MOTOGP » Loris Capirossi
Loris Capirossi arrived at Suzuki in 2008 eager to prove that Ducati’s decision to drop their long time team leader - after a disappointing 2007 season alongside world champion Casey Stoner - was the wrong one.
In one sense Marco Melandri’s nightmare year on the Desmosedici proved Capirossi’s case, but Loris himself only had one 2008 podium to celebrate as the GSV-R often proved uncompetitive against its leading rivals. The Italian also missed Donington Park and Assen due to injury, leading to tenth place in the world championship standings, two places behind team-mate Chris Vermeulen.
Capirossi’s seat looked under threat from AMA champion Ben Spies but Suzuki opted to retain the determined former 125 and 250cc world champion for 2009, believing that his immense knowledge could help get the GSV-R project back on track.
Against expectation, the Suzuki took a further step back in 2009 relative to its rivals, and although Capirossi finished the season one place higher than in 2008 - ninth - and this time beat Vermeulen, the temperature sensitive GSV-R didn’t claim a single podium.
While Vermeulen was replaced by Bautista, Capirossi has been retained for 2010, when the Italian will make his 300th grand prix start and continue his quest for a 100th podium.
Before joining Suzuki, Capirossi had been an integral part of Ducati’s MotoGP project from its 2003 debut, and made an immediate impact by leading the factory’s very first race (at Suzuka) on his way to third place. A historic first victory for the team at round six (Catalunya) made Capirossi the only non-Honda rider to win that season, when he also claimed five other podiums to end the year as the top non-RCV rider in fourth.
Capirossi and Troy Bayliss both remained with Ducati for 2004, but the team suffered a tough second season in which the GP4 struggled to keep pace with the leading Yamahas and Hondas. Loris salvaged one third place finish on his way to ninth in the championship.
A switch from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres during the winter resulted in some tough early 2005 rounds for Ducati, but - once the Japanese rubber was understood - the move paid dividends with back-to-back wins for Capirossi at Japan and Malaysia (plus three pole positions in a row) before internal injuries during a practice accident at Phillip Island brought his run of form to a sudden end. The #65 returned for the season finale and finished sixth in the championship standings.
Capirossi and Ducati came out firing in 2006 with pole and victory in the Jerez season opener, and was back on top of the world championship standings after finishing second in his home Italian Grand Prix, round six of 17.
However, disaster struck next time out when he and team-mate Sete Gibernau collided on the entry to turn one at Catalunya - hospitalising them both. Capirossi bravely tried to race on at the following rounds, but lost substantial points and it took five rounds before he returned to the podium, with his second victory of the year at Brno.
The unpredictable nature of the 2006 season, in which the likes of Marco Melandri and Valentino Rossi were also injured, meant Capirossi’s continued to have a slim fighting chance of the title - until he struggled to seventh in the rain at Phillip Island, round 14 of 17. Nevertheless, Capirossi underlined what might have been - had he not been injured - by winning one further race and finishing the season third in the championship, behind Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi.
Ducati used the switch to 800cc racing for 2007 to gain a performance advantage over its Japanese rivals, but the Desmosedici GP7 proved difficult for all but new factory signing Casey Stoner to exploit. The young Australian charged to ten victories and Ducati’s first world title, while Capirossi claimed only one win, in the wet/dry Japanese Grand Prix, and finished seventh in the points.
Marco Melandri was announced as Capirossi's 2008 replacement as early as Laguna Seca, just before the summer break, but a fired-up Capirossi rubbished retirement talk and, after being courted by both Kawasaki and Suzuki, signed to ride for Paul Denning's team.
Prior to joining Ducati in 2003, Capirossi had been a Honda Pons 500cc rider from 2000 to 2002, when he took one win, 15 podiums and third in the 2001 world championship.
Capirossi was a 250cc rider from 1997 to 1999, winning the title under controversial circumstances for Aprilia in 1998 when he collided with team-mate Tetsuya Harada, before finishing third in the championship for Honda the following season.
Loris had already ridden in all three grand prix classes by 1995, starting with the impressive achievement of winning the 125cc World Championship at his very first attempt - in 1990 - then defending the title in 1991.
Capirossi moved to the quarter-litre class for the first time, still with Honda, in 1992, winning races in his second season and finishing runner-up in the championship. A third overall in the 1993 title chase followed before Capirex graduated to the premier 500cc class, again with Honda.
Sixth overall, one podium and rookie of the year saw him clinch a Rainey Yamaha ride for 1996, which yielded a debut victory at Eastern Creek, but with only two podiums and tenth in the championship Capirossi was persuaded back to the 250cc class by Aprilia for 1997.