Katoh becomes the new 'golden boy'
3 November 2001
Daijiro Katoh was greeted with a can of golden spray paint as he dismounted his bike after completing his eleventh win of the season.
The Japanese rider received a bout of colour to his hair from his team to celebrate the success of their season and to 'crown' the 2001 champion with a new honour – Katoh now holds the world record for the most amount of wins in one season, in the 250cc class.
In what was one of the most exciting 250cc races of the 2001 season, Katoh did not have an easy time. Despite pulling into the lead by the end of the first lap, Katoh was to give up his position at the front of the pack several times before eventually winning the race.
The start of the race had been drama-less, but with a drying track to contend with, it was sure that there would be one or two incidents along the way.
A frantic dispute between several riders kept positions changing and the excitement building. Pole sitter Fonsi Nieto claimed back his lead on lap two and managed to hold onto it until lap five, when Melandri sneaked through on the inside of a corner. Nieto pulled back the lead however, demonstrating his presence by performing a wheely.
A solid group of seven riders had been formed by this point, pulling away from the rest of the field and continually battling for position. Amongst the front runners were Katoh and Nieto, as expected, McWilliams, Harada, Melandri, Alzamora and Matsudo. Not far behind the front bunch were a group containing Rolfo, Locatelli, Battaini and Debon, some of which were to play a larger role in the race in laps to come.
Wild-card rider Cristiano Vieiro was the first to crash out on lap 5, leaving the home supporters of the Brazilian disappointed.
Lap nine saw the #5 bike of Melandri hold off Katoh. The Japanese rider was all over the Italian, but could not find a way past. By this time the track conditions were improving and by half distance the dry line on the track was becoming considerably wider.
Locatelli quietly nipped through the traffic and took the lead of the race on lap 15. With seven 125cc wins under his belt, but not a single victory in the 250cc class, this looked as though it could be the break the Italian needed.
The back markers were caught up with within the second half of the grand prix, generally not causing too much distraction. Except for Rolfo however. The Italian, who is to join the works Honda team with Alzmora next season, kicked out at Geronimi in frustration as he was held up in his desperate attempt to catch the group in front.
With less than five laps remaining the front three riders, consisting of Locatelli, Katoh and Melandri, pulled away from the main fighting group and commenced individual battles of their own. Katoh made and uncharacteristic mistake allowing Melandri to close the gap between them, but redeemed himself by regaining the lead on lap twenty one. From the front he showed his racing skill and swerved to avoid his competitors taking advantage of the slip stream he was creating.
Katoh crossed the line for the final time of the 2001 season, and the final time of his 250cc career, with his front wheel raised in celebration of the fantastic year the young Japanese rider has had. No doubt he will cause a stir when he enters the new Premier class next season, adding yet more statistics to the record books and perhaps giving new 500cc World Champion Rossi a run for his money.
And with Katoh out of the picture, hopefuls such as Locatelli, who shined in Rio today, may get the chance at victory that they deserve.
Full results to follow:
2. Melandri +0.508secs
3. Locatelli +1.382secs
4. Matsudo +3.569secs
5. McWilliams +3.846secs
6. Harada +11.032secs
7. Alzamora +14.786secs
8. Rolfo +26.769secs