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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 April, 2003, 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK
Rossi wins season opener
Rossi won by more than six seconds
Rossi won by more than six seconds

Reigning MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi claimed his third win in a row in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Italian, winner of the last two Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit, took the lead in the fifth lap and never looked back.

But his victory was soured by a serious crash by Daijiro Kato who was rushed to hospital by helicopter with concussion and breathing problems. The 26-year-old Japanese rider was in a coma.

Compatriot Max Biaggi was more than six seconds behind, with Ducati rider Loris Capirossi third and Spain's Sete Gibernau fourth.

Troy Bayliss finished his first MotoGP race in fifth, six seconds ahead of reigning World Superbike champion.

Ulster's Jeremy McWilliams, who qualified slowest on Friday after problems with hi Proton KR, crashed out of the race after seven laps.

"It's great to win here in Suzuka at the home of Honda," said Rossi.

"I got off to a good start and had a little problem with the clutch but everything went well the rest of the way."

Capirossi gained an early lead but Rossi returned to the front on the fifth lap and opened up a comfortable buffer over Biaggi and Capirosi.

"I started in the fourth row so this is a very good result for me," said Capirossi.

"It was a good day for me but of course we're all concerned about Kato."

Japanese Grand Prix result:

1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Honda 44min 13.182sec
2. Max Biaggi (ITA) Honda 6.445sec behind
3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati 8.209
4. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Honda 13.209
5. Troy Bayliss (AUS) Ducati 23.099
6. Colin Edwards (USA) Aprilia 29.040
7. Nicky Hayden (USA) Honda 29.126
8. Alex Barros (BRA) Yamaha 30.526
9. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Yamaha 33.447
10. Carlos Checa (SPA) Yamaha 40.200
11. Norick Abe (JPN) Yamaha 44.790
12. Noriyuki Haga (JPN) Aprilia 1:03.358
13. John Hopkins (USA) Suzuki 1:03.950
14. Kenny Roberts (USA) Suzuki 1:04.085
15. Olivier Jacque (FRA) Yamaha 1:09.990
16. Garry McCoy (AUS) Kawasaki 1:16.572
17. Andrew Pitt (AUS) Kawasaki 1:17.380
18. Akira Yanagawa (JPN) Kawasaki 1:23.605
19. Tamaki Serizawa (JPN) MD211VF 1:35.459
20. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Honda 1:57.128




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