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Barros by a bike length

23 July 2000


Alex Barros scored his second GP500 win of the season at the Sachsenring, but only after a tense struggle with the flying Valentino Rossi.

Neither the Brazilian or his Italian rival held the lead at the start, as championship leader Kenny Roberts got the holeshot ahead of Max Biaggi and both Emerson Honda Pons bikes. Initially, it looked as though the American was going to stroll away, as the nimble Suzuki made light work of the tight turns, but, slowly, both Barros and team-mate Loris Capirossi reeled him back in.

The pair swapped positions on lap five, as the Assen TT winner proved to have a better line through the first corner, and quickly closed onto the rear of Roberts. Having sized the Suzuki up over the next couple of laps, Barros then made his move and, with Capirossi close enough to attract the American's attention, eased out into a slight lead of his own.

Rossi, at this point, was still mixing it with the likes of Jose Luis Cardoso and Luca Cadalora, as a poor start relegated him to the back of the pack. Jeremy McWilliams was only just ahead of the Italian, after a slow getaway of his own but, unlike Rossi, his day would not get any better.

Once he was comfortable with his Nastro Azzuro Honda, Rossi began his charge, picking off the opposition at an average of two a lap until he caught the midfield pack. Having moved to the front of the group, he then towed it closer and closer to the leading quintet.

By mid-distance, Barros and Roberts had new opposition in the shape of Tetsuya Harada's twin-cylinder Aprilia, as the little Japanese made the most of the one circuit to favour the smaller bike. Just as a podium finish looked on, however, the Aprilia's tyres began to go off, and Harada gradually slid back through the group, before crashing out with four laps to run and joining team-mate McWilliams in the Clinica Mobile.

Capirossi was thus promoted back onto Roberts' tail, but the lead pack now had o worry about the yellow and blue bike in their midst, as Rossi filtered his way to the front. His chasing group had lost weight when reigning champion Alex Criville and Dutch privateer Jurgen van der Goorbergh crashed out at the bottom of the hill, but the Italian brought Tady Okada's works Honda to the party to make it a seven man train before Harada's departure.

With eight laps to run Rossi was fifth, but promptly picked off Biaggi and Capirossi on the same tour and set about Roberts with a vengeance. The American was despatched on the next lap, before Rossi decided the Barros, too, was holding him up. An ambitious move on lap 25 saw the Italian get the lead, only to lose it as he ran wide in the second part of the turn, but he was in front for real two laps later.

Barros, however, was not to be outdone - or outgunned - and clung to Rossi's tail for the next couple of tours. With the Italian now the one under pressure - Capirossi having taken Roberts for third to lie behind his team-mate - Barros was able to wind it up and dive down the inside of Rossi for the lead on the penultimate lap. Despite the constant probing of the Nastro Azzuro bike, there he stayed, taking a well-deserved second win of the year to elevate himself alongside Roberts as the only other multiple victor in 2000.

The American wasn't done either, thrusting his bike up the inside of Capirossi on the final lap t secure a podium finish. It was bad luck for the Honda rider that a solid race should end in such a forceful manner but, despite being relegated o sixth as he caught the ensuing moment, Loris acknowledged that there was nothing wrong with Roberts' move.

Biaggi and Okada were quick to make the most of Capirossi's grass-tracking moment to claim an extra place, leaving the Italian Honda rider separating the top grip from a chasing pack now headed by Regis Laconi. Among those in the Frenchman's wake came Carlos Checa, the Yamaha man putting in a plucky ride after his qualifying concussion to ensure that Roberts' championship lead didn't grow dramatically.

The American will be satisfied with his day's work, however, knowing that wherever he finished would have been good enough to extend the lead. The race, however, wasn't really about him, as two of Honda's privateers again proved that GP500 has moved on from the days of Doohan domination.

The action up front wasn't quite as close in either of the junior classes, with comfortable winners in both races. There was still incident and excitement, however, as riders chose the same piece of tarmac into the first corner.

Reigning GP250 championship leader Olivier Jacque had an easy task once he had cleared the first lap shenanigans, and pulled away from the rest of the field at a comfortable rate to win by eleven seconds. Behind him, however, there was trouble at the first corner, with an incident on the inside of the pack forcing home hero Ralf Waldmann and rising star Anthony West off the road and down the order. Britain's Jay Vincent was also involved but, like his rivals, rejoined the fray, although Frenchman Vincent Phillipe was not so lucky and retired.

