighting it out, other Honda riders fared less well. Tohru Ukawa, standing in for the injured Troy Bayliss (Camel Honda RC211V), retired on lap six with a technical problem, Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) made it to lap 12 before crashing out, and Alex Barros (Camel Honda RC211V) pitted on lap 16.

Naoki Matsudo (Moriwaki Honda RC211V) succumbed to a crash early in the race while Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) finished seventh.

The overall points standings show Rossi, who failed to score here on 261, Biaggi on 149, Colin Edwards (Yamaha), who finished sixth, with 133, and Melandri with 126. Rossi could have won the title here today if he had finished fourth or better. It is now likely he will win the title in Malaysia next week – a circuit he likes.

QUOTES:

Max Biaggi, Repsol Honda Team, 2nd: “That race was so hard and I am very happy with the result in the end. Michelin did a great job with the tyres – the grip on the edge was unbelievable! When I opened the throttle there was so much traction it was incredible. My team have done a great job and even if we didn’t win we improved again in the championship. It is good to be the best Michelin finisher and the first Honda back as well. I’m confident in Malaysia that we can take revenge on Bridgestone! They did a great job and Loris rode very hard – congratulations to them. A good battle to watch for the fans I think.”

Makoto Tamada , Konica Minolta Honda: 3rd: “Best result of the season but I feel I can do even more. I am only at 70 per cent of my conditions and I hope that soon we’ll make it to improve. Finally I had the opportunity to show my new Michelin cap seen this is my first podium with the French tyres. During the race I had some chattering problem which didn’t allow me to remain with the fastests. I tried, but when I saw falling down Rossi and Melandri, I preferred to don’t risk and maintain the third position. Marco has risked going outside the track some laps before, therefore I preferred to give him some space to don’t get involved in some contacts. At the end I think I made the right choice. When he was in front of me, Rossi was going really fast, but I noticed that he wasn’t secure as usual. I am happy for this result, most of all because obtained in front of our title sponsor, Konica Minolta, who this year never stopped believing in it. I hope to be able repeat this performance in seven days, because we are on the right way.”

Carlos Checa, Ducati, fourth: "The most important thing is that we made good progress here. We had some problems both and in Brno but we grew up a lot over this weekend. We knew that the tyres had a lot of potential but we had been unable to use them but here we went one step in front. I am actually happier for the performance rather than the result. I have to give my compliments to Loris and they tyres have definitely made some difference to us today, so thanks to Bridgestone for their good work."

John Hopkins, Suzuki, 5th: “Finally I got the top five finish I’ve been looking for in my whole GP career! I am perfectly confident in my riding talent, I have always believed that the results would come when the machinery gets better and that’s exactly what’s happened. Suzuki has brought some improvements here and the Bridgestone tyres were just unbelievable this weekend, everything about them was really good. I had a couple of front-end slides in the race but that was inevitable with the heat. The lap-times weren’t as good as what we had been doing but as I said with the heat that is only natural. I got to the first corner and just kept thinking don’t anybody hit me, don’t anybody hit me and they didn’t! So I breathed a huge sigh of relief and just kept my cool and my consistency and brought it home in the top five. That was really important for me because first it’s the top five - then a podium - then a win!”

Hirotaka Ono – Board Member, Suzuki Overseas Marketing:“I think the team did their best so I am happy today. But of course I’m not satisfied with today’s result. But now the tyre construction is getting better – the Bridgestone team is working very hard – so I hope our staff can develop a more powerful engine for it. I think we have a big possibility and the team situation and team-work is very good, so as I said today I am happy but not satisfied.”

Paul Denning, Suzuki Team Manager: “I’m really pleased that John has got the top five position that he has been working so hard for. He’s ridden consistently on the limit all weekend and richly deserves the result – and the bonus money! My feeling before the race was that a top ten result would be – despite the qualifying positions – a sensible and achievable target. We got better than that! Kenny suffered – along with John in the early laps – from a lack of front grip and an inability to brake hard and turn in, maybe caused by the higher track temperature this afternoon than we have had all weekend. Both the guys managed to cope with it and a lot of the riders didn’t - there was a lot of carnage out there. I’d like to thank all Suzuki senior management, in particular Mr Iguchi and Mr Ono for attending this weekend. They can see the effort that the riders and the team are making and we know where we have to be. Those guys are going to help us get there.”

Colin Edwards, Gauloises Yamaha, 5th: "I made a good start for once and it wasn't too bad to begin with. I got past Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) but I lost the front going into turn seven and ran wide. It was strange because, apart from my crash on Friday, the front has been very stable this weekend but in the race I lost it in a few corners and it affected my confidence. For the rest of the race it was survival for me. I got past Kenny again but the conditions were hotter than they had been during practice and our tyre and suspension combination suffered a little. It has been a struggle for the past few races but I like the tracks we've got coming up so hopefully we can sort it out and make some progress. At least we've moved up to third in the championship, so that's one good thing we can take away from here!"

