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Clean sweep for Katoh
8 April 2001
Daijiro Katoh completed an impressive sweep of pole, fastest lap, and the race victory in the MotoGP 250cc class at Suzuka today, as the Japanese rider dominated his home Grand Prix.
All eyes were on Katoh as the 250cc riders lined-up on the grid – but when the red lights went out the Honda rider seemed to be asleep and looked in danger of being swamped by the field into the first corner.
Katoh kept his head however and emerged from the first turn in third behind surprise leader Harada and Marco Melandri, who had been doubtful to race after dislocating his shoulder yesterday.
Katoh soon proved that he hadn't lost any of his incredible qualifying speed as he passed Melandri into the Spoon curve and then slipstreamed Harada for the lead into the 130R.
Melandri followed and incredibly, given his injuries, passed Katoh for the lead into the chicane. Katoh tucked in behind the young Italian and took the lead into turn one – then immediately started to disappear from the pack.
250 returnee Harada made his way passed Melandri soon after, while Katoh's teammate Emilio Alzamora ran wide into a gravel trap and fell to complete a dismal weekend for the Spaniard.
The order at the front remained Katoh, from Harada, Locatelli, and Melandri.
By lap 7 of 19 Katoh's lead had grown to 4.476secs as he set fastest lap after fastest lap, while Alex Debon crashed out.
Main battle between the frontrunners was that of Harada and Locatelli for second, with the 125cc Champion Locatelli impressing in his first 250 race as he passed Harada on lap 9, having shadowed the fellow Aprilia rider for several laps.
By lap 9 it was apparent that Melandri was suffering considerably from yesterdays crash as the young Italian dropped further and further back from the leaders and into the hands of Matsudo, who duly took fourth from him, with Battaini now sixth and McWilliams seventh.
Katoh continued to pull away and by lap 11 had the length of the start/finish straight between himself and Roberto Locatelli, as the #74 Honda disappeared into the distance some 11+ seconds ahead of the Italian.
Locatelli didn't have time to feel demoralised though, as he had been unable to shake of Harada and the Japanese rider was glued to his back wheel for lap after lap, ready to pounce on any mistake.
With 3 laps remaining Katoh's lead was a huge 16secs, while David de Gea crashed heavily through the Esses – scene of many incidents this weekend. Yuzy crashed soon after through the Spoon curve, while teammate Matsudo continued in fourth.
Into the last 2 laps and Harada looked to be lining up Locatelli for a last lap pass for second, still shadowing the Italian around the circuit.
Into the last lap and it was now or never for Harada and he waited until exiting the final chicane when Locatelli seemed to run slightly wide on the exit allowing Harada to win the drag to the line.
Katoh though had won his fifth Japanese MotoGP race over 18 seconds earlier having backed off to celebrate across the finish line.
Katja Poensgen was the last of the runners to finish her first MotoGP 250 race in twenty-second place, having been lapped by only Katoh.
Full classification to follow…
2. Harada +18.763secs
3. Locatelli +18.835secs
4. Matsudo +23.135secs
5. Rolfo +24.423secs
6. Melandri +26.595secs
7. Battaini +31.142secs
8. McWilliams +43.953secs
9. Porto +45.887secs
10. Sekiguchi +48.496secs
11. Nieto +53.283secs
12. Hofmann +1min 05.172secs
13. Aoyama +1min 05.267secs
14. Nohles +1min 17.422secs
15. Guintoli +1min 18.183secs
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