GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM MARCH ON TO MALAYSIA The Gauloises Yamaha Team's assault on the 2005 MotoGP World Championship continues this weekend as the world's premier motorcycle series moves from Japan to Malaysia for the second race of the five...
GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM MARCH ON TO MALAYSIA
The Gauloises Yamaha Team's assault on the 2005 MotoGP World Championship continues this weekend as the world's premier motorcycle series moves from Japan to Malaysia for the second race of the five race 'flyaway' series across Asia, the Middle East and Australasia. Just two days after packing the bikes and materials into the freight boxes at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, the team arrived at the Sepang International Circuit ready to unload and begin preparations for another intense Grand Prix, before they head on to the next stage of their exhausting trip with the third race in as many weekends at the Losail circuit in Qatar.
The thirteenth round of the season will be a welcome opportunity for the team to put the events of the last Grand Prix behind them, with Valentino Rossi's first non-finish of the year and a sixth place for Colin Edwards in Japan representing the team's worst weekend of the season. The Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix presents a fresh start for both riders, who have clear objectives for the final five rounds of the season.
Rossi's focus remains on taking victory at every race as he looks to put the seal on his fifth consecutive MotoGP World Championship. The minimum requirement for the Italian to celebrate the championship on Malaysian soil for the second time in his career is to finish within twelve points of Max Biaggi (Honda), his only remaining title rival. However, each of his other four premier-class titles has been sealed with a trademark Rossi victory - twice at Phillip Island, once at Sepang and once at Rio de Janeiro.
A repeat performance is Rossi's goal this Sunday as he aims to launch the party celebrations in the glitzy Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. A top four finish will suffice, but having been on the podium at each of the opening eleven rounds of the season and with five more opportunities to seal the title before the end of the year, he can again ride without pressure this weekend and concentrate solely on winning the race.
For Edwards the prime objective is second place in the championship, with sixteen points now separating him from Biaggi in the chase for that prestigious runner-up spot. The American has improved his results at each of the last three races and moved up to third in the rider standings, although his only intention this weekend is to return to the podium form he showed earlier in the season at Le Mans, Assen and Laguna Seca.
VALENTINO ROSSI: BACK TO OUR BEST
As well as clinching his third title with victory at Sepang in 2003, the former 125cc and 250cc World Champion also stood on top of the podium there in 2001. His special relationship with the circuit continued at the start of 2004 when he completed his first laps as a Yamaha rider in a private test, before winning the Grand Prix on the YZR-M1 last October. Excellent results during this year's pre-season tests give the 26-year-old extra reason for optimism.
"Sepang is one of my favourite tracks," says Rossi. "The bike worked well there during the tests in the winter even though we had some problems at the time, but we have made a lot of progress since then so I am interested to see how well everything works when practice starts on Friday morning.
"As far as the championship is concerned, of course I wanted to win it at Motegi but it didn't happen and we still have five more races to go. I am not feeling any more pressure than before and I will be riding to win at every round.
"For sure Max Biaggi will be strong again but this season there has been a different rider on the pace at almost every round, like Capirossi in Japan. Anyway, I am feeling confident and hopefully we can be back to our best this weekend."
COLIN EDWARDS: UNLOCKING THE SECRETS OF SEPANG
Colin Edwards made a short stop over in the Thai capital of Bangkok en route to Malaysia this week, where he took part in a busy press conference to promote the sport in Thailand alongside local dignitaries and representatives from Yamaha Asia. He also had time for a tour of the city's historical palaces and temples, as well as a boat ride on the Chao Phraya River.
"It was really good to have a quick break from paddock life after an intense weekend in Japan. I visited Bangkok a few years back and really liked it, so I was happy to have the chance to go back. It seems that they're really keen on MotoGP there and we were given an enthusiastic welcome and looked after really well! We go to so many different cities but usually only have time to see hotels, airports and race tracks, so it was great to have the chance to experience a bit of local culture for once and do some sightseeing!"
