Masao Azuma won a typically frantic 125cc race in Japan after passing pole sitter Youichi Ui in the dying moments of the first MotoGP race of 2001.
The start of the first MotoGP race of 2001 saw Gino Borsoi storm into the lead from the second row of the grid, pole sitter Youichi Ui slotting in behind followed by Azuma, Poggiali, Ueda and Perugini, while #27, Marco Petrini was an early casualty at the first corner.
By lap two Azuma had moved into second and immediately challenged leader Borsoi going through the Esses only for the Italian to firmly shut the door. The next man on the move was fellow countryman Lucio Cecchinello, who worked his way into second, caught Borsoi quickly through the Spoon curve and then overtook him on the run up towards the 130R.
Cecchinello held his advantage for the next few laps, while TSR's Nobby Ueda worked his way up to third and Stefano Perugini fell from his Italjet at the Dunlop curve – while teammate Scalvini had also crashed in the morning warm-up.
Ueda kept his momentum and swept past Cecchinello for the lead of his home Grand Prix across the start/finish line, setting the fastest lap of the race so far in the process – 0.3secs quicker than his qualifying pace.
Ueda's lead would last for two laps before ex-teammate Cecchinello retook the position – briefly – before Manuel Poggiali put his Gilera into the lead on lap 9 of 18.
Poggiali continued to set the pace but was being put under increasing pressure by Ueda, who eventually found a way past on lap 12 into Spoon, with Cecchinello also passing Poggiali, as they approached the Chicane.
As the leaders started their fourteenth lap, pole sitter Youichi Ui had clearly begun to catch the leaders and was now up to fourth, then exiting the long first corner Nobby Ueda lost control of his TSR Honda in a high-speed highside.
By lap 17 Poggiali was leading once again and attempted to break away from the chasing pack, but Cecchinello seemed to have the horsepower to keep the 18 year old in his sights, while Ui moved into third.