Kawasaki's Mickael Maschio joined Stefan Everts and Mickael Pichon as a World Champion of the 2002 Motocross World Championships when he finished fourth in the 125cc Grand Prix of Russia today, in front of almost 10,000 fans, according to a Dorna press release. Maschio earned his number-one plate by only four points over race-winner Steve Ramon.
Thanks to the "Mickaels," France has two champions in the same season for the first time in the history of the sport.
Typically, the 125cc event was a frantic and dramatic affair. With Maschio, Ramon and Caps all in with a chance of the title, the odds demanded that one rider would end up disappointed, and that black hand of fate fell on Patrick Caps. The Belgian was fighting with Maschio and Ramon in a terrific three-way dice, providing a perfect visual representative of this season's on-track affairs. A mistake exiting one of the larger jumps on the Russian circuit threw the KTM rider off-line as he landed on the green side fencing. The mesh proceeded to churn itself in both of Caps' wheels, forcing an emotional retirement. Maschio eased off at that point, leaving Ramon to pass Mark De Reuver for second and then overtake Ben Townley for his third win of the campaign - all he could do to try and influence the series outcome in his favor. Townley arrived back on the podium after a three-race spell of zero points. De Reuver rounded off the champagne group some way ahead of Maschio and collected his second successive top-three result.
Jamie Dobb was on hand as Maschio crossed the line to hand over his number-one plate, and Pichon even climbed on the podium with the new champ to mark a memorable day for French motocross.
Philippe Dupasquier crashed during the GP, which meant he could climb no higher than 10th behind Billy Mackenzie but collected fourth overall. Fifth is former World Champion Alex Puzar, who retired after four laps this afternoon. Townley ends a sensational if up-and-down year with sixth in the table.
"I knew the start would be important, and I made a good one today," commented the new World Champion. "Caps and Ramon were right behind me, and I tried to contain them, but they got by so I rode safe and tried to concentrate on my lines. The race was perfect. I slowed down a little at the end, just to make sure, and finally I got the prize! I would like to thank my parents and my brother for being with me through all this."
Pichon increased his season tally to 11 victories from 12 250cc races, a new World Championship record in all classes of nine consecutive wins, after taking advantage of a racing incident with Josh Coppins and escaping to cross the finish line first by 30 seconds.
Coppins, the pole-position holder, actually grabbed the holeshot at the Yakhroma circuit under grey skies and chilly conditions and led from Pichon for the opening two laps. After catching and chewing some fencing in his rear wheel, Coppins dropped to second, and Pichon maintained a lead of two seconds with the New Zealander right on his tail. The race seemed to be shaping into an interesting tussle between the top two riders in the World Championship, as Pichon could not shake off the determined charge of Coppins. On lap six the Honda hit the front once more, and as both riders exited a jump and hit a lengthy straight side-by-side, Pichon changed lines, crossed in front and touched his rival, causing the latter to lose control and fall. The gap to Kenneth Gundersen in third was substantial enough for Coppins to re-mount, straighten his handlebars and continue, although some way behind the Suzuki and isolated in second; the moto was over. Gundersen, the Kawasaki man who holds the distinction of being the only other rider to have won a race this year, claimed his second podium of 2002 by beating Dobb. The Brit, who made a less than ideal start from third position in the gate, could not gain his second top-three result in a row and held off a challenge from Pit Beirer to score another fourth place and cement that status in the final standings. Berier wears the number-three plate for next year, while Gundersen will carry five.
Fred Bolley ended his MX career with 16th position in an outing that was more about fun and appreciation than making any real race result - even though he was circulating as high as fourth at one stage. In the paddock after the event, the former double World Champion was all smiles and handshakes as his team commemorated a long and satisfactory career. Bolley's sixth position will be vacant for 2003, while Gordon Crockard assumes seventh after taking 18th here today in his last GP for KTM. The Irishman was still in some pain after his broken nose sustained in a British Championship race last week and was hardly in a position to push for serious points. Andrew McFarlane (race result: 12th), Jussi Vehvilainen (sixth) and Alessio Chiodi (seventh) complete the top 10 in the last all-two-stroke 250cc World Championship.
Javier Garcia Vico became the first Spaniard ever to win a 500cc Grand Prix when Joel Smets moved over to let his fellow KTM rider claim victory here in Yakhroma this morning.
Smets had led from the gate until the last 10 meters from the flag, when he kindly slowed to concede a sixth win of the year and gift Vico third place overall in the standings. The situation arose when Stefan Everts could no longer stay with Vico in the fight for second, and he retained a 20 margin over MarnicqBervoets. With Smets, Vico and Bervoets divided by seven points before the race and all wrestling for final Championship positions behind number-one Everts, a win for Vico, runner-up place for Smets and Bervoets missing the podium once more (he has only taken four in 12 races) meant the Spanish rider swaps his number-four plate for a three in 2003. KTM finished the race in the first two positions and now has second and third in the 500cc class.
Vico, it has to be said, was hardly undeserving of his first GP win. He battled with Smets in the first few laps, and until he made several small mistakes that forced him to lose touch and briefly fall into the clutches of Everts, he looked as though he might take the second event of the GP of Russia on his own merit. The 28-year-old has forged his most successful campaign in the 2002 World Championships with six podiums; his celebratory antics today in tandem with Smets on a victory lap were a joy to see and a fresh face standing on the top step of the 500cc podium is not a bad thing considering the series has been dominated by Smets and Everts in recent years. James Noble equalled his best 2002 result of fifth place on a 450 Honda.
Bervoets now has to be content with fourth in a low-key but consistent year. Andrea Bartolini is fifth after taking 11th in the race, and Yves Demaria takes sixth, although he did not finish the race today because of a small back injury.
The 2002 Motocross World Championships has seen a dominant performance by Mickael Pichon, an exemplary display of consistent riding by Stefan Everts (with podium finishes in every GP), and an exciting title chase for the 125cc crown that reached the last race of the year. Next season sees 250cc four-strokes running with the 125s and 450cc four-strokes in the 250cc series.