Catalunya GP: Gauloises Yamaha preview

GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM TAKES GOOD FORM ON TO CATALUNYA The MotoGP World Championship returns to Spain for the second time this season as the Gauloises Yamaha Team look to continue their excellent progress in the sixth round of the campaign at the...

GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM TAKES GOOD FORM ON TO CATALUNYA

The MotoGP World Championship returns to Spain for the second time this season as the Gauloises Yamaha Team look to continue their excellent progress in the sixth round of the campaign at the Catalunya Grand Prix near Barcelona this weekend. Valentino Rossi's victory in last Sunday's epic battle at his home Grand Prix in Italy was his fourth win from five races so far this year, including his first visit to the Iberian peninsular at Jerez in the opening round of the championship.

That stunning victory at Mugello, Rossi's fourth in a row at the Tuscan track, has extended his series lead to 49 points and he now heads to Barcelona looking to equal Wayne Rainey's run of nine consecutive podium finishes for Yamaha at the end of the 1992 and start of the 1993 seasons. Meanwhile, Rossi's Gauloises Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards could not wish for a better opportunity to put the memories of a tough weekend behind him as he looks to bounce back from a disappointing ninth place finish at the Mugello circuit.

Recent steps forward with the base set-up of the Yamaha YZR-M1, confirmed by Rossi's stunning performance at the fast and flowing Mugello circuit, should give both riders the ideal starting point as they look to make swift adjustments to suit Catalunya. Like Mugello, the Montmelo track features one of the longest straights on the calendar and a series of fast corners that reward a smooth and precise riding style.

The latest engine updates to the YZR-M1 should also improve its performance at Catalunya, with Yamaha's engineers having worked around the clock for the past three weeks to ensure that new parts are available to Rossi and Edwards ahead of schedule. For Rossi, the sixth round of the season takes on an added significance as he looks to make his best start to a MotoGP campaign since 2002, when he won eight of the opening nine rounds.

VALENTINO ROSSI: ON RIVAL TERRITORY

After his all-Italian battle with Max Biaggi, Marco Melandri and Loris Capirossi on Sunday, Valentino Rossi is expecting the re-emergence of a familiar rival this weekend as Sete Gibernau, his closest challenger for the MotoGP World Championship title over the past two seasons, aims for his own taste of home success.

"For sure Sete will be going for it at Barcelona so I will have to maintain my full focus throughout the weekend," predicted Rossi. "Last year was a really hard race at the top level, and we went at a very hard pace - Sete and I were more than ten seconds ahead of the others. At one point Sete was able to get away but then he started to spin and slide so I was able to get in front again.

"He is not my main rival in the championship at the moment because Melandri and Biaggi are closer but he will be very dangerous at his home circuit. Whoever is at the front, I hope I can be there and provide another great show."

Rossi also believes that the recent developments with the Yamaha YZR-M1 will again prove to be important at the Spanish circuit, where he has celebrated victory on six previous occasions in the 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP classes.

"Mugello was a double satisfaction because as well as taking the win I also had the M1 I have been looking forward to for this season," he explained. "It is agile, fast through the corners and very stable. The engine is getter stronger all the time and the corner exit has improved -- something we were able to confirm particularly in the final corner at the Mugello track. Hopefully the base set-up we have found will work at Catalunya too."

COLIN EDWARDS: MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME

Colin Edwards has made the most of a 20-hour boat trip across the Mediterranean from Genoa to Barcelona to gather his thoughts and analyse his performance in Mugello. The American was disappointed with ninth place after struggling to move forward from an impressive start to the weekend in Friday's first free practice. Luckily for him, he only has to wait seven days to put things right ahead of an important spell of summer races.

"I'm travelling to Barcelona in the motorhome with the family and I'm using this time to chill out and clear my head, leave this weekend behind and concentrate on getting it together for Barcelona because I know we can do better," explained the 31-year-old.

"I'm ready to move on and put the Italian result behind me, I hope that we've learned a lesson from it and now we can just concentrate on making some big steps forward next weekend. We won't be trying the setting we used in Mugello, we'll be going back to something that we've proved works for us and using that at a base setting. This means we've gone in a big circle and basically wasted a weekend, but that's racing for you!

"I'm glad at least that I've got three races coming up that I really like. Barcelona, Assen and of course Laguna are tracks that I've always felt comfortable racing at and this makes me feel a bit more positive. I need some encouragement after Mugello."

DAVIDE BRIVIO: DEVELOPMENT SO CRUCIAL

Gauloises Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio reflected on Sunday's victory in the Italian Grand Prix with particular satisfaction after witnessing confirmation of the recent steps forward taken with the YZR-M1. Following on from a day of tests designed at adapting the machine to the demands of fast circuits after it excelled at the tight and twisty Le Mans and Shanghai venues, Rossi's Mugello performance demonstrated that the team are ideally positioned for further success in the upcoming races at Catalunya and Assen.

