Fortuna Yamaha Team Dutch GP preview

The Fortuna Yamaha Team make their way to the Dutch circuit of Assen hoping that Carlos Checa's fourth place finish two weeks ago will be the turning point of the season for them. After a complicated start to 2003, Checa has stayed motivated and...

The Fortuna Yamaha Team make their way to the Dutch circuit of Assen hoping that Carlos Checa's fourth place finish two weeks ago will be the turning point of the season for them. After a complicated start to 2003, Checa has stayed motivated and determined to improve his situation, which he did at the most recent Grand Prix in Catalunya. However the next step needs to be a podium finish and Assen could be just the place for the Spanish rider to achieve that goal.

Meanwhile Melandri is continuing his first season in the MotoGP class with enthusiasm, the highlight of his season so far including a front row start at the Le Mans Grand Prix in France. He now turns his attention to the Netherlands hoping that he can compete with the top riders.

The Dutch TT is the most historic race on the Grand Prix calendar, the only race to retain the name 'TT' standing for Tourist Trophy, referring to the earliest speed events last century. The circuit was originally based on public roads, and is the longest and fastest race of the year.

There is no-one more pleased with the team's turn of fortune at the recent Catalunya race than Team Director of the Fortuna Yamaha Team, Davide Brivio, who knows how hard the everyone in the team has worked towards a result like this, "The last race was important because we saw Carlos constantly in a top position," he explained. "It was consistency and good feeling that he was looking for and he found them in Catalunya, where he kept a good pace with the top group for the whole race. We go to Assen now with more confidence and are looking forward to confirming a trend, and improving our position. I hope Catalunya was the turning point.

"I think Carlos will be looking forward to this race now that he knows the capability is definitely there. During the Catalunya weekend he showed good reactions to what was thrown at him and all the hard work that he and his team put in paid off. The improvement from the Friday qualifying session to the race was very good.

"We are still looking to make Marco more comfortable on the bike and we're hoping that Assen might provide the possibility to find a good solution for him. The main problem he has at the moment is to get rear traction. He is of course still adapting to the MotoGP class generally, and has ridden in two races less than the others this year. He won his first race at Assen so you never know, it might be the place where he gets his best MotoGP result so far. We know that it's going to take time, so Assen is just the next step."

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING

A good result at Assen relies heavily on a chassis that offers both agility and stability. It is quite a difficult balance to find at the best of times. This is why the Fortuna Yamaha Team riders will continue with the base geometry they have used over the past few rounds, relying on the finer adjustments of the suspension package and the correct tyre profiles to get the best out of the Deltabox chassis.

The combination of such fast cornering, good grip levels and extreme camber angles produces high G-forces, which the suspension will need to deal with. For this reason a heavier rear spring rate will be chosen to prevent the back of the bike squatting under power, yet it will still need to offer a compliant ride to ensure feel isn't compromised. Feel won't be compromised if the compression damping character is dialed in to compensate, therefore it will be wound back, from what was used in Barcelona two-weeks earlier, increasing the predictability of a slide as well as tyre life. The front will be somewhat softer in feel due to the lack of hard braking on the flowing layout, as trail braking into the apex is the only way to a good TT laptime.

With an outright top speed of around 300kmh Assen isn't the fastest circuit, especially when you compare it to the 330kmh plus of Mugello. But the Dutch TT isn't about outright top speeds, rather the key is a top speed average. In this regard Assen is one of the fastest tracks of the year. Because of this it's an extreme and hard working circuit, not only for the riders and the chassis, but the tyres too. Fortunately grip levels are high yet the track surface isn't too abrasive, even though almost all the driving will be done off the side of the tyres.

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP FOR CHECA

After a tricky start to his season, Spaniard Carlos Checa finally achieved a result that reflected his customary racing ability at his home Catalunya Grand Prix two weeks ago. Both the Fortuna Yamaha Team and Checa have been working hard since the onset of the season to find him the set-up combination that would make him comfortable on his Yamaha YZR-M1 machine. Checa's Catalunya weekend did not start as he had hoped, as he did not feel as relaxed with the bike as he should have for the Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions, securing a second row start for the race. But during the 25-lap race "El Toro" worked his way up through the group to finish the fight in fourth place.

This is closer to the result that Checa expects to achieve. The Fortuna Yamaha Team rider finished the World Championship sixth in 2002. He secured four podium finishes in total and after a third place at Assen last year he was running third in the championship. This year has been more difficult for the Spaniard and he has struggled to find his normal form on his Yamaha YZR-M1 machine.

He feels, however, that his home Grand Prix in Catalunya was the turning point he was looking for and he is now aiming for a podium finish again, with renewed self-assurance.

"It was a good result in Catalunya," said Checa, "we will see what happens in Assen but at least now I have recovered my confidence with the bike. I hope to have the same good feeling in Assen that I found two weeks ago. With the new set-up we have made a good change and I would really like to keep the same level. I still had some limitations in Catalunya, and I hope we can fix those and take another step forward. We made a step in Mugello, then again in Catalunya, so hopefully Assen will be the next step. We have a plan for there that we will implement."

Last year the Dutch circuit underwent minor changes to its layout, and Checa was one rider who had some difficulties with those changes. Because of the extra weight of the four-strokes compared to their ancestral two-strokes, they have more inertia which makes high-speed direction change difficult. Nonetheless Checa overcame his difficulties and pulled off a good result.

"Assen is quite a fast track where you need a lot of grip," he explained about the circuit. "The new area of the track is more slippery but on the old asphalt you can keep a lot of speed mid-turn. The bike is heavier than the two-stroke and that caused us some problems last year in Assen, so I hope we can overcome that this year. I feel more confident because of the result two weeks ago but mostly because I am feeling better now with the bike."

MELANDRI RETURNS TO SCENE OF FORMER 125 GLORY AIMING FOR MOTOGP REPEAT

Marco Melandri is impressing everyone with his rookie MotoGP performance this year. Although he has missed two races due to injury, his return has seen him finish all four of the ensuing races, including the Catalunya Grand Prix two weeks ago when he finished thirteenth. He currently lies twentieth in the World Championship but is of course hoping to finish the season in a higher position.

The young Italian sets himself the highest standards and is frustrated at the time it is taking to make the change from the 250cc class, where he currently holds the title of 'World Champion', to the premier MotoGP class.

"I won my first ever race in Assen on a 125 bike when I was fifteen years old in 1998 and I remember it like it was yesterday," said Melandri who is now twenty. "It's strange to explain how I felt then but it was a great day for me. When I go back to Assen I always remember that first win. I didn't have such a good race there the following year but anyway I always try to just concentrate on the race I am going to, and I know that things will be completely different there this year with the M1.

"It might not be too easy there this time as there are lots of places you can go wide open, and there are many corners there. I had some problems at the Catalunya Grand Prix, as it was really difficult to get good traction. There is such a high competition between the top riders now, especially the Italian riders. It would be great if I could reach the same level as them soon and make it a four-way Italian battle!

"I hope to have a good race in Assen this year - to have a better feeling with the bike and to feel less tired, which I think is a side effect of the accident I had in Suzuka. I want to perform better at every race this year and to improve my results so I am in amongst the top riders, that's my aim. Every rider is so fast though but I have to keep that as my goal, and improve race by race."

-fyt-

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Carlos Checa , Marco Melandri , Davide Brivio