McCoy rides wind beneath Red Bull wings
3 September 2000
Garry McCoy all but dominated the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril, adding a comfortable GP500 victory to the impressive pole position he took on Saturday.
The diminutive Australian had to play second fiddle to early leader Sete Gibernau's Honda, after the Spaniard made a flying getaway from the third row but, once ahead, had little to fear from those behind him.
Gibernau held sway for the first five laps of the contest, and initially looked to be pulling out a gap as his medium 17-inch rear tyre out-performed the 16.5s behind him. McCoy, though, was just getting into his groove and, by lap five had reeled the Repsol bike in. Through at the start of lap six, the Yamaha was never headed again and, having disposed of Gibernau's immediate threat, set about building an unassailable lead.
Gibernau's race slowly got worse, being swallowed up by Kenny Roberts and Valentino Rossi by two-thirds distance, and then suffering the biggest high-side of the season. Both bike and rider were off the ground as they headed into turn two, with Gibernau being spat almost as far as the gravel trap on the outside of the corner, before landing and sliding to a pained halt. Behind the rapidly disintegrating Honda, Max Biaggi had to sit up and lost touch with his chase of Rossi.
With McCoy heading into the distance, focus switched further down the order, before coming to rest of the battle between the two Italian rivals. Biaggi, so dominant at Brno two weeks ago, had worked his way towards the top three through the early part of the race, but had no answer when Rossi came flying through from twelfth on the grid. Not an acknowledged fan of the Estoril layout - he described it as making the Sachsenring look like Indianapolis - Rossi was nevertheless making a better fist of the race than he had of practice, and could sense a potential podium right from the minute that he joined the Gibernau-Biaggi battle.
Slipping past the Roman Emperor on lap 17, the Nastro Azzuro rider then made short work of Gibernau and, when second-placed Roberts was delayed by an inattentive Sebastien LeGrelle, made rapid inroads into the American's advantage. A new lap record on the very last tour brought the Honda right to the back wheel of the Suzuki, but Roberts had just enough coming out of the last corner to hold on to second spot.
''For me, the main importance of the last five or six laps was to stay in front of Biaggi,'' Rossi revealed, ''and I had a hard fight with him for the places. Then I closed in on Kenny over the last lap - when I set a new fastest lap - but it was very difficult to catch right up to him. I am still very happy with third, though, especially after starting from twelfth. Being on the podium is almost like a victory for me.''
It could quite easily have been two Telefonica Movistar bikes on the rostrum, but second-place starter Nobuatsu Aoki dropped it on the opening lap and, narrowly avoiding the barriers, skated into an ignominious retirement at the chicane..
There were precious few drop-outs elsewhere, however, leaving a squabbling pack of riders to chase down the possibility of a podium over the early laps. Norick Abe was the first to hold fourth place, before being usurped by Biaggi and Rossi, and would go on to only finish ninth.
Front row starter Jurgen van der Goorbergh made a good getaway before seeing his V-twin swallowed up the four cylinder bikes around him. The Dutchman still managed to have a good scrap with the two remaining Repsol bikes, however, as Alex Criville came off worse at the first corner scramble, and spent much of his afternoon running fast laps in an attempt to recover from an early 14th position. The reigning champion went on to take sixth, behind the second Red Bull bike of Regis Laconi, and just ahead of team-mate Tady Okada. van der Goorbergh finished eighth.
Neither Pons bike showed at the front in Portugal, with Alex Barros tenth and Loris Capirossi - still nursing hand injuries - 13th. They were separated by the Aprilia of Jeremy McWilliams and the disappointing Yamaha of former championship contender Carlos Checa. Tetsuya Harada and Mark Willis, on the Modenas, completed to point-scorers.
Back at the front, Roberts decided that discretion would be the better part of valour on a day coloured by unpredictable winds and, save for the late wake-up call posed by Rossi, was content to ride safely for second.
''It was difficult not to think of the points situation today,'' the American admitted, ''I did what was needed for the championship really. I could have done with a better start - I tried to stay with Garry, but figured that I was not able to beat him in the race today, as I was fighting all the time to make up for what we were losing on the straights. To be honest, I'm happy to get out of here with second place.''
McCoy did well to disguise his joy at taking a second win of the year, and becoming just the third man to win from pole position in 2000. With the security of a two-year deal with WCM in his pocket, the Australian is already being tipped as a potential championship contender next season,
''At the start, all I saw was Sete when he passed,'' me McCoy smiled later, ''I decided to follow him and see what I could do, then passed him when it was obvious that my bike was quicker. From then on, it was really just a case of trying to keep everything together. I made a couple of small mistake, but the gap kept growing. It was a great feeling, and one I had been waiting for for a long time.''
It really was that easy in Estoril.
Daijiro Katoh and the Gresini Honda squad dominated the inaugural 250cc Portuguese Grand Prix at the Estoril circuit, leading home championship leader Olivier Jacque by ten seconds.
In doing so, he continued his one hundred percent points scoring record in 2000 and resurrected his championship hopes as fellow contenders Shinya Nakano and Tohru Ukawa emerged relatively unscathed from an horrific looking accident.
The race looked anything but processional from the start, however, as Katoh and Ukawa, having made the best starts from their respective second and fourth place grid positions, proceeded to swap the race lead from the first corner. Behind the leading pair, Jacque, recovering from a poor start from pole position, Marco Melandri and the second Chesterfield Yamaha of Nakano completed a lead group of five riders which remained in close proximity until midway around the fifth tour.