Davide Brivio - Gauloises Yamaha team director: "Our first concern is for Marco Melandri. We are not sure of his injuries just yet but we hope it is not serious and I wish him well on behalf of the whole team. There was a protest against Valentino put forward by Honda on behalf of all its MotoGP Teams, but Race Direction has judged this unfounded. As far as the championship is concerned, it is a pity we couldn't finish it off here and for Valentino it is a shame that his run of podiums has been interrupted. All we can do is try to make up for it by taking the points back next time. Colin finished sixth in a difficult race, but it was an important result for him as it means that he remains in the top positions."

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team, 7th: “Things never really clicked here for the moment I got of the plane really. Seemed like I was on the back foot all weekend and things never came good to be honest. In the race I had a good battle with a few guys and went back and forth with Barros a few times then I overshot at the end of the straightaway and lost a few places. I got things back together and made up some places and rode for the points. I feel I let my boys down here and don’t feel good about it. I just want to make sure we come out of the gate fast in Sepang next week and put things straight.”

Kenny Roberts Jr, Suzuki, 8th:“That was basically the worst result besides falling down that I could have strung together. I think either the temperature change got us or something, but I couldn’t be aggressive from the start and was only using half my braking force. I then got frustrated and was overshooting the corners and by the time I had got to the next corner I didn’t know where the hell to brake. This complicated everything and I then felt as if something was wrong, so that and sliding the front all added up to me just riding around completely lost. “I think we could have had a better result – to what level I don’t know – but we obviously need to keep improving.”

Toni Elias (Fortuna Yamaha Team), 9th: "We leave Motegi with some points and a good finish position overall. However I feel this race weekend was worse than Brno where we've had a better race with a lower classification. We have had a lot of problems with the set-up of the bike this weekend, which we were unable to solve. We will try to go through them in Malaysia and hope to improve there. A lot of riders crashed today and fortunately I didn't, the points we've got today are important for us."

Ruben Xaus (Fortuna Yamaha Team), 10th: "I haven't rode fast today but still I finished tenth. When I saw the other riders crash out of the race I thought that it was better not to push too much and end up next to the track myself. Also when the temperature rose during the race, things only got more complicated. In these kinds of circumstances it's better not to take any risks and just go for the championship points. For the remaining races I will try hard to improve my feeling with the bike and better my results."

Sete Gibernau, Movistar Honda MotoGP: (crashed): “I tried from the start but I didn’t have the pace and I went down, it was my own fault. I was riding behind Checa and trying to force the pace a little, hoping the guys at the front would slow down because I knew I couldn’t go any faster. There’s no need to look for excuses, we’ve done badly again and that’s all there is to it. When it’s not one thing it’s another; we’ve had a difficult season but we have to remain confident that our luck will change.”

Fausto Gresini (Movistar Honda team manager): “Another disastrous day for the team, with crashes for both riders and injuries to Marco. We still don’t know the extent of the injury, or whether he will be fit to race next week. I am gutted because I thought both riders worked well for this race and we had hoped for a much different result.”

Alex Barros , Camel Honda, crashed: “I didn’t get the best of starts, and I soon realised that without having been able to sort the forks set-up out this weekend, it was hard to be efficient under braking. On top of that it was also much hotter than yesterday and the tyres were suffering, mine as much as the others. Anyway, I was picking up positions, albeit with difficulty, and I had Hopkins in my sights when the bike went away from me. At the moment I don’t know why, but I knew that it was a strange crash because I crashed when I was heading into a left turn, but I was still upright. Then Colin (Edwards) who was right behind , told me that I touched a spot of oil left on the track by Nakano and which wasn’t flagged. It’s a shame because I was riding focused after seeing Sete slide out in front of me. Crashing was exactly what I wanted to avoid at all costs, because even though I knew I couldn’t’ do the greatest race, I could still pick up important points to keep up at the top of the championship. Now it’s a whole lot more difficult but there are still five races beginning with Malaysia, in just a week’s time, where we had some good pre-season testing.”

Tohru Ukawa, Camel Honda, DNF: “I’m really disappointed with how the race went, and would have loved to battle for a top spot here. Instead not long after the start I felt that there was something wrong and then on the fourth lap something happened to the engine and I was forced to retire.”

Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki, DNF: "Not a good day for the Kawasaki Racing Team. In the first couple of laps I was able to overtake and move forward to 11th behind the Honda riders, Barros and Hayden, although we were a long way back and it was difficult to see the front group. I thought I had the potential to pass the Honda guys, but then I suffered the same problem with the engine as I suffered yesterday. At this track you are using low gears and high revs a lot during each lap. I like both Sepang and Doha, the next races, but we have to fix this problem if we want to see the chequered flag."

Alex Hofmann, Kawasaki, DNF: "I'm absolutely devastated; yet another disaster and another stupid injury. We just don't have the top speed with our bike to overtake on the straights, so we have to pass into the turns on the brakes. But even then you have to make up at least 20 metres on the brakes before you're even close enough to pass. I went up the inside of Ukawa into the corner and I had no other option but to go under Roby as well, as he'd run wide of the apex. Unfortunately, he didn't know I was there and turned in right in front of me; we collided and both ended up in the gravel. I'm sorry for Roby, he did nothing wrong. I guess I will just have to wait and see what the doctors in Munich say about my ankle, but I'm fairly confident that a return to racing at Phillip Island will be possible."

