LONDON -- Italians Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi and Loris Capirossi could cause an upset at Sunday's British 500cc motorcycling grand prix.
But only in the unlikely event that none of them gets to
finish on the podium.
The Donington Park track, next door to the East Midlands
airport, hosts the latest round of what has this season looked
more like the Italian national championship than the top
category of a world series.
The statistics tell the story:
Italian riders have been on pole in every race and won
six out of seven.
Rossi, Biaggi and Capirossi have swept the podium for the
last two races in succession and could well complete their
hat-trick at Donington.
The same trio dominate the championship standings.
Italians have filled 15 of the 21 podium places so far in
2001 and in six out of seven races there have been at least two
of them in the top three.
To add to the feeling that the Italian national anthem is
likely to be heard once again on Sunday afternoon, there is the
fact that Rossi won at Donington last year for his debut victory
in 500cc racing.
The exuberant Italian is the only man to win in every class
at Donington and also rides a Honda, who have won five of the
last six British Grands Prix.
Biaggi by contrast has never finished on the podium at the
circuit in 500cc in his last three attempts while Capirossi has
been on pole but not yet won this year.
Rossi, on 136 points, leads Biaggi in the championship by 21
points but his Roman rival can claim to have the upper hand
after winning in the wet at Assen in the Netherlands last
That was his second win of the season after Rossi ran away
with the first three races and a fourth later in Spain.
"I feel I'm riding at the top of my form at the moment, my
best ever," says Biaggi. "We've improved the set-up of my bikes
over the past two or three races and that's helped a lot."
The two rivals are not going to win any friendship awards,
having made as much noise this year for two bad-tempered
incidents that earned them warnings from the International
Motorcycling Federation (FIM).
The last was in Barcelona last month, when they were
involved in a fracas on a staircase before the podium ceremony.
The Italians can expect to dominate the show but there are
other candidates for victory, such as Spain's former champion
Alex Criville who won at Donington in 1999.
Ironically, the only race the Italians have not won this
season was their own Italian Grand Prix, taken instead by
Brazilian Alex Barros on a Honda.
Yamaha's Australian Garry McCoy will be absent after
injuring his wrist and deciding to wait until the German round
later in the month before he gets back to racing.
McCoy will be replaced by Briton Jason Vincent.
World champion Kenny Roberts will also be hungry to get his
season started, having so far failed to make a top five finish on his Suzuki.
American Roberts was second last year on a wet track.
"We're going to Donington with a firm conviction that we can
win," said team manager Garry Taylor.
Japan's Norick Abe will make his 100th grand prix start, all
in 500s, becoming the youngest ever rider to reach that
milestone at 25 years old.