2002 Japanese motorcycle Grand Prix

The 2002 Japanese motorcycle Grand Prix was the first round of the 2002 MotoGP Championship. It took place on the weekend of 5–7 April 2002 at Suzuka. The race was historic in that it was the first race of the MotoGP class, with engine capacities raised to 990cc from 500cc.

Japan  2002 Japanese Grand Prix
Race details
Race 1 of 16 races in the
2002 Grand Prix motorcycle racing season
Circuit Suzuka.png
Date7 April 2002
Official nameSKYY Vodka Grand Prix of Japan[1][2][3]
LocationSuzuka Circuit
  • Permanent racing facility
  • 5.821 km (3.617 mi)
Pole position
Rider Italy Valentino Rossi
Time 2:04.226
Fastest lap
Rider Italy Valentino Rossi
Time 2:19.105 on lap 21
First Italy Valentino Rossi
Second Japan Akira Ryō
Third Spain Carlos Checa
250 cc
Pole position
Rider Spain Fonsi Nieto
Time 2:08.049
Fastest lap
Rider Japan Osamu Miyazaki
Time 2:25.896 on lap 16
First Japan Osamu Miyazaki
Second Japan Daisaku Sakai
Third France Randy de Puniet
125 cc
Pole position
Rider Spain Dani Pedrosa
Time 2:13.957
Fastest lap
Rider Italy Stefano Bianco
Time 2:30.798 on lap 6
First France Arnaud Vincent
Second Italy Mirko Giansanti
Third San Marino Manuel Poggiali

MotoGP race reportEdit

This race was most notable for being the first ever race in the new MotoGP class (previously called the 500cc class), the twoway battle for victory in wet conditions, Valentino Rossi's back-to-back victories (winning the last race of the 500cc class, the 2001 Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix and this race) and Akira Ryō's first and only podium in the class at his home race as a wildcard rider.

A new era had begun. The 500cc class is now officially called the MotoGP class and the specifications have been upped from 500cc 2-strokes to 990cc 4-strokes. This is the opening round so no points had been given out for the world championship, but this year's favourites were Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa and Alex Barros.

During the Saturday qualifying, it is Valentino Rossi who has grabbed pole position with a time of 2:04.226. Behind him is Loris Capirossi, veteran Shinichi Ito and Carlos Checa in second, third and fourth place. The second row of the grid consists out of Max Biaggi in fifth, rookie Daijiro Kato in sixth, wildcard rider Akira Ryō in seventh and Olivier Jacque in eighth position. Spanish rider Pere Riba did not qualify for this race.

All riders take off and do their usual warm-up lap before lining up in their respective grid slots. As the lights go out, multiple riders such as Rossi, Capirossi and Biaggi have a terrible start, being swallowed up by the pack. From behind however, riders like Ryō, Ito and Jacque who managed to get into the top three positions thanks to a good start, with the Frenchman now leading into the First Corner (Turn 1) on the opening lap. Exiting the First Corner however, it is Ito who goes up the inside of Jacque to lead the race for the first time, with Ryō doing likewise almost immediately after. Two Japanese riders are now in first and second position, much to the pleasure of the home crowd. In sector one, the top six consists out of Ito, Ryō, Jacque, Checa, Rossi - who overtook Norifumi Abe - and Abe. While Rossi was slowly climbing back up, Biaggi was still stuck in the back behind his teammate Tohru Ukawa in ninth. At Dunlop (Turn 7), Ryō takes a narrower line than Ito and overtakes him for the lead as they exit the turn. Coming up to the Spoon Curve, the Japanese wildcard rider has already opened up a significant gap to second place Ito. At the Casio Triangle, Abe looks to make a move on Rossi, the Italian blocking him off as they enter it.

Lap two has started and Ryō's gap to Ito is still increasing. Biaggi now has lost even more positions and has slipped down to eleventh place. A train of three riders is now starting to form behind Rossi, consisting out of Abe, Sete Gibernau and Repsol Honda teammate Ukawa. Entering the 200R (Turn 12), Gibernau goes alongside Abe and overtakes him before the entrance of the Spoon Curve for sixth. At the Casio Trinagle, Rossi makes his move and goes up the inside of Checa to take fourth place from him. Ito also closes up on Ryō but the Telefónica Movistar Suzuki rider manages to maintain the lead as they exit the chicane.

