British: Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha preview

British Grand Prix Donington Park, Great Britain July 23, 24, 25 2004 GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA MEN ENTER SECOND HALF OF 2004 CHALLENGE With the season's halfway point breached at last weekend's German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, the ...

British Grand Prix
Donington Park, Great Britain
July 23, 24, 25 2004


With the season's halfway point breached at last weekend's German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, the forthcoming Donington event heralds the start of the second half of the 16-race MotoGP World Championship. Starting at a later time to allow live TV coverage on a Formula One weekend, the 30-lap British Grand Prix will be almost a home race for Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Carlos Checa, as both the 25-year-old Italian and the 31-year-old Spaniard have their primary residences in the English capital city of London.

After winning half of the eight races so far, Rossi holds the slenderest of championship leads, ahead of his new championship rival Max Biaggi (Honda) by one point, with eight races left to run. Checa, who suffered the misfortune of a fall while fighting with the leaders at Sachsenring, sits seventh overall in the table, looking to return to the kind of early season form which gave him second place at Le Mans.

The sweeps and curves of Donington make it a natural backdrop for both team pilots to exploit and after some technical issues were ironed out immediately before the race at Sachsenring, Donington is eagerly anticipated as another opportunity to go for the win and rack up points at a crucial stage of the championship.

Rossi has an enviable record at Donington, having won three premier class race victories, one 250cc win and another in 125cc at the circuit. Prior to the race, Rossi will be attending a promotional event at London's Leicester Square on Wednesday 21 July, immediately before the team decants to the Donington circuit.


After leading the race before ultimately finishing fourth at Sachsenring, Rossi is glad to be going to a track which may favour the advantages held by his YZR-M1. "Both Sachsenring and Donington are traditionally good circuits for Yamaha, so I hope to do well in Donington. Donington is different to all the others. It has the medium to high-speed corners in the first part, including the hairpin, and then the second part is the 'car park'."

Exactness is the most desirable commodity at Donington, according to Rossi. "You need so much precision in the first part of the Donington track; the bike needs to be set hard for that bit. Redgate is important, just before the corner, because it's a good place to overtake and quite fast. However you shouldn't arrive there too fast, because you need good speed for the next section. Also the section before the hairpin is important for your overall lap time."

His personal favourite part is the Old Hairpin, which forms the lowest part of the track, following on from a rollercoaster ride down Craner Curves. "The hairpin section for me is perhaps one of the best sections of the championship, down-up and very nice. Then the run up to Coppice is very hard because after about 5 laps you lose grip on the right side of the tyres. It's all over for me at that point because then you reach the 'car park'! This section has the slowest track point of the championship, it's really difficult."

In summation, Rossi states, "I think Yamaha will have an advantage in the fast part as our bike is more agile, it's easier to change direction with than the Honda. Then later the braking stability and acceleration of the Honda could have an advantage. It will be an interesting race."


For Carlos Checa, Donington has many levels of significance. "I really like to race in the UK, I've lived there for quite a few years now so it's like my second 'home' Grand Prix. After my accident I had so much support from the British fans; they are really enthusiastic. I have many friends in England so it's nice for them to come to the race, too. Having said that Donington is not my favourite track of the year!"

London resident Checa feels right at home at Donington, but does not rate the track as one of his favourites. "I like England very much but the track is not at the level of the country or the World Championship, especially the last part of it; it's much more suited to 125cc bikes or the British Championship. However, despite all this I'm still looking forward to it!"

Checa feels he can go well in the lone UK-based MotoGP race of the year, the last before a three-weekend break until the next round at Brno in the Czech Republic, on August 22nd. "As for our bike at Donington, we'll see! I think it will be quite good there, although it will depend on the tyre. We need to work on grip; this will be very important at Donington. Last year I qualified well but wasn't able to keep the pace throughout the race. This year I am going to need a lot of energy to push as hard as possible and hopefully have a good race. I really want to go into the summer break feeling confident and with some good things to think about."


The peculiarities of Donington are well known to the experienced Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team, as the Team Director Davide Brivio explains. "Donington is the last race before the summer break so it is obviously important to leave that race still leading the championship. The competition is becoming harder and harder now Max Biaggi is in good shape and I'm sure he will put in all his efforts to get to the top as well. Donington should not be a bad circuit for us. Valentino likes the track and Carlos has been in the top positions there as well. Both riders can be good there, and we have shown we have the potential to fight with the leaders. We got good information from Sachsenring but Donington is a bit different. It has longer corners, faster corners for the most part; the only similarity is the uphill and downhill nature of the track. Then there is the 'car park' slow section to finish each lap. We are going with the target to maintain the lead of the championship, and extend it as much as possible."


Donington, somewhat like the previous circuit at Sachsenring, is a track of two halves. One section is slow and less interesting for the riders and spectators alike, the other is faster and more flowing. Machine set-up is also therefore something of a compromise, with strong front fork springs and sharp steering the ideal solutions for hard braking and swift flick-in at the chicane and last two hairpins, while the rest of the undulating fast and medium corners require suppleness from the front suspension and a high degree of stability mid corner, and a firmer set-up on the rear to help with corner exit traction.

Horsepower is less of a factor at Donington than most circuits this year, but clean engine response and exact gearing choices are essential to handle such a variety of corners, as the track runs downhill from the start to the Old Hairpin, then back uphill to the flat section behind the pits.

Working conditions at the ageing Donington track are far from ideal but the track layout is the type that provokes either love or hate, such is its individuality. The prevalent off camber nature of Donington is one of the main factors at play during any British GP weekend, with a large tendency for the front tyre to push, making the right, left, right flick down the Craner Curve section something of a high tension rollercoaster ride. A dramatic viewing experience, Donington sits inside an amphitheatre style setting, with the spectator bankings ringing around the outside.


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Valentino Rossi , Davide Brivio