Motorcycling: Cadalora captures win by capitalising on calamity

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AFTER one minute and 17 seconds, the British 500cc Grand Prix was effectively over as a spectacle when three of the leading protagonists, including the world championship leader, Kevin Schwantz, became tangled up in a dramatic chain reaction and crashed out of the race. None were badly hurt, but the elimination of Schwantz, the pole-sitter, Michael Doohan, the leading Honda rider, and Alex Barros, Schwantz's team- mate, allowed the two Marlboro Team Roberts Yamahas of Luca Cadalora and Wayne Rainey to coast to an unexpected one-two finish.

The first-lap accident also enabled Britain's Niall Mackenzie to equal his best grand prix result by coming home third on a Yamaha, three- tenths of a second ahead of his compatriot, Carl Fogarty, a wild-card entry for Cagiva. Two Britons in the top four, out of the nine home riders who started, raised the crowd after the disappointment of being denied a meaningful race.

Approaching the chicane at the end of the main straight for the first time, the leaders bunched up under braking for the left-hander. Doohan appeared to be a fraction later than the rest, as is any rider's right and desire, and he came into contact with Barros, spilling both riders from their saddles. Schwantz's Suzuki was clipped by Doohan's sliding Honda and the American was tossed into the air. He landed on his back, his helmet smacking into the road, and did two complete tumbles before staggering off the track to safety.

'I really don't know what happened when the three of us went down,' Doohan said afterwards. 'Suddenly we were all bunched up and there was nowhere to go. Fortunately I didn't hurt myself, all I do know is that I am fed up because I think I was in with a good chance of finishing within the top three.'

'Fed up' might have been insufficient for Schwantz to describe his dismay. He took a 23-point lead in the championship standings into the race and blitzed his opposition in qualifying on Saturday when he was a full second ahead of the next man, Cadalora. He should have stretched the gap to Rainey and remained on course for his first 500cc title but instead his countryman has closed to within three points with four races remaining.

'This is my favourite track,' Schwantz, who has won here three times, said after the race. 'But it seems the feeling doesn't go both ways when it comes to my luck. There was nothing I could do. The bike was taken away from under me. I felt pretty bad about it at first but you have to put these things behind you. At least nobody got hurt badly.'

Rainey, pursuing his fourth championship in succession, could have taken the lead in the standings yesterday but for the enthusiasm of his Italian team-mate. Cadalora, three times a champion in lesser formulas, is in his first full season on a 500 and yesterday's win was his first at the highest level.

It is not known whether Kenny Roberts' team have any specific orders for their riders but Cadalora is seen as a No 2 to Rainey. Never mind the standings, Cadalora saw the black and white squares before his eyes and swept past the world champion two laps from the chequered flag.

Having managed to dodge the mayhem on the first lap, Rainey, who started from the second row of the grid, gradually extended his lead over the field. Cadalora was slightly nearer to the danger zone. 'I was very close to the accident and I was very scared at the beginning,' he said.

But with his mind and his rhythm settled, the 30-year-old Italian began a series of flying laps to reel in his colleague. On lap six, he overtook the second-placed Fogarty, who had made the best of the early spillage, and quickly came upon Rainey's rear wheel, where he stayed - always looking like he could get by - until he made his move on lap 28.

Rainey admitted afterwards that the fall he suffered during qualifying on Saturday had affected his fitness for the race, but he still acknowledged the superiority of his team-mate on the day. 'I rode as hard as I could. I think I was just holding him up most of the time,' he said.

Behind the lonely formation of red and white Yamahas, Mackenzie forged through the field until the battle for third was being fought by two Britons. Fogarty kept his wheel in front until the final corner of the race when he seemed to miss a gear and allow Mackenzie to sling-shot past him a few feet before the line.

It was a personal triumph for the Scot to stand on the podium yesterday. He feels he has been unfairly rejected by the leading teams, and by British sponsors, and made his point by beating the factory bikes on his privately entered and underfunded Team Valvoline Yamaha. 'The team can have steaks tonight instead of Spam,' he said.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 27

Comments