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Rossi takes two in a row

23 April 2001

Valentino Rossi took his second win of the season in South Africa today after holding off fellow Italian Loris Capirossi by just 0.660secs at the end of 28 thrilling laps of the Welkom circuit.

Rossi made a start reasonable from pole - only for Kenney Roberts to push his way through from the second row, with Capirossi also moving ahead of Rossi heading into the first corner.

However, Roberts and Capirossi touched into turn one – pushing Capirossi wide (and down the field) and allowing Rossi back past the pair of them, with McCoy soon into third, and Abe fourth.

Main loser at the start was Max Biaggi who dropped from eighth to fourteenth at the end of lap one.

Lap 2 and Kenny Roberts took the lead from Rossi, with last year's winner McCoy also hounding the Italian.

Roberts held his advantage over Rossi, as the American continued his impressive performance on the underpowered Suzuki, while the Italian stalked him all around the Welkom circuit.

On lap 5 Noriyuki Haga dropped his Red Bull Yamaha, while McCoy passed Rossi for second – briefly – before being re-passed by the Italian and being put under pressure by Abe.

Lap 7 of 28 and Roberts continued to lead, although certainly not comfortably, the reigning World Champion being shadowed by Rossi all around the slippery South African circuit, although his corner exit speed seemed superior to Rossi's Honda and kept him in front.

By lap 9 the lead pack consisted of seven riders with Nakano in seventh just 1.1secs behind Roberts, as Capirossi began to look impatient in fifth on the black and white West Honda Pons.

On lap 12 McCoy attempted a pass on Rossi for second – but ran wide, allowing Rossi back past, with Norrick Abe also taking advantage of McCoy's mistake to move into third.

On the following lap Abe attempted a move inside Rossi on the same corner where McCoy had tried a lap earlier – and made it stick, forcing McCoy to take evasive action to avoid Rossi, which in turn gave Capirossi the chance to move ahead of the Australian.

Abe continued his charge and amazingly took the lead from Kenny Roberts on lap 14, with Rossi following the Japanese rider past the American a lap later, who was immediately put under further pressure from Loris Capirossi.

Abe and Rossi then began to build a slight lead over Roberts and the pursuing field, with Roberts acting as a buffer between the lead duo and the charging Capirossi. The Italian found his way past on lap 16 and set off after his countryman Rossi.

Rossi took the lead from Abe on the next lap (with 11 to go), but fastest man on the track was Loris Capirossi in third and eager to pass Abe himself. On the same lap Garry McCoy threw his Yamaha into the gravel – and retirement, after losing the front end while trying to pass Roberts.

Soon after Capirossi found a way past Abe for second.

The result of this was that the yesterday's thrilling duel for pole was now being repeated on race day for the lead of the Grand Prix, and Capirossi was soon pushing his countryman around every millimetre of the 4.242km circuit.

7 laps to go and the order was: Rossi from Capirossi, Abe, Ukawa, Nakano, Roberts, Criville and Biaggi, as Roberts' slide down the field continued.

Back at the front and Rossi was setting fastest race laps as he tried to shake off Capirossi, but the #65 rider refused to give up and responded with similar lap times of his won, as the pair pulled further away from the rest of the field.

On lap 25 of 28 the gap between the two Italians was just 0.58secs, but Rossi was beginning to edge his factory Honda away from the semi-works machine of Capirossi.

Meanwhile, Ukawa had moved past Abe into third with fellow 500cc Rookie Shinya Nakano also challenging Abe, in what had become a three-way battle for the final podium position between the Japanese riders.

Nakano found his way past Abe on the penultimate lap, as the leaders began their final circuit less than a second apart.

Rossi looked to have just enough advantage over Capirossi, and duly held on to take a clean sweep of pole, fastest lap (on lap 28 of 28) and the race win in South Africa.

Full classification to follow…

1. Rossi 45mins 03.414secs
2. Capirossi +0.660secs
3. Ukawa +7.530secs
4. Nakano +8.693secs
5. Abe +9.224secs
6. Criville +13.211secs
7. Roberts +13.305secs
8. Biaggi +13.663secs


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