Checa Returns To Podium After Brilliant Fight in Le Mans
Carlos Checa took second in the French Grand Prix today after a close-fought race in Le Mans. His Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi was unable to overcome the set-up problems he battled with all weekend but still finished a strong fourth.
Checa had a good start from second place on the grid, immediately taking the lead, with Rossi in third. Pole-sitter Sete Gibernau (Honda) gradually closed the gap from behind his fellow Spaniard and overtook Checa on lap eleven, increasing his lead throughout the fight to take his second successive Grand Prix win. Max Biaggi (Honda) overtook Rossi on the next lap and began to gain on Checa who rode a hard race to fend him off, eventually crossing the line just three tenths of a second ahead. Rossi closed the gap between him and Biaggi considerably in the closing stages with some brave moves, passing him momentarily on lap 25 but unable to stay ahead. After three races Rossi holds on to third place in the World Championship standings while Checa moves up to fifth.
CARLOS CHECA (2nd)
"I am so happy to be on the podium once more; it has been a long time. We knew that this year we had a chance to do well; we made some big improvements to the bike over the winter and I have started the year with a good feeling. Even in Jerez I felt good, although the weather changed everything on race day. I need to keep going like this; this result will help me, the team and Yamaha. It gives me confidence and the season has only just started so I aim to continue improving -- I hope that next I can fight to win a race. My start was very good and I tried to keep the gap but I couldn't get away from Sete. When he passed me I tried to stay with him but he was faster. Near the end I had to pass some people at the back and I don't think they had seen the blue flags -- it was quite scary with Max so close behind me! Valentino had some problems during the weekend and wasn't able to ride to his full potential, but he has made a big difference pre-season and I am sure that at the next race he will be there. Now I am really looking forward to Mugello."
VALENTINO ROSSI (4th)
"That was a really difficult race. The bike just didn't feel right all weekend, especially with the braking. I had a different feeling at the start of the warm-up lap with the new electronic system and the bike stopped. When everything goes well with this bike then it is very easy to ride, but here set-up difficulties have made it more tricky. We've spent two days trying to fix the problems but unfortunately it has not been possible for this race; we need some more time to work it out. We have organised a one-day test tomorrow so I hope that we will be able to fix the problem then. Carlos was very strong today and he has more experience than me with this bike. We are not too far behind and Mugello is going to be a brilliant fight."
ANTONIO JIMENEZ -- CARLOS CHECA'S CREW CHIEF
"What can I say? I am so happy because our expectation was to be on the podium and it worked. We were leading for many laps but second is still a good result. It is great to start the early part of the season like this. The tracks we go to next, Mugello and Barcelona, are very good circuits for Carlos and he is feeling very positive. We need more races like this and our target now is victory."
1. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar Honda 44'22.750 2. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA +1.671 3. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Honda +1.908 4. VALENTINO ROSSI (ITA) GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA +4.272 5. Colin Edwards (USA) Telefonica Movistar Honda +15.755 6. Marco Melandri (ITA) Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 +18.225 7. Alex Barros (BRA) Repsol Honda Team +27.656 8. Troy Bayliss (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team +31.530 9. Makoto Tamada (JPN) Camel Honda +33.164 10. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati Marlboro Team +39.512