Skip to Main Contents

Column vol.29

View our column profiling Yamaha's 50 years of involvement in racing. Vol.29A turn-of-the-century showdown for two YZR250 riders! Down to the last corner of the last lap!

vol.29 2000⁄RR⁄World Grand Prix  A turn-of-the-century showdown for two YZR250 riders! Down to the last corner of the last lap!



The contest between teammates Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque began to heat up after round six of the series, the Italian GP, when they began to share the top two positions in the ranking. The two mounted the podium together 10 times during the 2000 season, including four 1-2 finishes that excited their crew members as well

In a season that kept the fans breathless with close, exciting races, the 2000 GP250 class title race came down to the last round at Phillips Island in Australia. In the lead is Shinya Nakano riding his silver YZR250 (0WL5). Right behind him of the same machine with the same coloring is his teammate Olivier Jacque. Ever since he passed Honda's Daijiro Kato to move into 2nd position on lap three, Jacque had tailed Nakano and the gap between them never exceeded a 10th of a second.
As they raced in the lead on the same silver machines they both had the same goal in front of them: the GP250 world title! Going into this final round Nakano had 252 championship points and Jacque had 254. That margin of just two points meant that the title would go to the one that crossed the finish line first.
The night before the race, their Tech3 team manager Herve Poncharal had said he hoped to see a clean race between the two, adding that he didn't want to see either of them handing the title to their rival.
Whichever one won the title, it would be Yamaha's first title in the GP250 class since John Kocinski' in 1990. But sitting in third position in the ranking also with a shot at the title was Honda'sDaijiro Kato. If they were reckless, they could end up giving the title to Kato.
Regardless of Poncharal's fears, the two Yamaha riders were racing hard. Nakano was faster in the turns but Jacque got more speed on the straights. Each using their strengths to the fullest, the contest was like watching a well choreographed dance lap after lap.
Riding behind Nakano, Jacque made it look as if he was going to make his move, time and again, but he never took the lead. From his position in the rear Jacque had the feeling that Shinya's machine was faster than his this time. He said that he felt if he passed Shinya he would only get passed back again.
As for Nakano, he knew that there wasn't enough difference in their two machines' speed to enable him to pull away from Jacque and open up a gap all at once. Several times their lines crossed as they entered a turn, but they were both holding back and neither was making a move to break the race open.
Everyone knew that the race was not going to end like this, however. The tension built and built until the race finally entered the last lap. By this point Kato was a full 10 seconds behind them. It was just symphonic high whine of the two YZR250 machines rounding the Phillips Island circuit for one last lap.


The season climax came in the final round. In a breathtaking head-to-head race, Jacque took an amazing come-from-behind win, and when it was over, everyone was full of smiles

Going through the last lap the two were still tail-to-nose. They came out of the last turn with Nakano still in the lead. Nakano didn't try to run a blocking line but just headed straight for the finish. The world championship title lay just in front of him.
But that was also the moment when Nakano began to hear the whine of Jacque's engine getting larger. By this point, however, all he could do was keep to his straight line for the goal and open up the throttle as wide as it would go.
The two riders' YZR250 machines drew even and then crossed the finish line. The first to take the checkered by 0.014 seconds was Jacque, the difference was about a finger's breadth.
From the expression on the face of team manager Poncharal, it was clear that this unexpected climax between the two teammates brought a mixture of joy and sadness. He had no words to express his feelings at that moment, he just repeated, "I can't believe it!"

On the cool-down lap the two riders, Jacque and Nakano, congratulated each other. They had both given their all in the race. Jacque raised Nakano's hand and said, "Shinya, you're the champion too."


prev column

next column

Back to