On lap three, Ukawa takes seventh position from Abe on the start/finish straight. American rookie John Hopkins has crashed out and is shown trying to push start his bike in the grass at the Casio Triangle. Hopkins' teammate Garry McCoy has also crashed out, the marshalls helping him to lift up his bike as he is seen trying to struggle to stand up properly due to an accident in pre-season testing where he broke both of his ankles. Jacque also gets the news that he has made a jump start, forcing him to take a stop-and-go penalty.

On lap four, the top six is as follows: Ryō, Ito, Jacque, Rossi, Checa and Gibernau. Ukawa, after being overtaken by Abe on the previous lap, retakes seventh on the start/finish straight, going into the First Corner. One of the track marshalls signals Jacque that he has a stop-and-go penalty as Rossi dives down the inside of Jacque at the Casio Triangle, promoting him up into third place.

Lap five and the top four - consisting of Ryō, Ito, Rossi and Jacque - all are bunched up. Jacque however still has to take his penalty, making it a three-way battle for the lead soon. Jurgen van den Goorbergh has now retired from the race due to technical issues.

On lap six, Jacque puts his arm up in the air as he takes a different line while crossing the start/finish straight to acknowledge that he has seen the team's pit board. Before the entrance of the Casio Triangle, he slows down and enters the pits, promoting everyone up to one position.

Lap seven and the gap Rossi has to Checa is now visible thanks to Jacque's entrance to the pits. The top three is still relatively close together, with Ryō still in the lead. Jacque takes his penalty, then continues on in last place. Biaggi has also gone down, the Italian walking away angrily after the incident. Rossi is closing up on Ito at the straight before 130R (Turn 14) as Ryō now extends his lead over the fellow Japanese rider. Kenny Roberts Jr. meanwhile has also gone down, sliding out of competition at the Spoon Curve, the American walking away unhurt from his bike.

On lap eight, Rossi is still relatively close behind Ito, still biting his time for a good opportunity. Behind him both Checa and Gibernau are slowly closing the gap to the Italian. The gap Rossi has to Checa is 1.148 seconds. As Ito touches the white line and has a slight moment exiting the 130R, Rossi finally makes his move at the Casio Triangle. He outbreaks Ito at the entrance of the corner, taking second position in the process.

Lap nine and Rossi is now giving chase to leader Ryō. Behind the trio, Checa is now coming under pressure from the other Suzuki of Gibernau. Ryō's gap to Rossi is +1.315 seconds. Halfway around the lap, Checa has closed in significantly to Ito who is now starting to struggle. Hopkins has also come in to talk to his team what to do after his fall earlier in the race.

On lap ten, Rossi has opened a gap to third place Ito and is slowly closing the gap to Ryō. He also sets the fastest lap of the race. At the Hairpin, Gibernau closes up a lot on fourth placed Checa, then overtaking him around the outside of 200R to take the position from him. Behind them, Ukawa and Abe are still fighting for position, Ukawa's Honda passing Abe's Yamaha at the straight before the 130R on superior speed.

Lap eleven and Rossi has closed the gap ever more - the difference now only being +0.435 seconds - for the lead on an ever drying track. From the midfield, Jeremy McWilliams is now closing in rapidly to the duo of Ukawa and Abe. Rossi is now rapidly closing on Ryō, as do Ito, Checa and Gibernau behind him. At the Hairpin, Gibernau lunges up the inside of Ito to take third. At the Casio Triangle, Gibernau brakes later to get close to Rossi but outbreaks himself slightly entering the chicane.

On lap twelve - the halfway point of the race - the field bunches up and it has now become a four-way battle for victory. Gibernau now sets the fastest lap of the race. Checa meanwhile is not able to keep up with the top four and has dropped off the pace. Exiting Degner (Turn 9), Gibernau is right behind Rossi who in turn is right behind Ryō, with Ito further behind as he now also is starting to lose touch. Exiting 130R, Gibernau touched the white line, causing him to have a moment and lost a bit of drive in the process. Sliding sideways, he tries to make a move on Rossi at the entrance of the Casio Triangle but isn't able to and has to slot in behind again.