On exiting turn two Ukawa, probably affected by the strong gusting wind, saw his Honda slide from beneath him leaving Melandri and Jacque to take evasive action to weave their way past the stricken Japanese rider. Unfortunately, Nakano, having been forced wide as his team-mate passed him, was not so lucky and, with nowhere to go, broad-sided the sliding machine and somersaulted into the gravel landing heavily on his right hand.
This incident alone resulted in the race being blown wide apart as Katoh, having been well clear of the incident, proceeded to stretch his lead lap after lap over the delayed Jacque who, in turn increased the gap over the trailing Melandri. The pattern was now set for the rest of the race with the Frenchman trailing Katoh in by almost ten seconds but recording his 8th consecutive podium finish and stretching his championship lead to a massive 27 points with four races to go. Melandri finished a further 18 seconds back in third but, in the process, became the youngest ever podium finisher in a 250cc GP, beating Mike Hailwood's record of 18 years and 2 months.
Behind the leading trio, Anthony West progressed swiftly from his twelfth place grid position to finish a lonely fourth ahead of the semi works bike of Klaus Nohles, Fonsi Nieto and leading privateer Jason Vincent. The latter two riders having endured a lengthy battle once the Britain, at one stage the third fastest rider on track, had recovered from his poor starting position of 14th before the Spaniard decisively passing Vincent on the last lap.
Nohles' high finish compensated slightly for the early demise of Aprilia Germany team-mate Ralf Waldmann who slid out of the race at the same corner as Nakano and Ukawa on lap three just as it seemed that, having set the early fastest laps, he would join the leading group of five riders. Other early fallers included Sebastian Porto and David Checa, both of whom had enjoyed their highest grid positions of the season, as the TSR-Honda rider lost it under braking into the first corner, clipped Porto's rear wheel sending them both into the gravel trap and instant retirement.
Of the other Britons, Jaime Robinson put in a very brave performance to finish in the final points scoring position following a massive accident in Friday free practice which prevented him from competing in the first day of qualifying whilst Adrian Coates retired on lap 14 with mechanical problems.
Spain's Emilio Alzamora became the first winner of a Portuguese MotoGP to be held in Portugal, as he overcame the Derbi challenge to take victory in GP125.
The Spaniard made the most of a front row start to latch on to the early battle between Derbi team-mates Youichi Ui and Manuel Poggiali, but had to be content to run between the two red bikes once he had made up the ground from third.
Ui, meanwhile, having shaken off the closer than necessary attentions of Poggiali in the opening few laps, looked set to continue his trend of winning from pole position. Able to stay out of the clutches of Alzamora's Telefonica Movistar Honda, the Japanese championship leader was still holding a small advantage when disaster struck on the tenth lap.
With Alzamora now ahead of rear-gunner Poggiali, Ui tried to raise his game slightly, only to make a mistake and see the font of his bike buckle underneath him. Sparks flying, the Derbi headed for the gravel trap, handing Alzamora and Poggiali the chance to dice for the lead, and Roberto Locatelli the opportunity to close in in the championship.
The Italian had made an atrocious start from the front row, and found himself fighting for tenth and eleventh on the opening lap. Once the field had settled down, however, the Aprilia rider was able to make up ground and, having battled through the tight-knit group disputing fourth, was presented with the final podium place as Ui crashed out.
The scrap for the lead was still just out of reach, however, and, with his tyres already showing signs of excess wear after his recovery ride, Loca seemed to settle for third. Poggiali, though, was intent on taking the fight to Alzamora and, with his team leader out of the fray, set his sights on taking a maiden race win.
Time after time the San Marino rider used the Derbi's prodigious power to draw alongside the Honda coming out of the last turn and, although Poggiali insisted on sitting up well before the first corner, it looked likely that he would be able to out-drag the reigning champion at the same spot on the final lap.
Then, to complete Derbi's miserable afternoon, the engine on Poggiali's bike let go with seven laps to run, leaving a distraught rider unable to believe what had happened as he crouched by his stricken machine, beating the fairing in frustration.
Alzamora now had a comfortable three second advantage and, with Locatelli rolling off his lap times to ensure that he finished with a good point score, the top two was assured unless mechanical problems intervened.
Focus then switched to the scrap for the final podium position, with Arnaud Vincent making the most of a good starting slot to head a group of four riders battling for the silverware. The Frenchman's rival included Masao Azuma, Lucio Cecchinello - up from 17th on the grid - and Locatelli's Aprilia team-mate Simone Sanna, however, and things were not easy.
With the exception of Sanna, all three riders took turns to head the group into turn one, with Azuma and Vincent both making up places hand over fist by slipstreaming each other down the long home straight. The battle seemed set to go to the wire until Azuma dropped it heading into turn two for the very last time, delaying Sanna in the process, and setting up a two-way fight to the flag. The better power of the Aprilia ensured that Vincent took the spoils, as Cecchinello settled for a second consecutive fourth place.
Missing from the action already were the respective team-mates of Azuma and Cecchinello, after Mirko Giansanti and Nobby Ueda crashed out before half-distance. Neither rider, like Ui, was hurt, but both saw their distant championship chances further damaged as they slid harmlessly into the gravel.
With Alzamora and Locatelli taking the top two steps of the podium, and Ui failing to finish, the championship has taken another twist which sees the Italian back on top, and his Spanish rival closing in in defence of his crown. Fifteen points now separate Locatelli from Ui, with Alzamora and further 14 in arrears.
Round 13 in Valencia could be very exciting indeed.