A day of stops and starts for Fortuna Yamaha. The Fortuna Yamaha Team looked set for a strong result in the French Grand Prix after MotoGP rookie Marco Melandri yesterday qualified on the front row for the 28-lap race, with team-mate Carlos...
A day of stops and starts for Fortuna Yamaha.
The Fortuna Yamaha Team looked set for a strong result in the French Grand Prix after MotoGP rookie Marco Melandri yesterday qualified on the front row for the 28-lap race, with team-mate Carlos Checa in a solid sixth. Although both riders initially began the Le Mans main event in fine form a number of unexpected factors, including a race restart and a high-speed crash, eventually contributed to a disappointing result for the factory team.
Melandri, in only his second race this season, produced a lightning start to be well in the top five at the end of the opening lap. The 20-year-old Italian then showed form that belied his limited four-stroke experience, slipping past Yamaha wild card entry Norick Abe to take fourth position. He then continued with this impressive momentum to outride fellow Italian Loris Capirossi (Ducati) on lap three, to take third - behind race leader Alex Barros (Gauloises Yamaha Team) and Valentino Rossi (Honda).
By lap six, however, rear traction concerns saw the 250cc World Champion slip back through to eighth before the race was red flagged due to rain on lap 16. With the introduction of the new race restart, which only takes into consideration the rider position on the track at the time of the red flag and not the time advantage, Melandri restarted an unpredictable wet race from eighth on the grid with full-wet front and an intermediate rear. The combination proved incorrect for the slowly drying track conditions and Marco ended the French Grand Prix in 15th place.
Aggressively taking control of both race starts, Barros finally succumbed to the pressure of Rossi and race winner Sete Gibernau (Honda) - the trio in a class of their own today. Meanwhile hometown hero Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Team) made up for his poor qualifying performance to finish fourth.
"At the beginning of the first half of the race I had a good feeling with the bike but later I started to have some problems with the rear," said Melandri. " I felt a little bit nervous because the bike felt a bit strange. In the second half of the race the track was quite wet and we used an intermediate rear, which was maybe a bit of a gamble. The front straight was dry but other parts of the track were quite wet. I felt fine physically overall but my fingers got a bit tired from using the front brake. I'm quite pleased with the way the weekend turned out but would have liked to have done better today. That's the gamble you have to make with tyres in wet races. I'm looking forward to Mugello as it's my home Grand Prix and I want to do well in front of my fans there."
For Carlos Checa it was another disappointing weekend when - after a sturdy start that placed him seventh on the opening lap - the Spaniard highsided his YZR-M1 exiting the first hairpin on lap two. In an attempt to save himself from the fall Checa was flung over the 'bars and his left hand caught under the bike - resulting in a badly grazed thumb. Although unsure of exactly why his race ended in this fashion Checa felt that he may have hit a wet patch, which could have contributed to the fall.
"I lost the rear and just couldn't keep control of the bike," said the disappointed Spaniard. "I'm really not sure if I touched a wet patch or not, but I got on the gas and then I lost control. Gibernau had just passed me and I was next to Biaggi, we were in a very close group and on the exit of the corner I kept the inside line and at that moment the bike just stood up and threw me off. I had followed that same line on the previous lap so I don't know why it happened. It's one of those falls where it's impossible to say why.
"I went to the Clinica Mobile because my hand was under the bike when I slid off and I have grazed my thumb quite badly. They have cleaned it up and covered it - apparently it will take a few days to heal properly.
Team Director Davide Brivio had a philosophical approach to the day's events, "It was a real shame that Marco couldn't keep the pace he deserved today but we chose an intermediate rear for him and it didn't pay off this time. He has performed brilliantly this weekend and I would like to congratulate him on his recovery since Suzuka. He is sure to put up a good fight for the next race in Mugello and we look forward to seeing what he can do there.
"I'm really disappointed for Carlos and his team because they have worked very hard this weekend to find the right set-up and they've not had much luck so far this season. We're not sure what caused his fall but we think it could have been a wet patch on the track. We will analyse the lap data and try to find out. Anyway the main thing is that he is not hurt, except for some skin damage on his hand, which should heal fairly quickly."
<pre> RESULTS 1. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar HONDA 24'29.665 2. Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol HONDA +0.165 3. Alex Barros BRA Gauloises YAMAHA Team +1.793 4. Olivier Jacque FRA Gauloises YAMAHA Team +29.912 5. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Pons HONDA +31.493 6. Jeremy McWilliams GBR PROTON Team KR +33.946 7. Tohru Ukawa JPN Camel Pramac Pons HONDA +35.447 8. Noriyuki Haga JPN Alice APRILIA Racing +36.231 9. Garry McCoy AUS KAWASAKI Racing Team +51.254 10. Colin Edwards USA Alice APRILIA Racing +1'01.802
15. MARCO MELANDRI ITA Fortuna YAMAHA Team +2 laps DNF - CARLOS CHECA SPA Fortuna YAMAHA Team
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 1. Valentino Rossi 90 2. Max Biaggi 67 3. Sete Gibernau 63 4. Alex Barros 46 5. Troy Bayliss 40 6. Tohru Ukawa 32 7. Olivier Jacque 26 8. Nicky Hayden 22 9. Shinya Nakano 22 10. Colin Edwards 18
16. CARLOS CHECA 13 23. MARCO MELANDRI 1