Lap thirteen and both Ito and Checa are closing up on the trio again, albeit slowly. Gibernau is still trying to find a way past Rossi and Rossi is still right behind Ryō as well. However, entering the second part of Degner, Gibernau loses the front end and slides out of a strong third place, ending his race. Extremely disappointed, he falls on the ground next to his machine, then walks away in pure anger, kicking the gravel multiple times as a result. This promotes Ito back up to third and Checa to fourth. Jacque has also gone down, losing the front end of his bike upon entry of Spoon Curve and sliding out of the race.

On lap fourteen, Ito and Checa are slowly closing the gap to Rossi and Ryō. Exiting the Casio Triangle, Ito now has almost fully closed the gap, making it a three-way fight for the win.

Lap fifteen and the top six is as follows: Ryō, Rossi, Ito, Checa, Ukawa and Abe. Entering Spoon Curve, Ito has a slight moment, allowing Checa to get a bit closer to him. At the Casio Triangle, Abe pulls a switchback move by going to the outside, then to the inside for a late lunge, passing Ukawa for fifth exiting the chicane.

On lap sixteen, two fights now were emerging: The battle for first between Ryō and Rossi and for third between Ito and Checa. Ryō's gap to Rossi is +0.325 seconds. At the Casio Triangle, Rossi finally overtakes Ryō by taking a shorter line upon entry, passing him and taking over the lead.

Lap seventeen and Checa tries to make a move at the Anti-Banked Curve but fails, having to slot in behind Ito. Checa has another look at the short right-hand kink before the Hairpin but thinks better of it. Rossi and Ryō are now slowly pulling away from Ito, who is holding up Checa.

On lap eighteen, Rossi sets the fastest lap as Ryō is still right behind him. McWilliams in the midfield has crashed out of contention, walking away in disappointment as the marshals retrieve his bike to remove it from the circuit. Checa meanwhile has also overtaken Ito by taking a wider line at Snake (Turn 2) and sneaking past, moving him up into third place. Going through 130R, Checa has a little wobble but is able to continue.

Lap nineteen and Ryō now sets the fastest lap of the race. Shinya Nakano has crashed out when he highsided in the middle of Spoon Curve, tumbling through the gravel and out of contention. The marshalls are recovering his bike as the Japanese Gauloises Tech 3 Yamaha riders walks away in disappointment. Ukawa also has gone down, the Japanese rider running to his bike to get it started and get right back into contention, but to no avail. Ryō meanwhile is still harassing Rossi and exiting Spoon Curve, he has a slight moment, allowing the Japanese wildcard rider to get close to him again. He tries a move around the outside at the Casio Triangle but decides to stay behind him for the time being. However, as the duo comes up to lap Kato, Ryō makes good use of it as Rossi is forced to brake as to not directly crash into him, almost overtaking him on the outside but just lacking the speed to finish the move on the start/finish straight.

As the pair comes up to start lap twenty, the penultimate lap, Rossi has managed to stay ahead and is now slowly creating a small gap to Ryō. However, the Japanese rider refuses to give up and still tries to stay close enough to Rossi and once again uses the opportunity to get closer as Rossi has to pass Régis Laconi at the exit of the Casio Triangle.

The final lap - lap twenty-one - has begun and Rossi now is pulling away from Ryō, the Japanese rider not able to challenge him for the duration of the lap. He has a slight wobble exiting 130R but manages to stay on the bike and eventually crosses the line, raising his arm to celebrate his first win of the season - making him a back-to-back winner in both the last race of the 500cc and the first one of the MotoGP era, a feat never achieved before - with Ryō coming home a fair second place +1.550 seconds behind 'The Doctor'. Sticking his leg out, Checa comes home third, Ito in fourth, Abe fifth and Barros sixth. Rossi also sets the fastest lap of the race on the last lap.

In the parade lap, Rossi pulls a big wheelie to celebrate his victory. He also waves the Honda flag, waving in jubilance to the crowd. He then pulls another wheelie as the fans applaud both Ryō and Rossi.

The trio makes their way onto the podium with Checa, Ryō and a happy Rossi all stepping on their respective places. The trophies get handed out to all riders and the Italian national anthem plays for Rossi. After it stops, the audience cheers and claps as the trio gets the champagne handed to them, Rossi cheekily spraying one of the podium girls as the rest sprays each other, Rossi then spraying the audience and joining in on the celebrations.

Rossi's win, Ryō's surprise second and Checa's third place podium means that Rossi starts off his championship defence well, taking home 25 points. Ryō takes 20 and Checa 16 points.

