Today's Pacific Grand Prix brought mixed results for the Fortuna Yamaha Team after a weekend of strong qualifying. A first turn crash involving Suzuki rider John Hopkins and Ducati's Troy Bayliss forced Fortuna Yamaha rider Carlos Checa off the track and out of the race. Checa's team-mate Marco Melandri was also involved in the incident, forced off his racing line and onto the trackside gravel. The young Italian got back on track and despite having been relegated to 19th position on the opening lap, made a determined comeback in the 24-lap race to finish a respectable sixth. Melandri's result was altered to fifth place soon afterwards, however, due to a separate incident between Honda riders Makoto Tamada and Sete Gibernau. Tamada clashed fairings with Gibernau on the last lap and the Japanese rider was disqualified shortly after the podium ceremony.
After his initial obstruction Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Melandri set the fastest lap of the race on just lap two. He then produced a string of competitive times up until the chequered flag in an effort to make up for lost time. By lap four he was 11th and by lap 13 the 250cc World Champion had moved up into sixth.
"I started quite well today but was forced wide. I saw Carlos come wide as well," Melandri explained about the start of the race. "It felt like he touched me, I lost the rear and almost crashed, then ran into the gravel. It took a lot of time to get back onto the track, and when I did it took three or four corners to clean the tyres. I was really far behind the others but soon after I was back on the pace. I saw Valentino pass me later in the race and that helped me to catch Capirossi and Barros. I'm only disappointed because it took me a long time to catch them. Overall I'm quite pleased with the result considering what happened."
It was a bitterly disappointing end to the weekend for Carlos Checa after a promising first two qualifying days. The Fortuna Yamaha rider displayed a good pace all weekend and even featured on provisional pole for some time during Friday's session, only to end the race prematurely as a result of an incident beyond his control.
"I had a good start and was behind Valentino," said a disenchanted Checa. "Then I got hit from behind at the first turn along with Bayliss, I think by Hopkins. I don't really understand what happened but I'm so fed up after the hard work we've put in all weekend. There's not a lot more I can say."
"That was such a bad start to the race for us," said a torn Davide Brivio. "We're both upset for Carlos and pleased for Marco's amazing recovery. We felt that both riders were going to have a good race today, and then Carlos was taken out at the very beginning. Marco was also affected but was able to come back with an impressive performance. I think the pace both riders showed this weekend could have allowed them to stay with the top group, if it hadn't been for the incident on the first lap. This race could have been the turning point for us but unfortunately that's the nature of racing. Let 's look to Malaysia where our newly improved engine performance may be even more useful."
Max Biaggi (Honda) claimed a comfortable victory after Valentino Rossi (Honda) took an off-road excursion through the gravel trap at the first turn. The defending MotoGP World Champion escaped intact but had dropped back to eighth place. Over the remaining laps the Italian phenomenon reclaimed vast lost ground but eventually had to settle for second place. Local hero Makoto Tamada (Honda) completed the podium but was later disqualified, giving Nicky Hayden (Honda) third place.
1. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 43'57.590
2. Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol HONDA +3.754
3. Nicky Hayden USA Repsol HONDA +5.641
4. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar HONDA +19.456
5. MARCO MELANDRI ITA Fortuna YAMAHA Team +19.909
6. Alex Barros BRA Gauloises YAMAHA Team +20.938
7. Tohru Ukawa JPN Camel Pramac Pons HONDA +22.307
8. Loris Capirossi ITA DUCATI Marlboro Team +27.887
9. Shinya Nakano JPN d'Antin YAMAHA Team +41.731
10. Akira Ryo JPN Team SUZUKI +50.106
DNF - CARLOS CHECA SPA Fortuna YAMAHA Team (fell out of race on first lap)
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Valentino Rossi 282
2. Sete Gibernau 224
3. Max Biaggi 199
4. Loris Capirossi 131
5. Troy Bayliss 112
6. Tohru Ukawa 103
7. Nicky Hayden 101
8. CARLOS CHECA 93
9. Alex Barros 90
10. Shinya Nakano 84
14. MARCO MELANDRI 40