In perfectly sunny conditions at today's Portuguese Grand Prix, Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa put in solid performances to finish seventh and eighth respectively. Melandri rode his strongest race of the season so far...
In perfectly sunny conditions at today's Portuguese Grand Prix, Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa put in solid performances to finish seventh and eighth respectively. Melandri rode his strongest race of the season so far at the Estoril circuit, achieving consistently fast laps while battling for his best finish of the season to seventh place. Team-mate Checa had a difficult race, despite having a rather positive weekend overall and a reasonable qualifying, eventually ending the contest in eighth. In another far from dull battle for the MotoGP podium finish, Valentino Rossi dominated the second half of the 28-lap race. The reigning MotoGP World Champion once again emerged as victor with a time of 46'48.005, and has increased his championship lead to 46 points.
Fortuna Yamaha rider Marco Melandri's season took another decided turn for the better as he produced consistently high lap times including some '39s during the Estoril onslaught. The Italian rider claimed to have a tricky start but quickly passed several riders by the third lap. He then entered an impressive lap-by-lap battle for sixth position with Honda rider Tohru Ukawa and Ducati's Troy Bayliss, eventually ending the contest seventh and gaining a well-earned nine championship points. The MotoGP rookie has progressed impressively in his first season riding the Yamaha YZR-M1, and despite missing the first two races of the season due to injuries sustained in the first round of the year, the MotoGP rookie now lies fifteenth in the championship standings.
"I am quite happy," said the twenty-one-year-old. "The bike went very well and I could keep a good pace with my average lap time in the '40s, and even a few '39s. At the same time I am a bit angry because I had some problems with my right arm and I couldn't brake properly on the esses. I know why and it won't happen again. It was a very nice race though, and I had fun.
"I knew yesterday that I would do better in the race than I have done all weekend because in this morning's warm-up we improved the problem I had cornering in the last sections of the track. We made some adjustments to the set-up and they worked - and I could suddenly complete the last section properly. I had a good rhythm throughout the race, and I'm optimistic that I can make even more progress for the next races. I am also happy to be the fastest Yamaha today!"
Having started from pole to finish second here last year, as well as putting in consistently fast lap times in both of this weekend's qualifiers, Carlos Checa ended his weekend in Estoril today disappointed with his eighth-place finish. The Spanish rider is fond of the Portuguese circuit and was confident that today's race could have been his first podium of the season but it was not to be. Starting from sixth on the grid, Checa had a difficult start and stayed for the first part of the race in the ninth spot, finally improving his lap times and overtaking fellow Yamaha rider Alex Barros before the chequered flag. The Fortuna Yamaha Team rider explained that he had experienced problems in the earlier stages of the race due to the weight of his fuel tank, which diminished later on.
"I had some problems at the beginning, braking with a full tank of gas", said Checa. "During the first ten laps there was too much pitching, and I think if it hadn't been for that I could have finished in the first five. My crew did change my suspension slightly during the weekend but unfortunately it didn't pay off today. We have discussed the race and agree that we need to alter the geometry again, and have a clear direction of where we need to go now. We tested some different tyres yesterday but it was too risky to try them out today. We know the base of the problem, and we're all working hard in the same direction to sort it out."
The director of the Fortuna Yamaha Team, Davide Brivio, was pleased with the impressive performance of the team's protegee Melandri but realises that both riders and the team still have a way to go, "It was a very good day for Marco," said Brivio. "Of course it could have been even better if he hadn't got some pain in his arm. Seventh position is a good result and his best so far, as well as the best of the Yamahas. I hope this helps to give him even more confidence. We still have more races to go and I expect a good end of season for him.
"Carlos showed at the end that he could have had a bit more pace. This certainly wasn't the result we expected for him. At the beginning of the race when he had a full tank he said he found it difficult to go fast but towards the end he could. His result is quite disappointing and we'll have to look into that problem to ensure it doesn't happen again and that Carlos feels confident for Rio."
1. Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol HONDA 46'48.005
2. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Pons HONDA +2.094
3. Loris Capirossi ITA DUCATI Marlboro Team +5.254
4. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar HONDA +5.269
5. Tohru Ukawa JPN Camel Pramac Pons HONDA +10.581
6. Troy Bayliss AUS DUCATI Marlboro Team +14.246
7. MARCO MELANDRI ITA Fortuna YAMAHA Team +16.143
8. CARLOS CHECA SPA Fortuna YAMAHA Team +18.083
9. Nicky Hayden USA Repsol HONDA +18.284
10. Makoto Tamada JPN Pramac HONDA +21.815
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
1. Valentino Rossi 237
2. Sete Gibernau 191
3. Max Biaggi 161
4. Loris Capirossi 113
5. Troy Bayliss 106
6. CARLOS CHECA 86
7. Tohru Ukawa 85
8. Alex Barros 76
9. Nicky Hayden 74
10. Shinya Nakano 69
15. MARCO MELANDRI 24