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Unstoppable Katoh does it again
23 September 2001
Daijiro Katoh once again demoralised the 250cc Grand Prix field with a commanding performance in a rain interrupted race at Valencia beating Tetsuya Harada by almost five seconds despite a typically gritty performance from the Aprilia rider.
Local heroes Fonsi Nieto and Alex Debon may have stolen the 250cc limelight in qualifying at Valencia but once again race day was all about factory Honda star Katoh who took another step towards the title with a dominant performance despite starting a lowly (for him at least) fifth on the grid.
Any potential disadvantage Katoh may have had by starting on the second row was largely negated at the start as he made a superb getaway to tuck in behind perennial rival Tetsuya Harada going into the first corner. After making a seemingly effortless pass on his fellow countryman's Aprilia at the start of lap two, Katoh did not pull away as expected and was a mere 0.1 seconds ahead when a sprinkling of rain caused the 27 lap race to be red-flagged after just nine laps.
The moisture was brief and when the field regrouped for the second 18-lap race based on aggregate times, the track was bone dry.
Once again Harada made the best start and after some tweaking with the front suspension on his Aprilia, he looked to have Katoh's number, moving ahead of the Honda rider on aggregate timing until lap 20 when Katoh put in a burst of speed and broke the field. One ahead there was no looking back and as Harada faded, Katoh pulled out a five second lead by the time the chequered flag fell.
Behind these two both on the track and on aggregate, Emilio Alzamora and Fonsi Nieto scrapped hard for the final podium position, albeit several seconds apart on the track and Nieto finally took the place by two seconds as Alzamora, who briefly ran second on the road to his teammate, faded in the closing laps and missed out on his second podium of the year.
Jeremy McWilliams made it to the flag in fifth place overall and was also involved in the scrap for third after finishing the first segment less than a second behind Nieto while Naoki Matsudo claimed sixth spot.
Roberto Locatelli came home seventh with Roberto Rolfo eighth, Alex Debon a lucky ninth after being one of four riders to crash in turn one on lap nine as the track marshals failed to tell the riders about the rain. Another of those to fall, Randy De Puniet, finished tenth while David Checa became the fourth Spaniard to finish in the top eleven after getting passed Sharol Yuzy on aggregate on the final lap. Sebastian Porto, Franco Battaini and David De Gea completed the point's scorers.
Marco Melandri looked well set to challenge Katoh and Harada n the very early stages but was taken out in a contentious collision with Nieto when the Spaniard clipped Melandri's rear wheel after the Italian had passed him in the final corner. A massive high side ensued with Melandri escaping with nothing more than a brief winding.
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