MotoGP classificationEdit

Pos. No. Rider Team Manufacturer Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 46   Valentino Rossi Repsol Honda Team Honda 21 49:32.766 1 25
2 33   Akira Ryō Telefónica Movistar Suzuki Suzuki 21 +1.550 7 20
3 7   Carlos Checa Marlboro Yamaha Team Yamaha 21 +8.353 4 16
4 72   Shinichi Ito Team HRC Honda 21 +10.829 3 13
5 6   Norifumi Abe Antena 3 Yamaha d'Antin Yamaha 21 +20.423 12 11
6 4   Alex Barros West Honda Pons Honda 21 +32.259 13 10
7 9   Nobuatsu Aoki Proton Team KR Proton KR 21 +39.633 15 9
8 55   Régis Laconi MS Aprilia Racing Aprilia 20 +1 lap 19 8
9 65   Loris Capirossi West Honda Pons Honda 20 +1 lap 2 7
10 74   Daijiro Kato Fortuna Honda Gresini Honda 20 +1 lap 6 6
11 31   Tetsuya Harada Pramac Honda Racing Team Honda 20 +1 lap 16 5
12 21   John Hopkins Red Bull Yamaha WCM Yamaha 16 +5 laps 18 4
Ret 11   Tohru Ukawa Repsol Honda Team Honda 18 Accident 11
Ret 56   Shinya Nakano Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 17 Accident 9
Ret 99   Jeremy McWilliams Proton Team KR Proton KR 16 Accident 21
Ret 15   Sete Gibernau Telefónica Movistar Suzuki Suzuki 12 Accident 14
Ret 19   Olivier Jacque Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 12 Retirement 8
Ret 10   Kenny Roberts Jr. Telefónica Movistar Suzuki Suzuki 6 Accident 10
Ret 3   Max Biaggi Marlboro Yamaha Team Yamaha 6 Accident 5
Ret 17   Jurgen van den Goorbergh Kanemoto Racing Honda 4 Retirement 20
Ret 8   Garry McCoy Red Bull Yamaha WCM Yamaha 2 Accident 17
DNQ 20   Pere Riba Antena 3 Yamaha d'Antin Yamaha Did not qualify
Sources: [4][5][6]

250 cc classificationEdit

Pos. No. Rider Manufacturer Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 89   Osamu Miyazaki Yamaha 19 47:09.454 8 25
2 50   Daisaku Sakai Honda 19 +6.941 12 20
3 17   Randy de Puniet Aprilia 19 +29.020 2 16
4 7   Emilio Alzamora Honda 19 +45.300 6 13
5 9   Sebastián Porto Yamaha 19 +45.495 7 11
6 8   Naoki Matsudo Yamaha 19 +54.725 10 10
7 49   Choujun Kameya Honda 19 +1:00.572 22 9
8 4   Roberto Rolfo Honda 19 +1:02.287 14 8
9 6   Alex Debón Aprilia 19 +1:18.282 5 7
10 21   Franco Battaini Aprilia 19 +1:19.377 4 6
11 24   Toni Elías Aprilia 19 +1:31.481 11 5
12 92   Hiroshi Aoyama Honda 19 +1:50.269 13 4
13 10   Fonsi Nieto Aprilia 19 +1:56.005 1 3
14 51   Hugo Marchand Aprilia 19 +2:06.670 26 2
15 22   Raúl Jara Aprilia 18 +1 lap 20 1
16 15   Roberto Locatelli Aprilia 18 +1 lap 9
Ret 11   Haruchika Aoki Honda 18 Accident 17
Ret 19   Leon Haslam Honda 16 Retirement 25
Ret 25   Vincent Philippe Aprilia 14 Accident 23
Ret 3   Marco Melandri Aprilia 13 Accident 3
Ret 41   Jarno Janssen Honda 9 Accident 27
Ret 18   Shahrol Yuzy Yamaha 7 Accident 18
Ret 12   Jay Vincent Honda 4 Accident 24
Ret 76   Taro Sekiguchi Yamaha 2 Accident 21
Ret 48   Shinichi Nakatomi Honda 1 Accident 19
Ret 32   Héctor Faubel Aprilia 1 Accident 28
Ret 27   Casey Stoner Aprilia 0 Accident 15
DNS 42   David Checa Aprilia 0 Did not start 16
DNQ 28   Dirk Heidolf Aprilia Did not qualify
Source: [7]

