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Sete wins first 500 GP!

23 September 2001

Sete Gibernau capped off an astounding day's racing at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia by taking his maiden 500c MotoGP victory in a thrilling race that saw many of the top riders starting on slick tyres despite the circuit being very damp and slippery.

Gibernau scored his long first win in front of more than 120,000 frantic and passionate Spaniard's at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia after a superbly skilful ride on slick tyres around the 2.28-mile Spanish circuit.

Before the start of the 500cc race, the continually threatening dark clouds finally produced some meaningful rain and although it was just a passing shower, the severity of the rain fall meant that the track was still very wet in places when the riders went out to complete their citing laps.

However the appearance of blue skies approximately 15 minutes before the start gave everyone a major headache as the race had been declared wet and therefore would not be stopped in the event of more rain. Conditions were too slippery for anything other than wet tyres at the start of the race but with the chances of rain receding by the minute and temperatures steadily increasing, there was an overriding possibility that the track would be dry at some point during the 30-lap event and therefore too dry for wet tyres.

Gibernau, who started 12th, bravely chose slick tyres as did Suzuki teammate Kenny Roberts and several others. Point's leader Valentino Rossi opted for intermediates while others went for a cut slick/slick/intermediate combination.

Both Loris Capirossi and Carlos Checa crashed before the start of the race but while Capirossi made it to the grid on time, Checa was forced to start from the pitlane. Capirossi may have wished he too started from the pits for although he led into the first turn, track conditions were such that he fell into the gravel and out of the race several metres later leaving Rossi with a three second lead by the end of the first lap.

Lap times were some half a minute slower than in qualifying in the early stages as some of the best riders in the world struggled manfully to control their gripless machines, the wet conditions catching out Noriyuki Haga, Joes Luis Cardoso and Alex Criville in the opening seven laps when conditions were at their worst.

Rossi's tyre gamble did not pay off as the sun continued to shine in Spain and despite holding a commanding four second lead at one point, he was soon swallowed up by Gibernau, Roberts and Alex Barros who was riding with an intermediate front and slick rear set-up. These three battled intensely for the lead, Gibernau assuming the point on lap eight and holding it until Barros pushed past on lap 13. The Spaniard and the Brazilian swapped places several times on lap 20 and continued to dice until Sete used his tyres to his advantage on the drying track and ducked underneath Barros for good on lap 29 to score a truly emotional and well deserved victory.

Barros, whose front tyre was completely ruined, somehow managed to cling to Gibernau on the final lap and crossed the line a mere three tenths behind the Spaniard with Roberts taking his first podium of the year a further second in arrears.

Behind the leading trio, Carlos Checa recovered masterfully to take fourth place and was at times the fastest rider on the track by more than half a second per lap but eventually finished seven seconds back while Olivier Jacque triumphed in another titanic scrap for fifth place, albeit half a minute behind the leaders.

Jacque lead home Tohru Ukawa, Shinya Nakano, Norick Abe and Jurgen Van de Goorbergh who all passed the struggling Rossi in the second half of the race and 'Vale' was also overtaken by pole sitter Max Biaggi with three laps to go and eventually finished eleventh.

Biaggi's performance was by far the most disappointing of the day with his combination of cut slicks and slicks simply proving the wrong choice for the Italian who was never a factor in the race. Garry McCoy too was a tremendous disappointment and the Red Bull Yamaha rider was in danger of being lapped come races end and finished 12th.

Anthony West, Johan Stigefelt and Barry Veneman completed the points scorers while Leon Haslam just missed out and came home 16th, two laps adrift.

Despite his dismal showing, Biaggi gained one point on Rossi in the points standings and now trails by 42 with fur races remaining this year.

Today however, belonged to Gibernau and Suzuki.




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