What happened in the 1995 Catalunya GP?

6 minutes

In 1995, the Catalunya GP was the last race of the season. Although the Catalunya circuit was not new on the calendar, the event had been known as the European GP since 1992.

Álex Crivillé y  Sinichi Itoh rodando en el GP de Catalunya en 1995
What happened in the 1995 Catalunya GP?

It was the year that the Repsol Honda combo was debuted in the Motorcycle World Championship, and the team was put together by the tireless Mick Doohan, Shinichi Itoh, and a fan-favourite Spanish pilot: Álex Crivillé. Álex has already tasted victory in the classic race held in Assen in 1992. However, he still much more to show his fans who wanted to see him win a GP in his country of origin.

On 8th October, Mick Doohan had already achieved the Repsol Honda Team’s first World Champion title. He had won it in the previous GP, held in Argentina. Crivillé obtained 5 podiums during that season, (one of them in the Jerez circuit)although he was ready to win in Assen where he had the pole position during the fastest lap.

The weekend began with problems for the Spanish rider. One of Crivillé’s bikes wasn’t performing well, and he had to change to switch to another one. These inconveniences pushed him back to the seventh position on the grid, with Doohan finishing second and Shinichi sixth, right before Álex. The riders gathered at the exit, grouping for a few metres but luckily there were no hits and there were few changes in the positions.

Parrilla salida 500cc
Parrilla salida 500cc

Carlos Checa from the satellite Honda Pons Repsol Team was second, reducing the distance that separated him from Daryl Beattie and his Suzuki. The Repsol Honda riders rode further behind (between the fifth and eighth position) fighting to overtake other riders or maintain their position.

While the leading riders were immersed in their battles and suffered the wear from pushing their bikes to the maximum, Crivillé overtook his oponents until raching fourth place. In that moment, Carlos Checa placed first in the final stretch, marking the race’s fastest lap. The Honda pons Repsol rider had been in few 500cc races, without notable results in the lower displacements, which is why his performance drove the audience wild.

A few moments later, Álex Crivillé moved to third place while passing the grandstand, making the audience cheer. Fans chanted in unison, “Crivi, Crivi, Crivi!” The local commentator became very excited. Meanwhile his teammates, Itoh and Doohan, were hanging off from the leading group, but Checa farther every time and seemed unreachable. His bike clearly showed the tough wear that it was suffering, sliding more every time in fast turns.

Álex Crivillé pilotando en 1995
Álex Crivillé pilotando en 1995

Álex spurred his NSR500 intending to reach Carlos Checa and put pressure on him by following closely behind. After a breath taking lap, he overtook Daryl Beattie in the stretch and was now in second place, coming for the leader of the race. Little by little, he reduced his time per lap, getting closer and closer to the first bike in the race as the public’s excitement kept growing for the Repsol Honda rider.

Carlos’ bike began to whiplash due to his back wheel’s displacement, showing that both the rider and the bike had suffered too much wear. The pressure that Crivillé was putting on him didn’t improve things for Checa. Eight laps from the end, this pressure took a toll on the Honda Pons rider, when whiplash took unseated him from the bike and forced him off the track. That meant the lead went to Álex Crivillé, who saw that his dream of winning again was within reach.

A few laps later, Itoh became involved in a battle with Loris Capirosi for the podium positions. Both riders began getting closer to the lead of the race. Meanwhile, Crivillé was beginning to suffer the same problems that Checa faced shortly before. His skids had the public at the edge of their seats, floored by his dominance and fearful that the rider could end up going offtrack.

When few laps were left, the tension was obvious, and Crivillé’s bike skidded to the edges of the track, lifting dust clouds which made the public and the team bite their nails as they were overcome with uncertainty. Would the Spanish rider be able to last until the end at this pace?

Mick Doohan en el GP de Catalunya en 1995
Mick Doohan en el GP de Catalunya en 1995

In the last lap, the fans couldn’t contain themselves any longer, they cheered their local hero on with all of their might. Itoh, in second place, attempted to dethrone Álex Crivillé in the last lap, but the Spaniard defended his place by breaking to the limit. Itoh finally overtook Álex in the la Caixa turn, but quickly lost his place by riding on the outer track.

The last 3 turns had the public balling their firsts and holding their breaths waiting for Itoh to try again but, in the end, Álex achieved long-awaited victory. Shinichi Itoh was second only by 160 milliseconds, granting Repsol Honda a wonderful double win and a perfect ending to the first year of competition. Loris Capiroi rounded the podium and Doohan crossed the finish line in fourth place.

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