21 September 2002
Hollywood ending hands Azuma victory.
Masao Azuma sensationally won a wet/dry/wet 125cc Rio Grand Prix – from just eighteenth on the grid – as the veteran used all his experience to catch and overtake Poggiali and Vincent in the very final stages of the race, while the two championship contenders would battle to the flag.
Having ruled both qualifying sessions, Manuel Poggiali would start from pole for the fifth time this year, and needed to close the gap to championship leader – and second fastest qualifier – Arnuad Vincent after his early Estoril exit.
Behind the championship contenders, Gabor Talmasci had turned heads by qualifying for his first ever front row start, in third, ahead of Alex de Angelis, who had suffered a spectacular crash in practice that saw him run over by his own machine (see the Crash.Net latest MotoGP pics from Rio)
Meanwhile, needing a good start would be eighth fastest - and outside championship contender - Daniel Pedrosa, who crashed out of the Rio Grand Prix last year, but has finished in the top ten in every GP since then.
However, the pre race form was rendered well and truly useless when the weather took a distinct turn for the worse this morning and covered the track with a consistent layer of water – although it was much less than had been seen at the Estoril crash fest two weeks ago, and could well dry out throughout the race.
Nevertheless, it was with more than the usual amount of tension that the 125's took their places on the grid, with winner in wet Estoril Vincent perhaps concealing a wry smile under his helmet, while rival Poggiali looked visibly flustered by the challenge ahead.
When the lights went out and the 125's fed the power through their back wheels and onto the damp track, it was Talmacsi (paddling with his foot) and Vincent who 'stormed' ahead into turn one, ahead of Barbera – with Poggiali back in eighth.
Over the opening laps Poggiali, knowing he cannot afford to lose more points to Vincent, worked his way slowly up the field to fifth, while Lucio Cecchinello used all his experience to slip into third and set off in pursuit of the top two - with the #1 Gilera rider soon following him.
Lap 3 and rain hater Pedrosa's poor Rio GP came to an abrupt end when he dropped his Honda from a lowly 15th position, effectively ending his championship hopes… providing Vincent and Poggiali finished.
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