Yamaha launches in Barcelona

Barcelona Crowds Treated To an Action Preview as Yamaha Unveils Its New Line-Up Yamaha launched its MotoGP effort for 2004 with an action-packed ceremony in the centre of Barcelona this afternoon. Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha riders Valentino...

Barcelona Crowds Treated To an Action Preview as Yamaha Unveils Its New Line-Up

Yamaha launched its MotoGP effort for 2004 with an action-packed ceremony in the centre of Barcelona this afternoon. Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Carlos Checa were joined by Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 team-mates Marco Melandri and Norick Abe as they unveiled their 2004 MotoGP machines in full race livery for the first time in front of a packed press conference. The local public were then treated to a stunning display of wheelies and burn-outs as the four riders took to the streets in the shadow of Montjuic Castle and showed off the power of their YZR-M1s.

Speaking about his move from Honda to Yamaha, Italian World Champion and Yamaha new recruit Valentino Rossi said: "For sure it was a big decision, a big change and a big challenge for me, my mechanics and Yamaha. We know that it's going to be more difficult than last year, but I'm confident we can get some good results. My situation is different from 2003, we know that we are still a little behind and need more time to work on the bike, so that means that there's not as much pressure to win each race. But all this is a big motivation! I am very happy with where we are at the moment and with what we've achieved in only two months - Yamaha has worked very hard and that looks good for the future."

Local star Carlos Checa, who starts his sixth season in the Yamaha Factory Team this year, said: "Each year you expect a lot from the new season, but so far this year the impression I have is even more positive than usual. Yamaha has made a big change since last year. We'll have to wait and see what happens when the racing starts but I do feel optimistic. It's a great pleasure for me to have Valentino Rossi as my team mate and to stay working with Yamaha. He's the number one rider in the world so it's a big motivation to ride with him."

Presented by BBC Motorsport Correspondent Suzi Perry, Barcelona's Sports Minister Mr Pere Alcober welcomed the guests to Barcelona. He was followed by Masao Furusawa, General Manager of Yamaha Motor Company's Technology Development Division, who spoke briefly about his excitement for the coming season and the arrival of the five-time World Champion. Mr. Jean-Dominique Comolli and Mr. Pablo Isla, co-presidents of Altadis, the parent company of Yamaha's title sponsors Gauloises and Fortuna, also spoke for a short time about the forthcoming season and the importance of the MotoGP programme to their brands.

The riders were preceded on stage by their Team Managers - Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio and his Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 counterpart Herve Poncharal. Brivio commented: "It's been a very busy winter with something new to try and evaluate at every test. But the machinery is getting better each time. It's going to be interesting at these last two tests to see where we are with the competition before we start racing."

After the press conference the four riders took their M1 race bikes in new 2004 livery out onto the avenue to great applause and cheers from the crowd, who had been gathering for hours in the sunshine. The presentation finished just in time. After a 20 minute display, during which the riders took turns to show off their new-look bikes in the dramatic surroundings, the sun disappeared and Barcelona was treated to a violent hail and thunderstorm.

The Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha team, which has completed four tests so far this year in Malaysia and Australia, begins the first of the two official IRTA group tests tomorrow at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona. They will test there for three days before moving on to Jerez in southern Spain next week for the final test before the season-opening Grand Prix in South Africa on 18 April.

-yft-

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Series MOTOGP