GAULOISES YAMAHA TITLE CHALLENGE RESUMES AT BRNO The MotoGP World Championship challenge continues for Yamaha next weekend after a four-week summer break, as the series heads to the Brno circuit in the Czech Republic for the 11th Grand Prix of...
GAULOISES YAMAHA TITLE CHALLENGE RESUMES AT BRNO
The MotoGP World Championship challenge continues for Yamaha next weekend after a four-week summer break, as the series heads to the Brno circuit in the Czech Republic for the 11th Grand Prix of the year. The Gauloises Yamaha Team will travel to the legendary venue, located just over 200 kilometres south-east of the capital city of Prague, with their batteries fully recharged and confidence at a premium after a stunning first half of the season, which concluded with Valentino Rossi's eighth victory from ten races at the Sachsenring circuit at the end of July. The Italian now needs just two more victories from the remaining seven rounds to guarantee the title for the fifth successive season.
With his 76th career success in Germany, Rossi also broke into the top three Grand Prix winners of all-time, having already smashed his way through a succession of records over the previous four months of racing. In the opening round at Jerez in April he became the first rider to win the first race of the season for five consecutive years since Giacomo Agostini, whilst his win at the Dutch TT made him the first Yamaha rider in history to take five consecutive victories in the premier-class. Rossi's current championship lead of 120 points is the largest advantage ever held by a rider after ten races of a season in any Grand Prix class and he is targeting a similarly successful finish to the campaign, as he looks to beat his own record of eleven wins in a season.
Rossi's win at Sachsenring was also Yamaha's 139th in the premier-class, bringing the Japanese manufacturer to joint second in the all-time winners list. In the year of its 50th anniversary, Yamaha has established itself as a dominant force in elite road racing, leading the 2005 manufacturers' standings with a 38-point advantage and with the Gauloises Yamaha on top of the teams' standings by 119 points.
The improved performance of the 2005 version YZR-M1 machine has seen Rossi's Gauloises Yamaha Team colleague Colin Edwards take a starring role in his first season with the team. After finding his feet with the machine over the opening stages of the season, the American has been the form rider behind Rossi for the last four races, propelling his way up the rider standings to within striking distance of second place in the championship. Edwards currently lies fourth overall after following up three consecutive top-four finishes with eighth place at the Sachsenring, but he is only two points short of Rossi's closest current challenger, Marco Melandri (Honda).
The team plans to stay at Brno for two days of tests after Sunday's Czech Grand Prix as they prepare to tackle a run of five 'flyaway' races in Japan, Malaysia, Qatar, Australia and Turkey, before returning to Europe for the final round of the season at Valencia in Spain on the 6th November.
VALENTINO ROSSI: RECORD BREAKER
As well as matching Mike Hailwood's total of 76 Grand Prix victories, a figure bettered only by the legendary Giacomo Agostini and Angel Nieto, Valentino Rossi needs just one more win to equal his total of nine from last season -- already a premier class record for a Yamaha rider. The Italian has also equalled Agostini's record of scoring eight premier-class victories in a season on five separate occasions and one more will set a new record as the first rider to score nine wins in a season on five occasions.
"Records are not the most important thing but I am very happy to have the same number of victories as 'Mike the Bike'," says Rossi, who recently extended his deal with Yamaha until the end of the 2006 MotoGP World Championship. "I never saw him race but they tell me he was one of the best, maybe the best ever. I am now on the podium of all-time winners and this is a big pleasure for me."
Rossi scored his very first win in Grand Prix racing at Brno in 1996 in the 125cc class, after starting from pole for the first time in his career. Since then a further three of his 76 victories have come at Brno, including the MotoGP race in 2001 and 2003, and it is a result he would like to repeat as he looks to make up from the disappointment of losing there last season.
"This break was very important because the first half of the season has been very tough and everybody needed to rest! I have been winning races but every one has been a big battle, almost always with a different rival. Each of the remaining seven races of this season will be another challenge, but I want to try to beat my record of eleven wins in a season.
"Brno is definitely not my favourite circuit but I have had good races there in the past, especially two years ago. It is a high-speed track, but it still has many turns, as well as some up and downhill sections and a lot of adverse camber. Last year the Yamaha was not bad there, but I lost a little bit too much time under acceleration at the beginning and then also under braking towards the end and in the end it was impossible to beat Gibernau. This year our bike is much better, so I hope it will be a different result!"
COLIN EDWARDS: CONSISTENCY THE KEY
Colin Edwards returns to Europe from a family break in his native Texas with his sights firmly set on a return to his best form at Brno. Of the riders chasing second place in the championship, Edwards has been the most consistent contender, scoring points in every round this season. A continuation of this high level of performance, coupled with the flashes of race-winning potential he has shown on the Yamaha M1 at recent races, promise an exciting end to the season for the former World Superbike Champion.
"It's been nice to have a break -- I've spent some time on a fishing trip with my wife's family and some friends in the Gulf of Mexico and generally just enjoyed being at home for a while," said Edwards. "But there's no doubt I'm looking forward to going racing again. I had a disappointing weekend in Germany at the last round and it's been hard to forget that, so it'll be nice to have the chance to get back to the form we had shown in previous weeks.