Edwards is now looking forward to a run of races at circuits he enjoys, after struggling to optimise the set-up of his Yamaha YZR-M1 machine at Sachsenring, Brno and Motegi. The Texan finished eleventh in Malaysia last year but, like Rossi, he enjoyed positive feedback from his first laps with the machine at the Malaysian circuit in the winter. The 31-year-old says his sole objective this weekend is to bring home the points.
"I need a good result at Sepang, that's what I'm shooting for," affirms Edwards. "I like the track but right now it doesn't matter whether I like it or not, the main thing is to get some serious points on the board and make up for the disappointment of the last few races. For some reason we've had three rounds where things haven't gelled and we need to turn that around.
"We had a good test at Sepang in the winter when I first rode the M1 and Valentino was absolutely flying there, so we know the bike works well. Sepang is a big, wide circuit and there are two or three corners where I tend to lose a few tenths, so it is a case of maybe following a couple of riders around during practice and getting a good line sorted out.
"There seem to be a few secrets to the track so hopefully I can get them worked out early on. The break in Bangkok helped me to clear my head and put Motegi behind me, so now I'm ready for another weekend of hard work."
DAVIDE BRIVIO: A HOME FROM HOME
Gauloises Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio is relying on his staff's extensive knowledge of the Sepang International Circuit as the key to another successful weekend in Malaysia. This is the third time the team will have visited Kuala Lumpur this year and he hopes their rapport with the multi-cultural capital will reap dividends as they look to complete the first of their objectives for the season.
"Sepang is a circuit we know very well," explains Brivio. "We spend so much time testing there in the winter it is like a second home! In fact, this is our fourth visit to Kuala Lumpur this year and the whole team feel comfortable in Malaysia, it is a nice place to be.
"The track itself is very good. It is fast but safe and we have enjoyed good results there in the past. Valentino won the race last year and he was very impressive during the winter tests so we are confident.
"Colin still has a good chance to finish second in the championship so we will keep pushing hard. After the disappointment of Motegi it is good to have such a short time between races so that we can forget about the results there and start again. That will be the target for both riders so we'll see what happens!"
BLAST FROM THE PAST: CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF YAMAHA GLORY
Whilst the MotoGP World Championship has only been hosted by the ultra-modern Sepang circuit since 1999, Grand Prix racing arrived in Malaysia almost a decade earlier, firstly at Shah Alam and then later, for one season, at Johor. The first Grand Prix ever held on Malaysian soil was won by Yamaha thanks to a dominant display from John Kocinski, who clinched the historic victory by a clear margin of over six seconds from Wayne Gardner.
After winning the 250cc World Championship for Yamaha the previous season, the American stepped up to the 500cc class in impressive style, taking podiums at Eastern Creek, Jerez, Misano and Brno in his debut campaign before taking his first 500cc race win at Shah Alam in the final event of the season. Kocinski would go on to take a further 500cc victory for Yamaha at Kyalami in 1992, adding to his nine wins for the factory in the quarter-litre class.
The Sepang track is one of the widest on the calendar, 16 metres across in some areas, and always features high track temperatures in the tropical climate. Races are won and lost at Sepang due to the ability of machinery to hold a line during turn in at several points of hard braking. With four major hairpins, and some frequent changes of direction in its 5542m layout, Sepang gives brakes and front suspension a punishing test, under extreme operating conditions.
A popular testing venue, Sepang boasts a high grip co-efficient and a relatively bump free racing line. The scene of Rossi's introduction to the Yamaha YZR-M1 in January 2004 and Edwards' in 2005, Sepang is a proven track for the machine, with Max Biaggi's victory in the 2002 season to add to Rossi's success last year.
Fast sweeping corners also feature at Sepang, situated some 2kms from the Kuala Lumpur International airport. Changes in camber and elevation on some of the faster corners put extreme strain on grip on the entry and exit, making compromise the watchword in finding an ideal machine balance.
Neutrality of steering and suspension balance is the aim at Sepang, even if the frequent high braking loads require harder springs to be fitted than normal. The rear shock will also carry a high spring rating, to help the rear under hard acceleration from the many hairpins and low gear turns.