21 September 2002
Debut victory for dominating Porto.
Sebastian Porto had what could only be described as a perfect Rio Grand Prix – dominating from start to finish on his underpowered Yamaha despite tricky wet-dry conditions to take his debut Grand Prix victory after 104 starts.
Staring on pole for the first time in his Grand Prix career was Randy de Puniet, in what was his 61st GP start. However, the omens weren't looking too good for de Puniet having only finished twice in the last five races.
Starting next to the Frenchman would be the ever-impressive Sebastian Porto, making his sixth front row appearance this season. Porto, who recently celebrated his 24th birthday, made 100 GP starts without finishing in the top three, but since then has finished on the podium at three consecutive races.
Surprise of the Rio GP so far has been Toni Elias, who finished in 13th place in Portugal having crashed and re-started three times, but equaled his best ever qualifying position in the 250cc class in his debut year, while Marco Melandri is starting from the front row for the 11th time in 2002.
Not so impressive so far had been Elias' team-mate Fonsi Nieto, who failed to qualify on the front row for the first time since the South African GP, and with a championship at stake, needed to outperform Melandri today.
However, throwing a spanner in the works was the Rio weather, which turned 'ugly' this morning and the 125's had seen a wet race held on an increasingly drying track – but with random rain showers thrown in for added confusion, making tyre choice for the 250's all-important in weather conditions that could go either way.
Men to watch would surely be Brits Jay Vincent and Leon Haslam who had both been in the top six in the wet warm-up and were looking for revenge after being left devastated when they threw away a possible race victory in the wet at Estoril.
As the lights disappeared and the field charged into the dry looking turn one it was Porto who led the way and set off like a rocket, with Elias second, ahead of Rolfo, Melandri, Matsudo and Stoner – with the other side of the track much wetter.
Porto continued to pull away and had a lead of 2.4seconds – after just one lap! While by contrast Locatelli had made an appalling start and was now at the back of the field – had he gambled on a dry set-up..?
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