"I like Brno, Motegi, Sepang, Qatar... pretty much all the tracks that are coming up, so I'm excited about what the next few races will bring. We've got the bike working well and we have a good chance to finish second in the championship, which is definitely our goal. Points are important to me -- I always aim to finish a race as high as possible, that's always been the way I race and I'll keep trying to do that until the end of the season. At the same time it would be great to win a race...so I'm going to try for both!"
DAVIDE BRIVIO: A WELL-EARNED BREAK
Gauloises Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio is looking forward to bringing his staff back together at Brno after a the summer break, with the team having returned to their respective bases across Europe, Australia and Japan to rest and recuperate from an intense first half of the season. Brivio praised his team for their efforts over the last ten races and knows that they will now return to work fully focused on the remaining races, in order to put the seal on what he hopes will prove to be one of the factory's most successful ever seasons of Grand Prix racing.
"It was good to have a break and to recharge the batteries for the end of the year," says Brivio. "The season so far has been very positive because Valentino has scored eight wins and is leading the championship by a very big advantage of 120 points. Colin has three podiums and he is right in the middle of the battle for second position in the championship so it was definitely a well-earned break for the everyone, but now we have to keep this trend going until the end of the season.
"We still have seven races to go and the next few rounds in particular will be very important for us. We won at some of the remaining tracks with Valentino last year so we will be trying to repeat those victories and also Valentino himself will be determined to win at the circuits where he didn't manage to last season."
BLAST FROM THE PAST: CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF YAMAHA GLORY
Whilst the current Brno circuit has hosted almost two decades of memorable races since opening its gates to the World Championship in 1987, tales of local legend more often refer to the historic encounters on the old road circuit, which still winds its way through the forests and local villages surrounding the modern venue. The track was removed from the calendar for safety reasons in 1977, when 21-year-old Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto wrote the final chapter of its colourful history with Yamaha's first victory there in twelve years of Grand Prix racing.
"The thing I most remember about the race is that my fuel cap came open on the starting grid and I had to close it myself before push-starting", recalls Cecotto, who had lapped an incredible four seconds quicker than his nearest challenger, Pat Hennen, in qualifying. "It meant that I got a really bad start and I had to fight my way back from last place. Brno was very fast and very long and to be honest I preferred tracks like Daytona, Imola or Paul Ricard, but for some reason I just flew around that circuit. One minute you were surrounded by trees and the next by small houses -- there were some amazing corners with steep drops and it was always a lot of fun to race there."
Cecotto's pole position, lap record and race victory, by a massive 25 seconds over Yamaha colleague Giacomo Agostini, was made even more remarkable by the fact that he had already completed an identical clean sweep in the 350cc event that morning. It also came just seven days after his debut 500 win at Imatra, despite having missed the majority of the season with a broken left arm, sustained in the second round at Salzburgring. Those two victories, coupled with a second place at Anderstorp, saw him end the season in fourth place and still leave his army of fans pondering over what might have been.
"To win on the 500 was very special because it was always the premier class, but in those days it was actually tougher in 350cc -- there was a much bigger battle," reflects Cecotto, who had already become the youngest ever World Champion when he won the title in the smaller category for Yamaha two years previously. "In 500 there were some fast riders but it wasn't as hard to win and I think I would have had a big chance to win the title in 1977 if I hadn't crashed at Salzburgring. It's a shame because it could have been a great year for me, but nevertheless I have fond memories of my victory at Brno."
Few circuit locations are as historic as that of Brno. The current circuit is encircled by the tendrils of the various 'real' road layouts that made up the Czech Grand Prix venues of yesteryear. Used for a Grand Prix for the final time in 1977, the old track was replaced in 1987 by what is basically the current incarnation, subtly altered in 1996 to measure 5.403km in length.
The Brno circuit no longer boasts cobblestone sections, but as contemporary MotoGP circuits go, it is one of the best and most atmospheric, winding its way first down a hillside, dropping 73 metres from the highest point, before providing a power-sapping climb back up to the start/finish line.
Brno has been a good circuit for Yamaha riders in the past and priority number one will be to dial the YZR-M1 in for the seemingly never-ending succession of fast chicanes, interspersed with similar radius medium speed corners. Ultra-slow chicanes and their need for heavy braking loads are conspicuously absent at Brno. However there is still a heavier use of front tyre side grip than usual, due to all the downhill corner entries, with the bike on its side while negotiating negative cambers many times per lap.
One of the less technically demanding tracks on the calendar, the one crucial feature of the chassis set-up at the Czech venue is to have a good turn-in performance to make light work of the propensity of relatively high speed chicanes. Falling within the traditional Italian August holiday period, local support from the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany is generally boosted in Brno by the legion of travelling Rossi, Melandri, Biaggi and Capirossi fans that colour the hillsides. Invariably, the most numerous and raucous will be those in the blue and yellow of Valentino Rossi.