Checa chalks up a brilliant fourth in Brno GP scorcher.

In one of the closest and most unpredictable races so far this season, Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa produced a brilliantly consistent 22-lap performance to finish fourth at today's Czech Grand Prix. Checa was elated with his result, having started from the second row of the grid for today's main event. The top five riders were covered by just 1.171 seconds at mid-race distance and the race win claimed by a mere 0.042 seconds by Valentino Rossi (Honda) from in-form Spaniard Sete Gibernau (Honda). With tactics thrown out the window from the outset - except for the desire to win - the leading pack put on a show where positions changed not only every lap but virtually every corner.

Checa's start placed his Fortuna Yamaha YZR-M1 sixth into turn one, before the top seven set a pace that saw a gap build over the remaining MotoGP field. Then, as the intensity grew, 'El Toro' took the bull by the horns and, lap by lap, closed in on a podium result. He powered by Max Biaggi (Honda) on lap 12 and went by Loris Capirossi's floundering Ducati as he retired with two laps remaining. Checa could not quite get close enough to strike at third-placed Australian Troy Bayliss, but claimed an excellent fourth on the day, and sixth place in the championship standings.

"Today had a taste of victory," said Checa. "We have worked well all weekend and today was a successful day. My practice went quite well this morning, during the race I got some great lap times, and it was one of the best races ever. I was able to overtake Biaggi but only to follow the others. I made a small mistake at one point, when I went in too hard on the brakes, and lost a bit of time. I tried to catch the others but it was impossible. It's the first race where I have been able to follow the leading group and ride consistently fast all race. Hopefully this is just the start of a confidence in set-up that will last me for the rest of the season and I'll be looking to be on the podium next time."

In what is becoming Marco Melandri's forte, the Fortuna Yamaha Team rider made yet another lightning start to pounce from 17th on the grid to ninth by turn one. After a difficult qualifying performance it was just what the Italian needed. The 20-year-old MotoGP rookie then found himself in a scrap with Makoto Tamada (Honda) and Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Team) until half race distance before securing a respectable tenth place.

"I just haven't had a good feeling all weekend so this morning we lowered the geometry of the bike and it felt better," explained Melandri, who celebrated his 21st birthday last week. "I trusted Fiorenzo (Fanali, Marco's crew chief) and our Michelin man Daniel Croispine on tyre choice and settings for the race. I started well but just couldn't really keep the pace in the early stages. Once the fuel load had gone down a bit I started going better and managed to get past Jacque, but Tamada was already too far ahead. Today our objective was to finish the race and get a better feeling from the bike after the terrible qualifying, so I think this was a pretty good result. I'm now looking forward to an extra day here for testing."

Team Director Davide Brivio was happy with the team's progress this weekend: "Congratulations to Carlos, he produced a good race. His pace was very consistent and it was as fast as the top riders, which was very important for us. We now need to move to the podium, but this race has given us some more confidence for the end of the season.

"Marco's final position was tenth but we are very glad that he managed to finish the race and come out well from a very difficult weekend. He has faced many difficulties getting comfortable on the bike so he did well to finish with a solid result. I think this has been a good experience for him, to know that he can work his way through the difficulties and improve gradually. This weekend has been very demanding for the team and Yamaha, there has been a lot of extra work on set-up, so thanks to them."

TOP 10
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 44'18.907
2. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar HONDA +0.042
3. Troy Bayliss (AUS) DUCATI Marlboro Team +0.668
4. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team +5.390
5. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA +8.729
6. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol HONDA +11.043
7. Alex Barros (BRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Team +11.439
8. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Camel Pramac HONDA Pons +13.574
9. Makoto Tamada (JPN) Pramac HONDA +23.273
10. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team +26.404

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Rossi 212
2. Gibernau 178
3. Biaggi 141
4. Loris Capirossi 97
5. Bayliss 96
6. CHECA 78
7. Ukawa 74
8. Barros 71
9. Hayden 6
10. Nakano 65


19. MELANDRI 15

-fyt-