Fortuna Yamaha Team French GP preview

FORTUNA YAMAHA TEAM HOPE FOR NEW START IN FRANCE This weekend the Fortuna Yamaha Team heads to Le Mans in France for the second European round of the 2003 MotoGP World Championship. The French circuit has been the scene of great success for ...


This weekend the Fortuna Yamaha Team heads to Le Mans in France for the second European round of the 2003 MotoGP World Championship. The French circuit has been the scene of great success for Yamaha in the past, and the Fortuna Yamaha Team is hoping to continue that success this weekend.

The Le Mans circuit is one of the most important and historic racing venues in the world, and Fortuna Yamaha riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri will be using every effort to make history themselves with their Yamaha YZR-M1 machines, especially since both riders have had difficult starts to their 2003 seasons.

The Fortuna Yamaha Team and the MotoGP paddock will then move on to the Italian Grand Prix in the scenic Tuscan circuit of Mugello on June 8.


The Fortuna Yamaha Team heads to Le Mans this week after its two day test in Mugello last week. During the test the team continued the good form that was evident in Jerez two weeks ago but sadly not able to be exploited in the race itself. The unlucky electrical problem that forced Carlos Checa out of the race, and the nagging back pain that forced convalescing rider Marco Melandri to slow his pace, are obstacles that the Fortuna Yamaha Team hopes to leave behind.

Fortuna Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio is intent on helping his riders to achieve the results he feels they and the team deserve this weekend in Le Mans, "Poor Carlos was unlucky in Jerez because we had an electrical problem that stopped him having a good race," said Brivio. "It's a shame that we couldn't show our progress properly. Carlos was in a good position and doing good lap times when the problem occurred. We worked well with him during the weekend - he was in the top group of riders and had the full possibility to keep up with them in the race. We will keep using all our energy and effort to help him in Le Mans."

Brivio is pleased that both riders had the opportunity to test in Mugello last week, "We made some improvements for Carlos as well during last week's test. We are again evaluating the new chassis that he first tested in Suzuka and then in Mugello for the second time last week. We are seriously considering using that chassis in Le Mans - we will analyse the data and see what the results suggest.

"Marco was finally able to race for the first time this year in Jerez. On top of his leg injuries he had the added problem of his back pain but he should feel better each time he goes out on the bike. The first part of his race in Jerez was good and he was up with the top riders. We look forward to seeing how he gets on in Le Mans. I think that both of our riders have had an unlucky start to this season and I just hope that things change now and get better and better. We have every reason to remain positive and keep working hard."


Due to the stop and go nature of the Le Mans circuit, engineers will dial the YZR-M1 as they did in Jerez for the previous round, so that it sports a firm front-end to deal with the aggressive weight transfer that will take place entering the circuit's many tight hairpins. At the same time, however, the forks need to possess the ability to soak up any bumps that may litter the entrance to each of these turns.

To achieve this the spring rates and compression damping will be set slightly firmer than for Jerez, even though the bumps into the turns are not as drastic, but the braking forces are. Meanwhile the fork rebound will be dialed in to offer a more controlled return to full length. This will be done in an effort to offer stability as the rider makes the somewhat aggressive, almost 'light switch' like transition from the brakes to the throttle.

Since 2002 Yamaha engineers have further refined the braking stability of the YZR-M1 with each evolution of the Deltabox chassis, in addition to the improved engine braking system. This effort should pay dividends at the French circuit. To ensure the best possible chance of success Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri focused their efforts during the two-day Mugello test in extensive Michelin tyre tests and fine-tuning the chassis balance of the four-stroke.

Checa also used the opportunity to sample the new Deltabox chassis, first tested in Suzuka following the opening round of the championship. The unit appeared to offer some benefits over the current frame used in Jerez - the Fortuna Yamaha Team are analysing the data and it seems likely that Checa will use the new package in Le Mans.

In addition to the heavy fork springs and compression damping the M1's attitude will be set to ensure stability with the rear under brakes. This is achieved with a lower rear ride-height, lowering the centre of gravity, in turn helping to prevent the rear tyre from rising off the track's surface while braking. In doing so drive must not be compromised too extensively; but with the rear ride-height reduced for stability the ability to hold the line while exiting a corner will be reduced. Therefore a softer rear spring rate will feature on the M1 for good predictable feedback, but it will be dialed in with a high degree of preload to prevent the rear-end from squatting under power as the weight transfers to the back of the bike.


