Ueda wins rain interrupted 125 race
3 June 2001
Nobby Ueda won today's rain interrupted 125 Italian Grand Prix, carving through the field to take the lead 5 laps from the finish, while pole sitter Youichi Ui's tyre gamble left him a lap behind his victorious countryman.
Youichi UI had continued his run of poles to take a perfect five out of five, but as the 125cc riders began their parade lap the dark clouds overhead were looking more and more threatening, giving the real possibility of a rain interrupted race.
Alongside Ui was Spanish teenager Toni Elias, but Ui's start was by far the best of the front row, with third placed Cecchinello making a terrible start and swamped by the pack into turn one.
Around the first lap and the order was Ui, Elias, Poggiali (amazingly up from twelfth), Perugini (sixth at the start) and Sanna – the local hero having stormed up from his eleventh placed start.
Into lap two and the 18-year-old Elias, on the podium for the first time in France, was overtaken by Poggiali, who set about closing down semi-teammate Ui – but not for long.
Shortly into lap 3 and the leading riders sat up sharply with one hand in the air to indicate rain on the track – the circuit was by no means covered in rain, but sure enough there was a heavy (but brief) downpour falling on one part of the track, bringing out the red flag with 18 laps to go.
All the riders returned to the pits while everyone waited for the offending cloud to move away. The news soon came that a half-hour delay would take place before a full race restart, Lucio Cecchinello must have breathed a sigh of relief ……!
And so on the 12.00 mark (local time) the 125 riders took to the track for their parade lap – only for the heavens to open once again! This time much heavier than before, and caused the start to be delayed again because the weather had been fine leading up to the restart – so the riders had gone out on slicks.
Frantic action in the pits followed as the teams quickly changed the slick tyres to wets, with the rain still pouring down (ironically much heavier and widespread than during the initial stoppage on lap three), and prepared for the third attempt at what was now announced as a 19 lap race, although this was changed back to 20 before the restart..
At least this time the field made it around the warm-up lap to take the start, and it would be Toni Elias who made the best get-away on the wet track, before being overtaken by Perugini, who took the lead of his home GP on the Italjet.
The order was soon to change with championship leader Azuma up to second, while Ui - on a dryer (intermediate) rear tyre - had slipped back to fourteenth. Meanwhile Sanna and Nieto Jr. also moved past Elias for third and fourth respectively.
Into lap two and Perugini continued to lead confidently on the #7 Italjet, but Sanna, a wet weather expert, was now ahead of Azuma and in pursuit of his countryman. However, Sanna's second place was soon converted into the lead when Perugini fell out of the lead of his home GP on lap three, but coming under pressure from Azuma.
The #4 machine of Azuma swept inside the Italian towards the end of the lap, Sanna setting into a grove behind the Japanese rider, while Cecchinello's MS Aprilia was wheeled away from a gravel trap after the Italian's dismal race day came to an end.
Lap 5 and the lead trio – Azuma, Sanna and Borsoi – had begun to break away from fourth placed Poggiali, while Nobby Ueda was now the fastest man on the track, with Ui back in sixteenth and in desperate need of a dry line.
Into lap 7 and Sanna slipstreamed past Azuma along the start/finish line – but Borsoi, yet to win a Grand Prix, steamed past the pair of them to lead around the first corner on the #23 Aprilia.
Lap 9 and man on the move was Ueda, who moved ahead of Vincent to take fifth and set his sights on Poggiali – who was looking less than comfortable on the #54 Gilera in the slick conditions.
Sure enough, one lap later Ueda – who was getting tremendous traction out of the final corner – sliced past Poggiali and into fourth, the Japanese veteran still the fastest man on the track, and closing rapidly on Azuma.
The #5 TSR machine again used his advantage out of the final corner to put his rivals to shame, sweeping into third by the timing beam, with Poggiali following the blue and white machine past Azuma and into fourth.
Back at the front Borsoi and Sanna continued to be separated by about ten bike lengths, but Ueda was closing fast and Sanna was helpless to stop him stealing second on lap 14 of 20, with more rain falling.
5 to go and Ueda could sense victory, and took the lead by slipping inside the #23 machine, into turn one, and set about breaking away from Borsoi, while back markers were now coming into play.
4 laps left and Ueda continued serenely on up front, the TSR Honda rarely stepping out of shape despite the conditions, with the main battle now for the final podium place between Sanna and Poggiali.
Ueda had built his lead up to 2.2secs with three laps to go, while Poggiali found a way past Sanna on the same lap, and looked set for a 'comfortable' third, with a buffer between himself and those immediately in front and behind him.
2 to go and Borsoi had not given up hope of his first GP win, closing to within 1.24secs of Ueda – and visibly closing on the blue and white machine. The experienced Ueda was not about to be rattled though, and he soon set about stabilising the gap to Borsoi.
Into the last lap and Ueda looked unbeatable, the challenge from Borsoi having evaporated as the Italian dropped to over 2.8secs behind. To add further embarrassment to Ui Ueda lapped his countryman on his final circuit of the 5.245km track.
Ueda crossed the line with both arms punching the air with delight, as he gave the TSR squad a well deserved first GP win for their Honda powered machine.
'Nobby' returned to the pit lane to be swamped by his ecstatic TSR team, the bespectacled 33 year old smiling from ear to ear as he received the congratulations of the Milton Keynes based outfit.
Derbi's Youichi Ui never recovered from his tyre choice and finished the race in eighteenth, and a lap down.
Full results to follow….
2. Borsoi +3.810secs
3. Poggiali +6.917secs
4. Elias +12.917secs
5. Sanna +13.280secs
6. Nieto Jr. +14.127secs
7. Vincent +21.103secs
8. Azuma +21.250secs