Another strong finish for Checa; Melandri blighted by poor wisibility. Fortuna Yamaha front row starter Carlos Checa produced a gritty ride in what was a typically wet Dutch TT in Assen today. The Spaniard finished the 19-lap race in fourth ...
Another strong finish for Checa; Melandri blighted by poor wisibility.
Fortuna Yamaha front row starter Carlos Checa produced a gritty ride in what was a typically wet Dutch TT in Assen today. The Spaniard finished the 19-lap race in fourth position - the top Yamaha YZR-M1 rider for the second consecutive Grand Prix after his fourth place finish in Catalunya two weeks ago. The restarted wet race, which was declared after the initial warm-up lap for a dry race, saw the 30-year-old exit the jostle at the first turn in tenth place, after some hardcore paint-swapping action.
The following few laps revealed a number of lead changes, between Sete Gibernau (Honda), Max Biaggi (Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Honda), until the field settled into a race rhythm around lap four. At this point Checa began a run that showed the Fortuna Yamaha Team rider's full potential, carving his way through the highly competitive field while still matching the lap times of the leading trio until mid-race distance. The Spaniard's momentum lifted him to fifth position on lap 12, and eventually fourth on lap 17 after he passed Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia), who crashed moments after Checa's red and silver M1 slipped by.
Although Checa continued to pressure Rossi for the third and final podium place, the deficit was too great with only a few laps remaining, and the factory Yamaha rider was forced to settle for a respectable fourth place finish behind race winner Gibernau, second placed Biaggi and championship points leader Rossi. Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Olivier Jacque completed the top five.
"I had a bad start, as it was difficult to see anything," said Checa. "The rear tyre spun and there wasn't much traction. I couldn't see well for the first part of the race but then I got used to it. It's a very scary feeling, going from line to line like that, trying to make out the shapes of the other bikes. But it was so important to finish this race and I'm happy that I have achieved that. We need to continue working the way we have this weekend, to see what went right and what didn't go so well, and hopefully we 'll continue to improve every time."
It was a disappointing end to the weekend for Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Marco Melandri as the young Italian was hindered by a leaking visor. With his vision impaired, and safety clearly an issue, the 250cc World Champion and winner of the 250cc race here last year, was forced to retire on lap 14. The 20-year-old was running 14th at the time.
"I could hardly see anything at all right from the beginning of the race," explained a disappointed Melandri. "There was just a tiny part of the visor that I could see out of so I had to hold my head in an awkward position to try to see anything. When the other riders overtook me it was impossible, because of their spray I could only see immediately in front of me. Every time I got onto the straight I tried to clean the visor with my hand, then I found myself close to the white line and touched the ground for a second so I decided it was too dangerous to continue. Obviously I'm disappointed about today because I have felt good on the bike during this whole weekend. I hope I can take that positive feeling with me to the next race."
"Fourth position is not so bad at all," said Team Director Davide Brivio after the race. "Things are starting to go much better for Carlos, after the Catalunya result and here. We have now had good results in the dry and the wet, and we've built up a steady base. Now I hope we can improve on that even more. Marco was starting to get a good pace but had a problem with his visor, as did Carlos, but Marco's problem was much worse as it forced him to stop. The same problem prevented both of them from doing better. Considering the difficult conditions it wasn't such a bad day. It was very stressful for the team to change everything, because of the heavy rain before the race, but they all worked really well. We look forward to being on the podium next time."
1. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar HONDA 42'39.006
2. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Pons HONDA +10.111
3. Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol HONDA +13.875
4. CARLOS CHECA SPA Fortuna YAMAHA Team +36.978
5. Olivier Jacque FRA Gauloises YAMAHA Team +40.345
6. Loris Capirossi ITA DUCATI Marlboro Team +42.177
7. Colin Edwards USA Alice APRILIA Racing +50.518
8. Alex Barros BRA Gauloises YAMAHA Team +59.023
9. Troy Bayliss AUS DUCATI Marlboro Team +1'33.536
10. Alex Hofmann GER KAWASAKI Racing Team +1'36.403
DNF - MARCO MELANDRI ITA Fortuna YAMAHA Team +5 laps
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Valentino Rossi 151
2. Sete Gibernau 113
3. Max Biaggi 105
4. Loris Capirossi 71
5. Alex Barros 62
6. Tohru Ukawa 56
7. Troy Bayliss 53
8. CARLOS CHECA 47
9. Shinya Nakano 47
10. Olivier Jacque 43
20. MARCO MELANDRI 9