Carlos Checa had a disappointing home Grand Prix in Jerez, Spain two weeks ago as he was forced to pull out of the race due to electrical problems with his Yamaha YZR-M1. The popular Spaniard had had a good weekend and was riding in sixth position in the tight race when the problem happened. Checa currently lies twelfth in the championship standings but feels that he is on the way to turning his fortune around.

"I feel positive about Le Mans as my form improved during the Jerez Grand Prix and at our test last week in Mugello", said Checa. " I had a good position at the beginning of the race in Jerez and it's just a shame what happened. We had a glitch that we had never had before and I had no control - it was very frustrating for me and for the team. Yamaha have worked so hard and so it's a shame that we did not find the level we had in Jerez during the winter testing. Anyway I believe we have both the capability, hard work and determination to continue that level now, I think we can do well in Le Mans."

Checa went straight on after the Spanish Grand Prix to test with his team at the Italian circuit of Mugello last week. Checa displayed fine form during the test, beating the circuit lap record and testing new tyres for Michelin as well as the new generation M1 chassis, which he had briefly tested before in Suzuka. Unfortunately the Catalan-born rider had a few spills during the two days and although disappointed because of that, still felt that the test showed what he can be capable of at the French Grand Prix next weekend, "Le Mans is a good track for us and I think that we are ready to fight for the top positions", said the optimistic Checa. "I don't think that we will have any big problems there. I hope that they will have done something to change the gravelly chicane since last year - I think it would be good to have something other than gravel there."

Checa has good reason to be concerned about the gravel since he fell in last year's French Grand Prix on gravel that had been scattered onto the Chemin aux Boeufs chicane by another rider's off-track excursion, and did not finish the race. This was a bitter disappointment after starting from second place on the grid and having ridden well all weekend.


It has been a hard month for Italian youngster Marco Melandri, and probably the toughest start to any season he has known in his relatively short career. The 20-year-old 250cc World Champion has been desperate to recover from multiple leg injuries since crashing out of the first morning practice session at the Japanese Grand Prix over six weeks ago.

Forced to sit out of both the Suzuka and Welkom Grands Prix, Melandri made his comeback at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez two weeks ago. Since his accident in Japan he received extensive physiotherapy near his home town in Italy, and was given the 'all-clear' to return to the action in Jerez. It is no wonder the Ravenna-born racer has the nickname 'Macio' as this was just one month since fracturing his ankle in two places and chipping his femur.

Despite back pain, which was no doubt caused by the Italian adapting his movement to cope with his leg injuries, Melandri rode consistently during the Jerez weekend. By race day he was determined to fight hard in the fray, and impressively battled his way up to ninth position before his aching back led him to run off the track and then slow down. Melandri finally finished the race in sixteenth position, and as yet does not have any points in the World Championship. He is however relieved to have completed his first race of the season, and is revved up for this weekend's French Grand Prix.

"I like Le Mans, I finished second there last year, and third the year before," noted Melandri. "Last year I was injured there on the Saturday and I had some problems during the race but I still managed to finish in second position. This will be my first time there on the M1, and I remember well that Yamaha are always very competitive there. It's not so much of a technical track, it's one corner then a straight, one corner then another straight, and on like that. Any racing circuit is never simple but I think that it won't be too difficult to learn this circuit quickly on the M1."

Melandri went directly from the previous Grand Prix in Jerez, Spain to a two day test at one of his home local circuits in Mugello, Italy. The Fortuna Yamaha Team spent the two days working hard on set-up and it was an ideal opportunity for Melandri to continue his recouperation and test his riding ability again. Melandri had visited his local doctor before testing for a general check-up and was advised that the best training he could do was to get back on his bike.

"I went for an ultrasound on my back with my local doctor before the Mugello test," explained Melandri. "The problems I had in Jerez ironically involved a bone in my back, not in my leg where I was injured. My back had not properly straightened since Suzuka, and after one month this took its toll on the muscles and ligaments. My back felt so much better at the Mugello test last week, just a bit stiff."


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Series MotoGP
Drivers Carlos Checa , Marco Melandri , Davide Brivio