In fact, Brivio is already looking forward to the next step forward, with Yamaha's engineers having worked tirelessly to provide key engine updates aimed at improving the top speed capabilities of the bike.

"We already tried the new specification engine on Saturday at Mugello but we decided that we didn't have enough time to set it up for the race," explained Brivio. "Our original plan was to test this engine at Catalunya after the Grand Prix, so that shows you how hard the engineers have worked to bring it forward so quickly for the two long straights at Mugello and Catalunya.

"Development is continuing on the engine at the moment and we are gathering a lot of information to improve the top speed of the bike. Hopefully we will be able to use the new engine in Barcelona but we won't know to what extent until we get there.

"In any case, the development we have made since the start of the season is very positive and, particularly after the test at Le Mans, allowed Valentino to raise his performance at Mugello so we are very happy. Now we want to keep progressing like this and give him the conditions to win at each of the remaining twelve rounds!"

Brivio is also confident the steps forward with the machine can help Colin Edwards rediscover podium form after a difficult weekend in Italy, underlining his confidence in the American rider. "Colin started off well but things seemed to get more difficult as the weekend went on. I think he also struggled at Mugello in 2004 so hopefully it is just a temporary blip at that circuit. He had a base setting that clearly didn't work but we are confident we can take the right steps to get him back to the front at Barcelona. We know he has the ability."

BLAST FROM THE PAST: CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF YAMAHA GLORY

Whilst the ultra-modern Circuit de Catalunya has only hosted MotoGP racing since its inauguration in the city's Olympic year of 1992, Barcelona has a long history of World Championship road racing that began in the 1950s around the magical mountain of Montjuic. The final chapter of the legendary event was proudly written by Yamaha in 1972, when Charles Mortimer took victory in the 500cc Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Dave Simmonds and Jack Findlay riding a specially adapted TZ350, which featured bored cylinders that made it eligible for the premier-class race.

"Montjuic was a twisty old track and we decided to enter with the TZ350 because it handled so well," explains Mortimer, who also entered the 500cc East German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring that season and finished fifth. "Yamaha supplied us with 354cc cylinders so that we could make the minimum capacity but the engine seized in practice and we had to run with a 354 cylinder on one side and a 350 on the other, so we only just made the cut!

"Anyway, the plan worked perfectly and I remember the race well. Dave Simmonds led for almost the whole way on the 500cc Kawasaki but it was so tough to drag such a heavy bike around Montjuic that he started to get tired. I was able to pass him in the later stages of the race and I will never forget the feeling of crossing the line as a 500cc winner."

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING

The Circuit de Catalunya offers a main straight capable of encouraging speeds exceeding 335kmh, and is completed by a sequence of long radius, medium/high speed sweepers and two tight left-hand hairpins. But the combination of long radius corners riddled with a variety of cambers makes it demanding on chassis balance. For this reason the 4727m circuit is always a feature on the pre-season IRTA test calendar, and is often considered to be the true indicator of a bike's full potential.

Due to the long-radius sweepers front-end feel is a key concern for every rider, but it must be found without sacrificing the overall balance of the machine, as too much time is spent feathering the power through the sides of the tyres before punching out of the turn and onto the next straight. Considered a strength of the M1, the Yamaha engineers will make little modification to the base geometry when compared with what is used in Mugello, although the geometry will be fettled for a little extra front-end bias.

Most of this will be achieved, however, not through chassis modifications, but rather straightforward suspension preload and damping adjustments. With the high amount of time spent at full lean slightly lighter spring weights will be used, when compared with Mugello. This will ensure the Ohlins forks are still able to absorb the bumps effectively in the turns, while the preload will be wound on to compensate for any resulting G-force, or the effects caused by the heavy braking at the end of the main straight.

The damping will then support this set-up -- slightly softer on the compression and rebound -- the rear spring preload, however, will be very similar to that used in the previous round. This will prevent the bike from squatting, and then running wide under power -- especially at the long right-hand run onto the front straight which determines the eventual top speed and slipstream potential.

The nature of the circuit ensures tyre life often comes up in many pit box discussions between riders and crew chiefs and this will only be amplified if the Spanish weather provides its anticipated high temperatures. Meanwhile engine performance will be an area of high importance and, though the M1 has made progress in this area since the Le Mans test, high speeds expected at the end of the long straight will still prove challenging.

-gyt-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Valentino Rossi , Colin Edwards , Sete Gibernau , Wayne Rainey , Marco Melandri , Davide Brivio