125 cc classificationEdit

Pos. No. Rider Manufacturer Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 21   Arnaud Vincent Aprilia 18 46:22.971 14 25
2 6   Mirko Giansanti Honda 18 +1.164 19 20
3 1   Manuel Poggiali Gilera 18 +2.558 7 16
4 9   Noboru Ueda Honda 18 +3.479 11 13
5 16   Simone Sanna Aprilia 18 +10.188 17 11
6 66   Shuhei Aoyama Honda 18 +23.056 20 10
7 47   Ángel Rodríguez Aprilia 18 +23.653 13 9
8 26   Dani Pedrosa Honda 18 +33.488 1 8
9 4   Lucio Cecchinello Aprilia 18 +34.285 3 7
10 23   Gino Borsoi Aprilia 18 +47.304 4 6
11 7   Stefano Perugini Italjet 18 +1:01.770 27 5
12 12   Klaus Nöhles Honda 18 +1:06.064 30 4
13 25   Joan Olivé Honda 18 +1:28.936 18 3
14 19   Alex Baldolini Aprilia 18 +1:36.264 33 2
15 17   Steve Jenkner Aprilia 18 +1:56.859 8 1
16 80   Héctor Barberá Aprilia 18 +2:11.594 28
17 31   Mattia Angeloni Gilera 18 +2:14.164 37
18 20   Imre Tóth Honda 18 +2:17.104 35
19 46   Suhathai Chaemsap Honda 18 +2:35.641 21
Ret 33   Stefano Bianco Aprilia 15 Accident 6
Ret 65   Toshihisa Kuzuhara Honda 14 Accident 36
Ret 18   Jakub Smrž Honda 13 Accident 22
Ret 41   Youichi Ui Derbi 12 Accident 12
Ret 57   Chaz Davies Aprilia 12 Accident 32
Ret 39   Jaroslav Huleš Aprilia 7 Accident 9
Ret 50   Andrea Ballerini Honda 7 Accident 26
Ret 36   Mika Kallio Honda 7 Accident 16
Ret 5   Masao Azuma Honda 6 Accident 5
Ret 34   Andrea Dovizioso Honda 6 Accident 25
Ret 8   Gábor Talmácsi Italjet 5 Retirement 31
Ret 84   Michel Fabrizio Gilera 5 Retirement 34
Ret 10   Jarno Müller Honda 5 Accident 24
Ret 67   Hideyuki Ogata Honda 4 Accident 23
Ret 22   Pablo Nieto Aprilia 3 Accident 2
Ret 15   Alex de Angelis Aprilia 1 Accident 15
Ret 11   Max Sabbatani Aprilia 0 Accident 10
Ret 68   Akira Komuro Honda 0 Accident 29
Source: [8]

Championship standings after the race (MotoGP)Edit

Below are the standings for the top five riders and constructors after round one has concluded.[9]

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.


  1. ^ "2002 Japanese MotoGP". Motorsportmagazine.com. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 16 May 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Mitchell, Malcolm. "Suzuka Circuit - The Motor Racing Programme Covers Project". Progcovers.com. Retrieved 16 May 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Grand Prix uitslagen en bijzonderheden 2002". Archive.today. 25 July 2015. Archived from the original on 25 July 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "2002 Japanese MotoGP - Motor Sport Magazine Database". Motorsportmagazine.com. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 28 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "SKYY Vodka Grand Prix of Japan – MotoGP – Race Classification" (PDF). MotoGP.com. Dorna Sports. 7 April 2002. Retrieved 24 May 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "JAPANESE GRAND PRIX · MotoGP Race Classification 2002". Motogp.com. Retrieved 29 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "SKYY Vodka Grand Prix of Japan – 250cc – Race Classification" (PDF). MotoGP.com. Dorna Sports. 7 April 2002. Retrieved 24 May 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "SKYY Vodka Grand Prix of Japan – 125cc – Race Classification" (PDF). MotoGP.com. Dorna Sports. 7 April 2002. Retrieved 24 May 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Standings" (PDF). resources.motogp.com. 2002. Retrieved 2019-08-22.

Previous race:
2001 Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix
FIM Grand Prix World Championship
2002 season
Next race:
2002 South African Grand Prix
Previous race:
2001 Japanese Grand Prix
Japanese motorcycle Grand Prix Next race:
2003 Japanese Grand Prix