Fortuna Yamaha Team Japanese GP race report

Checa disappointed in tenth with Abe one place behind. Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa made a disappointing start to his 2003 MotoGP World Championship campaign today at Suzuka in Japan. The Spaniard took the holeshot from the fourth...

Checa disappointed in tenth with Abe one place behind.

Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa made a disappointing start to his 2003 MotoGP World Championship campaign today at Suzuka in Japan. The Spaniard took the holeshot from the fourth place on the starting grid on his Yamaha YZR-M1 but gradually slipped back to 10th at the flag. The race was won easily by reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda) who finished six seconds ahead of his fellow Italian and arch rival, Max Biaggi (Honda). Third place went to Loris Capirossi who made an impressive debut for new arrivals Ducati in the MotoGP class. The race was marred by an accident in which Japanese rider Daijiro Kato suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to hospital.

"I didn't have a good feeling today with the bike," explained a disappointed Checa. "I got away well but I just didn't feel comfortable and couldn't push. I know that I am capable of doing better lap times than that here and I am very disappointed with this result."

Team replacement rider Norick Abe finished just behind Checa on the Yamaha prototype YZR-M1 machine. The official factory Yamaha test rider gave up his wildcard entry yesterday to become the replacement rider for Melandri this weekend.

"Today I made a good start and got up to about eighth at the end of the first lap," explained Abe. "At that point I thought I could have a good race but then I developed some problems with rear tyre grip and was sliding more with each lap and my lap times got worse. We had changed the set-up this morning but it didn't really work as well as I hoped."

Abe and Checa are due to test at Suzuka tomorrow and Tuesday with Yamaha test rider Wataru Yoshikawa. Brazilian Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Alex Barros, who finished a brave eighth today after hurting his knee in a morning warm-up fall, will no longer test but use the time to rest his knee. The test was scheduled in advance of this weekend, but it is likely that the Fortuna Yamaha Team will be forced to nominate a test rider for the South African Grand Prix, that takes place at Welkom on 27th April, after the two days.

"Our own problems seem pretty small when compared to what happened to Daijiro Kato" reflected Fortuna Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio. "I am not aware of the extent of his injuries, but our thoughts and prayers are with him, his team and family. This has not been a good weekend for injuries but it would be too easy to criticise anybody now until we have looked back at all the evidence over the weekend.

"For our team it was certainly not a good start to the Championship. Marco's injury on Friday was a huge blow and I just hope that he recovers quickly. We will give him all the time he needs to get fully better so that he comes back strongly.

"As a team we set ourselves very high standards and I was certainly expecting a better result today after all the work we've done last year and during the winter. It has been a very disappointing day and we need to sit down together and analyse what happened and make sure we come back much stronger in South Africa."

Fortuna Yamaha Team new-boy Marco Melandri was unable to make his MotoGP debut following a high-speed fall in the opening practice session of the weekend. The 20-year-old 2002 250cc World Champion suffered a double fracture of his ankle and a small chipped fracture of the femur in a high-speed crash during yesterday's opening practice session. After one night in a local hospital Melandri returned to the circuit yesterday and spent the night in the team hotel. Speaking from the circuit medical centre while watching an enthralling 250cc race, the young Italian said: "I slept well last night and feel much better now. My body feels OK now and the haematoma on my thigh is going down. I'll travel back to Italy tomorrow morning with the Clinica Mobile staff and check out what course of action we need to take with my ankle when we are back in Italy.

"I've been very happy to receive so many e-mail messages," he continued, referring to the hundreds of e-mails that have arrived from all over the world to the marco@yamahamotogp.com e-mail address set up by the team yesterday. "It is really nice to get them and I shall try to be back in action as soon as possible for all those people who have written!"

-fyt-

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Norifumi Abe , Marco Melandri , Davide Brivio , Wataru Yoshikawa