Disappointing 'Home' Grand Prix for Fortuna Yamaha team-mates After an ultimately close combined qualifying session for the British Grand Prix at Donington Park, with only one second covering the top 13 contenders, expectations were already high...
Disappointing 'Home' Grand Prix for Fortuna Yamaha team-mates
After an ultimately close combined qualifying session for the British Grand Prix at Donington Park, with only one second covering the top 13 contenders, expectations were already high for a close MotoGP main event today. Yet despite an initially promising opening few laps into the race, both Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri ended their adopted 'home ' Grand Prix disappointed - the former riding a lonely race outside the top five, while 20-year-old Melandri crashed out of contention.
Checa, who qualified fifth for today's race, timed the lights well and leapt off the grid for a solid run into turn one. His charge was unfortunately interrupted when his team-mate Melandri tumbled on lap five and Checa swerved to avoid hitting him. By mid-race distance the Spaniard was unable to mount any serious challenge for a podium result and was left languishing back in a lonely sixth place. The 30-year-old also suffered from a lack of grip from the notoriously slippery Donington circuit.
"My start was good and I was able to follow the top group," said Checa. "Then Marco had an unfortunate fall, which broke my pace. I kept pushing and then lost stability with the rear, which was difficult to manage. Towards the end of the race I'd got used to it and I kept a constant pace but I was hoping for a better race pace consistency. At the moment this problem with the rear is my weakest area so now it is my target to improve that and to maintain a good pace throughout the following races."
It was further frustration for MotoGP rookie Marco Melandri who began today brimming with confidence, following his best ever qualifying performance in the premier class. The Fortuna Yamaha rider started from third place and just 0.186 seconds shy of pole, only to end the day prematurely. The 250cc World Champion said he felt more comfortable on his 220-plus horsepower YZR-M1 in qualifying at Donington Park than he had all season, and was looking forward to challenging for a podium place in the 30-lap race, when the weekend took a turn for the worse on lap five.
Melandri, who won the 250cc race here last year, launched off the line like a veteran, entering turn one fourth before taking third only a few corners further on. The 20-year-old then remained in the top four as the lead group pulled away from the competition, then misfortune struck when Melandri lost the front of his machine entering Fogarty Esses. The Honda trio of Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau then broke away from the pack even further and finished the race first, second and third respectively.
"I made a little mistake on the fifth lap," said the Ravenna-born rider. "I had a bit of a problem when I rode with a full tank because it seemed to unsettle the rear of the bike. I braked a bit too late, maybe, and I think that the front may have touched the white line. I'm so sad because I was going so fast and really thought that I might have a chance. What can I say - I'm so sad. Though at least I can see that I have the capability of doing very well in a race."
Team Director Davide Brivio had this to say following the race: "Carlos tried his best - sixth position is at least a chance to get points. It's been three races now that he's fought in the top group so we've improved since the start of the year.
"It's a big shame for Marco, but I think overall a positive weekend for him because he had a front row start and was up with the top riders in the first few laps. I think he could have stayed with Sete. Marco crashed because of a small mistake, not because he was pushing too hard. He could have kept the same pace and that's a positive notion for us to take away. We know he has great potential and for sure another opportunity will come."
1. Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol HONDA 46'05.482
2. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Pons HONDA +1.206
3. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar HONDA +8.344
4. Loris Capirossi ITA DUCATI Marlboro Team +14.247
5. Troy Bayliss AUS DUCATI Marlboro Team +17.475
6. CARLOS CHECA SPA Fortuna YAMAHA Team +28.291
7. Noriyuki Haga JPN Alice APRILIA Racing +28.868
8. Nicky Hayden USA Repsol HONDA +33.218
9. Shinya Nakano JPN d'Antin YAMAHA Team +36.005
10. Colin Edwards USA Alice APRILIA Racing +36.207
DNF - MARCO MELANDRI ITA Fortuna YAMAHA Team
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Valentino Rossi 176
2. Sete Gibernau 129
3. Max Biaggi 125
4. Loris Capirossi 84
5. Troy Bayliss 64
6. Alex Barros 62
7. CARLOS CHECA 57
8. Tohru Ukawa 56
9. Shinya Nakano 54
10. Nicky Hayden 46
20. MARCO MELANDRI 9