MotoGP reawakens for Czech challenge Fortuna Yamaha Team men Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri will be heading to this weekend's Galoises Grand Prix of the Czech Republic looking for strong performances. Brno was the track where Yamaha's YZR-M1 ...
MotoGP reawakens for Czech challenge
Fortuna Yamaha Team men Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri will be heading to this weekend's Galoises Grand Prix of the Czech Republic looking for strong performances. Brno was the track where Yamaha's YZR-M1 four-stroke machine collected its maiden victory last year in the hands of Max Biaggi. Following a string of improved performances in qualifying and races, the current pair of Yamaha riders in the factory-owned squad will arrive in Brno aiming to emulate that feat after a tough start to the year. The whole Fortuna Yamaha Team arrives refreshed from a two-and-a-half week Summer break from Championship action after a grueling, almost non-stop timetable since pre-season testing began back in January.
The Brno circuit challenges a rider to the maximum of his faculties. Its extensive turns, up- and downhill sections and adverse-camber esses demand the utmost riding skill. And, with a good "old-fashioned" layout (in the best sense of the term) it is all tackled at high-speeds with very few slow corners. The circuit is well suited to the powerful 990cc four-stroke bikes that make up the 24-rider MotoGP grid. The wide and smooth track leaves a variety of lines open to riders and that generally assures some exciting racing. With temperatures in Europe currently reaching record highs, the Fortuna Yamaha Team can expect a hot weekend!
"We had a great result at Brno last year and I would like to think we can do it again," comments Team Director Davide Brivio. "Marco has been riding very well and was on course for an excellent finish at the Sachsenring so I really hope he can claim his reward, and a late birthday present, this weekend. He has impressed me with the progress he's been making and the effort he is putting in and it would be great for him and the team if he can make it onto the podium.
"Carlos, I know, will arrive in Brno aiming for a podium at the very least. He has had a frustrating season and we had really hoped to build from a couple of good results in Catalunya and Assen. He has been consistent at the last couple of races, but I know he wants more than that. If we can give him a bike with which he feels comfortable all weekend I know he likes the track and I know he can build to a good result on Sunday.
"The break has been slightly shorter than in the last few years, but I think it was welcome anyway for the team. The riders have a slightly different outlook and they just want to get on and ride, but it's important to have a short break. We're expecting very hot weather in the Czech Republic this weekend so we know it will be hard work for us on and off the track."
DETERMINED CHECA AT "HOME" AGAIN!
Going to Brno always produces a smile on Carlos Checa's face for a couple of reasons. In Spanish the Czech Republic is "Republica Checa" so it is a regular joke that it's yet another "home" race for the British-resident Spaniard who can already count Jerez, Barcelona, Donington and Valencia as "home". Add to that the fact that he enjoys the fast sweeping nature of the track and that it was the scene of an early test of the new M1 during the 2001 season when Checa's reported lap times announced that the four-strokes were coming and they were going to be fast! This year Checa is wearing a smile of grim determination as he aims to put himself and his Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1 back where he belongs in the top group of MotoGP riders.
Since his fourth place at the Catalunya Grand Prix in June, 30-year-old Checa had been making steady progress up the World Championship standings until a disappointing eighth place finish at the German GP stalled him in the seventh spot. He is still the leading Yamaha rider, but that fact will not be of interest to the determined Spaniard who will be looking for a podium finish on Sunday.
"We took a risk in Germany and it didn't pay off," explains Checa. "We made too many changes during the weekend and the reality is that when we came to the race we just weren't ready and that's why I couldn't do any better. For Brno we just have to make sure that we stay totally focused and keep it very simple. It might mean that in the end we have some limitations with the bike, but so be it. The best thing is to work with what we have and build up steadily to Sunday rather than trying too many different things to try and make the bike perfect.
"I've had a good break in the mountains where I've been cycling, trekking and climbing so I'm feeling refreshed and confident. I hope we'll be able to surprise a few people at Brno. I'm under no illusion that it will be easy, however. The Hondas and Ducatis were fast when we tested at Brno last month. And I'm still suffering from the same problem of not being able to flick the bike in as I want or open the throttle. But if we can find front traction and find a bit of the feeling I have had before at Brno with the M1 then we can get a good result."
