Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi became only the second rider to have won a Grand Prix race on both two-stroke and four-stroke machinery, after he took a great victory in the MotoGP race at the SKYY VODKA Grand Prix of Japan. Rossi joined Italian legend Giacomo Agostini in this exclusive club when he rode an inch-perfect race on the rain-sodden Suzuka circuit. He now also becomes only the sixth rider to have won five consecutive top class races, after he took a clean sweep in the last four of 2001.

The Italian had to bide his time on board his Honda RC211V machine however, finally taking the lead on the 16th of the 21 laps from a brave Akira Ryo, Suzuki's wildcard rider. After finishing in a time of 49 minutes 32.766 seconds, Rossi later explained, "This is a more important win than normal, taking into account the circumstances; above all because it is the first MotoGP race, but also because I had crashed twice in practice, and it was raining and I didn't know how my machine would react. Then on top I finished fourteenth in the warm-up. I managed to stay error free on the crucial final lap, and this was more important than anything."

As the scrapping pair of Rossi and Ryo rounded the chicane and entered the home straight for the penultimate time, the Japanese rider attempted to overtake on the outside and regain the first place he had held since the very first lap. He was unable to surpass the classy Italian however, and had to settle for a very creditable second place on the new Suzuki GSV-R. Behind this battle for top spot, Carlos Checa rode a superb race and passed Honda wildcard Shinichi Itoh in the closing stages to put his Yamaha onto the third step of the podium, making it three different constructors in the first three positions.

Only twelve riders actually finished at the end of a crash-strewn race, with Itoh eventually having to settle for fourth ahead of compatriot Norick Abe and Brazilian Alex Barros. Nobuatsu Aoki picked up some valuable points for the Proton KR team in seventh, with Regis Laconi assuring that all the constructors scored, as he steered his Aprilia RS3 into eighth position, albeit a lap behind the leaders. Capirossi, Katoh and Harada finished ninth, tenth and eleventh respectively, while John Hopkins limped home to collect four points, five whole laps after Rossi.

Earlier, in the 250cc race, superior local knowledge won out as a wildcard one-two saw off the other challengers. Yamaha-rider Osamu Miyazaki took the manufacturer's first win in the class since Jacque's Phillip Island thriller of 2000, with Daisaku Sakai following in behind him. It was a smooth and controlled performance from Miyazaki, who is no stranger to the Grand Prix scene after three consecutive seasons in 250 between 1996 and 1998. He won comfortably in the end with nearly seven seconds to spare over Sakai, while Randy de Puniet made his first podium appearance as he came home third. Frenchman managed to avoid problems on the last bend when Haruchika Aoki pushed to pass him but heartbreakingly crashed out.

Rain-specialist Arnaud Vincent was, by his own admission, the lucky beneficiary from the wet conditions in 125, as he came from fourteenth place on the grid to take his third career win. Triumphant on the first day of the season for the second time in three years, the Frenchman progressed through the field as early leaders Hules and Jenkner stretched out a huge lead. When Jenkner got a punctured tyre and Hules crashed out though, Vincent himself was able to pull out at the front. Eventually the gap back to Mirko Giansanti in second and Manuel Poggiali in third was just a second, after he was able to cruise the latter part of the race and take full points.


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