Ichiro Yoda, Kawasaki Technical Manager:"Motegi has not been easy for us, with a crash for Alex and some engine problems for Shinya. I understand the problem with Shinya’s motor, but we have to fix the problem before the next race."

Harald Eckl, Kawasaki Team Manager: "This has got to rate as one of Kawasaki's darkest days since we returned to the MotoGP World Championship three years ago. I understand that bad luck is a part of racing, but it's so disappointing that we had to have today's result in front of representatives from Kawasaki, including the chairman, Mr. Tazaki. Alex was strong in qualifying and deserved better today than another injury. But now we need to put today's disappointment behind us and concentrate on improving our results at the next two races in Malaysia and Doha.

Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team), DNF: "We knew this would be a difficult race but the mechanics worked hard to improve the bike this morning in the warm-up and it worked well over the first few laps. I was able to pass a lot of people but I started to have a few problems with the front tyre when I arrived behind the front three. I knew it would be a risk to try and overtake and I expected Loris to pass Max in the final few laps. I knew I could be World Champion with fourth place and so I decided to just wait and do my race. Then Marco made a small mistake and suddenly I was behind him. It was the first time I had followed him into turn ten and we took completely different lines. He went to the outside of the track to cut across and get good acceleration out of the corner but I went to the inside to run wider on the exit. For the first 50m of braking we were at exactly the same speed so there was no warning, but he was able to stop the bike much harder than me and I couldn't avoid him. You can't see it very well on the television but I wasn't even trying to pass him, it was just one of those things. I apologised to Marco and he said 'it happens.' Now I am very concerned for him and I just hope he is ok."

Results

Race Classification MotoGP : (24 laps = 115.224 km) Pos/ Rider / Nat / Team / Motorcycle / Time/ KM/H 1 / Loris CAPIROSSI / ITA / Ducati Marlboro Team / DUCATI / 43'30.499 / 158.899 2 / Max BIAGGI / ITA / Repsol Honda Team / HONDA / 43'31.978 / 158.809 3 / Makoto TAMADA / JPN / Konica Minolta Honda / HONDA / 43'46.726 / 157.917 4 / Carlos CHECA / SPA / Ducati Marlboro Team / DUCATI / 43'52.647 / 157.562 5 / John HOPKINS / USA / Team Suzuki MotoGP / SUZUKI / 44'03.711 / 156.903 6 / Colin EDWARDS / USA / Gauloises Yamaha Team / YAMAHA / 44'05.414 / 156.802 7 / Nicky HAYDEN / USA / Repsol Honda Team / HONDA / 44'16.393 / 156.154 8 / Kenny ROBERTS / USA / Team Suzuki MotoGP / SUZUKI / 44'26.997 / 155.533 9 / Toni ELIAS / SPA / Fortuna Yamaha Team / YAMAHA / 44'42.536 / 154.632 10 / Ruben XAUS / SPA / Fortuna Yamaha Team / YAMAHA / 45'05.426 / 153.323 11 / Franco BATTAINI / ITA / Blata WCM / BLATA / 44'38.510 / 148.411 Fastest Lap (Unofficial new record): Loris CAPIROSSI 1'47.968 160.080 Km/h Lap 3 Lap Record: Makoto TAMADA 1'48.524 159.260 Km/h 2004

World Championship Positions:

Championship standings MotoGP

Pos. Rider Manufacturer Nat. Points 1 Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 261 2 Max Biaggi Honda ITA 149 3 Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 133 4 Marco Melandri Honda ITA 126 5 Nicky Hayden Honda USA 121 6 Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 117 7 Sete Gibernau Honda ESP 115 8 Alex Barros Honda BRA 114 9 Carlos Checa Ducati ESP 72 10 Shinya Nakano Kawasaki JPN 69 11 Makato Tamada Honda JPN 64 12 Troy Bayliss Honda AUS 54 13 Kenny Roberts Suzuki USA 49 14 John Hopkins Suzuki USA 46 15 Ruben Xaus Yamaha ESP 42 16 Toni Elias Yamaha ESP 38

Manufacturers standings MotoGP

Pos. Manufacturer Points 1 Yamaha 275 2 Honda 238 3 Ducati 127 4 Kawasaki 97 5 Suzuki 76 6 Blata WCM 10 7 Proton KR 1 8 Moriwaki 1

Team standings MotoGP

1 Gauloises Yamaha Team 394 2 Repsol Honda Team 270 3 Team Movistar Honda MotoGP 241 4 Ducati Marlboro Team 189 5 Honda Camel 168 6 Kawasaki Racing Team 116 7 Team Suzuki MotoGP 95 8 Fortuna Yamaha Team 84 9 Konica Minolta Honda 76 10 D'Antin MotoGP 15 11 Blata WCM 10 12 Team Roberts KR 1

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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