MELANDRI AIMS TO "COME OF AGE" ON THE M1
In Great Britain, where Marco Melandri is also resident, 21st birthdays are still widely celebrated as "the coming of age". Melandri celebrated his 21st birthday in style on Thursday, 7th August but will be aiming to come of age this Sunday on his four-stroke YZR-M1. The reigning 250cc World Champion has been threatening to hit the front of the MotoGP elite for the past couple of races. At the British Grand Prix he qualified on the front row and was running up in fourth place when he crashed out. Two weeks later in Germany Melandri climbed to third place after a superb start before eventually falling from fourth due to a gearbox problem with only six laps to go.
The Ravenna-born Italian can't wait to be back in action after a couple of weeks off and a birthday party with 500 of his "closest friends". The spectacular party, organized by his fan club, took place at the Mirabilandia Beach, an amusement and water park in Ravenna. The guest list was actually made up of members of the club, sponsors, journalists and, of course, his many friends. After pretending to have driven a stunt-car in a show for the guests (luckily it was actually piloted by a professional), Marco hit the decks as DJ while everyone made use of the artificial beach, pool and slides.
However, despite having enjoyed his birthday, the winner of last year's 250cc Czech GP admitted that his mind had never been off Brno. "To be honest I think the shorter the summer break the better," he explains. "I think my performances and the bike have been improving race by race and I don't want to break the momentum. I have been totally focused on Brno since the German race and I haven't stopped working during the break - well, apart from the night of my birthday when I did have some fun!
"In Donington I made a mistake when I fell from a good position. Now that I am 21 I hope I'll also be more mature and won't make any more mistakes! We've tested with the M1 at Brno which is good. It's a good track that I like and you can really push there. You need to ride with a nice fluid style and I can't wait to see if I can improve my performance again. I'm feeling physically very good and I have a lot of confidence so let's see what the race brings."
Visually Brno appears challenging with many long radius medium-speed turns and medium-length straights, but it's this very feature, this repetitive layout, which lends the Brno Automotodrom to being one of the easiest circuits, technically speaking, on the 16 round MotoGP calendar. Combined with the wide, smooth, track surface, it's a venue which also allows a wide variety of competitive racing lines. The circuit has some big elevation changes as it winds its way around a forested hillside and this does create some steep and negative cambers. The Brno tarmac also offers a surprising amount of grip, without the reputation for tearing up tyres.
Due its nature Brno is not overly demanding on any specific area of chassis set-up, other than the need to concentrate on the overall balance. The main target is a good, stable, turn-in character and a set-up that offers easy changes in direction; supported by a high level of feel from both the front and rear. To do this Yamaha engineers will ensure that the weight bias is as neutral as possible to prevent overloading the front Michelin in the midpoint of the turn while also ensuring good drive off the sides of the rear. This will build the rider's confidence therefore encouraging him to keep a high rolling speed - the key area in making up time at this particular venue. And since the track surface is relatively smooth and the top speeds only just nudge 300kmh, straight-line stability can be sacrificed to some degree in order to support this.
The M1 will run a slightly lower center of gravity in an effort to improve the rate of pitching and the bike's ability to change direction quickly. It will also reduce the risk of the front folding under the rider while entering the downhill sweepers - caused when excess weight transfers onto the front tyre under deceleration, in turn causing the front to understeer.
With no real specific hard braking anywhere on the five kilometer layout, fork springs will be chosen to maximise rider feedback, although biased slightly towards the softer side. It will also be a similar case on the rear with the monoshock's spring rate. This is possible due to the circuit's design, which allows the rider to keep up his corner speed, and is therefore unlikely to load the rear shock under power to the same extent as riding the stop-and-go Le Mans layout.
The long radius corners, and consistent, progressive, throttle action needed to ride them quickly has proven a much simpler task on the four-strokes, which is why the race times have dropped so dramatically since the introduction of the new MotoGP regulations last year. Although power is always a must have, throttle connection and a linear power delivery play a prime part in any successful Brno story.