Jacque had Japan's Tohru Ukawa for company in the opening few tours, while Marco Melandri found himself contending with pressure from the second Tech 3 Yamaha of Shinya Nakano and dropping away from the leaders. The weight of holding the Chesterfield bike back eventually told and, as Melandri ran wide, Nakano jumped into a third place he would hold to the flag.

The early stages showed no sign of what was to come at the front, as the cat-and-mouse battle between Jacque and Ukawa continued for lap after lap. The Honda rider seemed content to put in faster and faster times without passing the leader, but his patience eventually went unrewarded when a mistake approaching half-distance cost him time, and released the pressure that had been keeping Jacque in check. From that moment on, the Frenchman was able to ease away, his bike looking the best set-up in almost the entire field.

Melandri's obviously was no match for the leaders, and the young Italian suffered another moment that dropped him back behind the charging duo of Klaus Nohles and Jamie Robinson. The German was delayed at the start, losing the impetus of his front row grid slot, and forcing him to have to battle back through the field. Robinson was quick to latch on to the local, keeping his nose clean as he sought another run at the front after his Donington experience.

Jacque's dominance soon became clear, as he was lapping almost a second faster than his rivals, despite now having to force his way past the backmarkers. Ukawa and the distant Nakano simply had no answer, and settled for second and third well before the finish. Further back, Waldmann and West were making a comeback, but stalled momentarily as they came across the battle for the lower reaches of the top ten, before continuing on to take eighth and tenth respectively.

Waldmann's support was echoed by that for Nohles, who closed in on Daijiro Katoh in the closing stages, without being able to pass for fourth. Nevertheless, fifth proved to be his best finish, and promoted him to the position of best Aprilia runner at the Sachsenring.

At the flag, Jacque gave his crew - and the rest of the crowd - a long time to celebrate his victory before having to switch their attentions back to the remaining finishers. Some eleven seconds separated the Frenchman from nearest pursuer Ukawa, with Nakano a similarly distant third. Katoh and Nohles thus provided the first close finish of the race, but by then most people were probably talking about Jacque's championship chances.

The GP125 race was as much of a demonstration run for pole-sitter Youichi Ui as the time session had proven to be on Saturday.

Seven seconds was the little Derbi rider's margin over the rest of the field, with fellow front-row starters Roberto Locatelli and Simone Sanna following him onto the rostrum. Measure of the problems caused by a first lap accident, however, was highlighted by Arnaud Vincent's elevation to fourth on the road - from 20th on the grid!

The opening tour proved to be as painful for one Derbi rider as it was good for Ui, with Manuel Poggiali crashing out less than 24 hours after possibly fracturing his ankle in a qualifying crash. The San Marino rider was not alone in failing to complete the first lap, however, with Masao Azuma and Gino Borsoi among those joining him on the sidelines.

Back at the front, the race quickly became something of a procession at the front, as Ui pulled away from Locatelli, and the Italian opened out a bigger gap back to third. Sanna eventually filled the rostrum place, but was some ten seconds adrift at the flag.

Worse was to befall the other front row starter, however, as Nobby Ueda dropped down to an unrepresentative 13th by the end. It was a disappointing result for the likeable Japanese, and poor reward for a late qualifying charge that had taken him from 19th to fourth in five laps.

Vincent, however, was the grateful recipient of Ueda's rightful place, somehow picking his way through the field to take fourth, just a second behind Sanna. Likewise, Mirko Giansanti, still carrying the effects of his Mugello crash, claimed fifth from 13th. Ivan Goi finished sixth, just ahead of the third Derbi of Pablo Nieto, with Gigi Scalvini, Angel Nieto Jr and extremely local hero Steve Jenkner rounding out the top ten.

This was a day for championship contenders, however, with Ui and Jacque strengthening their hands at the top of their respective tables. Roberts, meanwhile, may not have won his race but showed, with his late pass on Capirossi, that he has not settled for the crown just yet.

The season now heads into its traditional summer break, giving those behind the chance to re-evaluate their challenges but, for the men in front, it will be a pleasurable holiday.


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