Mickael Pichon won the 250cc Grand Prix of Italy and initiated a French siege on the fifth round of the FIM World Championships, as Yves Demaria later owned the 500cc event and Mickael Maschio crossed the line first in the 125cc race in front of 13,000 spectators; completing the first ever French clean sweep of the triple header series.
Pichon survived an early and exciting skirmish with Jamie Dobb to hunt down leader Pit Beirer in the first race of the day. The 250cc race was a fantastic display of frantic motocross action, and the Pichon and Dobb duel was one of many highlights across the three motos in Castiglione Del Lago. Pichon, on the factory Suzuki, passed Beirer on lap six and pushed hard to win by 11 seconds, his fourth GP victory of the season. Behind the elusive Frenchman, Josh Coppins produced arguably the best performance of the weekend. The Kiwi factory Honda rider recovered from a first lap pile-up and charged from 13th to second; passing Dobb, Andrew McFarlane (who was also fast on the dry, hard Italian soil) and then on the last lap his team-mate Beirer, who tried an aggressive passing move in the final corners but failed to dislodge Coppins from the runner-up berth.
Before the weekend one of the leading favorites for the Championship was Fred Bolley, but now the former double World Champ has dropped out of contention after a nightmare race in which he crashed and was forced to retire. Luckily for the Tricolore, another rider was prepared to fly the flag.
“I have proved that I can win on any kind of track,” Pichon remarked. “I want to thank Suzuki because the bike is really fast and I had a good start once again. I could have made a big mistake on the first lap because I was trying too hard and the track was very slippery. I had a little fight with Jamie for a couple of laps and then managed to catch and pass Pit. I pushed hard for 10 minutes to try and pull away and the rest of the race was really good.”
A number of riders scored their best finished of the 250cc season. Andrew McFarlane claimed fourth behind Beirer. Johnny Aubert on the privateer Kurz Casola Yamaha was fifth. Cristian Beggi was top Italian rider with eighth position. Mathieu Lalloz was ninth. The factory KTM duo of Dobb and Gordon Crockard earned seventh and tenth respectively. The podium finishers also represent the top three riders in the Championship, so Pichon extends his lead only by three points, which now means an advantage of 17 points over Coppins.
Yves Demaria ended a run of 29 consecutive victories by Belgian riders to win the 500cc GP on his factory KTM. Marnicq Bervoets passed the chequered flag second after an excellent start and World Champion Stefan Everts rounded off the podium. Joel Smets’ title aspirations took a severe dent when his KTM spluttered to a halt when he was third half-way through the race. Smets was left by the trackside holding his head in his hands as Everts took his position and rode away gaining a 20 point advantage. Javier Garcia Vico was fourth and now moves up to third in the Championship. Pierrick Paget secured a best result of fifth and Alex Zanni was the first Italian rider home in sixth. Everts now heads the standings from Bervoets, with Smets down in fourth.
Mickael Maschio wrapped up the French celebrations by collecting his second 125cc GP victory of the season. The Kawasaki rider beat Ben Townley and Patrick Caps to confirm his fourth consecutive podium. Townley bravely rode to second while suffering pain from a heavy practice crash on Saturday and also falling during the warm-up. Caps won a lively skirmish with Steve Ramon to take his third podium of 2002. Serge Guidetty achieved a best ever result of fourth, ahead of Ramon, as did Josef Dobes who was sixth.