Problems for unlucky Checa; gritty return for Melandri Marco Melandri made a gutsy MotoGP race debut aboard the Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1 at the third round of the MotoGP World Championship, held today in Jerez, Spain. The young Italian, who...
Problems for unlucky Checa; gritty return for Melandri
Marco Melandri made a gutsy MotoGP race debut aboard the Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1 at the third round of the MotoGP World Championship, held today in Jerez, Spain. The young Italian, who missed the opening two races of the year due to his Suzuka crash where he suffered a double fracture to his ankle and a chipped femur, made an impressive start to the 27 lap race - filtering through the field to feature well within the top ten before fatigue took its toll just after mid-race distance.
Melandri, who was 15th after the first lap, showed maturity that belied his minimal MotoGP experience. The young Italian was in ninth position by the 10th lap, before making a mistake by under braking and running off the circuit. Although the 20-year-old kept the bike upright he had lost seven places before he rejoined the race and eventually finished the day 17th.
Melandri's team-mate Carlos Checa had a disappointing day at his home MotoGP race when his YZR-M1 suffered electrical problems and stopped on the third lap, only moments after the Spaniard had confidently taken sixth place from John Hopkins (Suzuki) while chasing, at that time, the fifth-placed Max Biaggi (Honda).
The race win initially looked set to be a six way encounter between Loris Capirossi (Ducati), Sete Gibernau (Honda), Troy Bayliss (Ducati), Valentino Rossi (Honda), Max Biaggi (Honda) and Checa. But as fate would have it both Capirossi and Gibernau crashed, following the demise of Checa, leaving Rossi to stamp his authority on the race with a 6.333 second win over Biaggi and third-placed man Bayliss.
"I am quite pleased with today," said Melandri. "I enjoyed the start of the race for the first few laps, although I did knock my ankle again when I fell in this morning's practice session. I then got into quite a good position but when I was in ninth place my back started to hurt a bit so I had to slow down slightly. I tried to get in front on the outside corner but I went too wide and went off the track at the first curve. Even though I dropped right back to almost last position I was determined to finish the race. If I can do the next races as I did at the start of this one, I think I can do okay."
Carlos Checa was understandably disappointed with the day's outcome, having put in a strong start to the race. The Fortuna Yamaha Team rider hopes to continue that good form at the team's forthcoming Mugello test (May 14-15) and at the French Grand Prix in Le Mans in two weeks.
"We lost a big opportunity to get a good result today," lamented the Spaniard. "The race was going pretty well for me. The bike felt good, I had passed a few people and I felt comfortable with the pace. I really believed I had a chance to get a good result and I just could not believe it when the engine just died.
"I feel very sorry for everyone in the team because we had worked very well here. Even though my grid position was not good, the times were very tight and we had worked well to get the bike feeling good. But there is no point talking about what might have been. I have to remain positive and concentrate on carrying on all that good work to Le Mans. We need to keep going in this direction and I believe we can be competitive there. It's amazing to have a problem again in Jerez. Last year it happened on the last lap and this year I couldn't believe it happened again. Last year it was the only bike failure we had in the season so I hope that's true again this year!"
Fortuna Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio said, "We're very happy to have Marco back and for him to finish his first race. He made a small mistake and lost time when he ran off the track but until then he was fighting with riders who have a lot of MotoGP experience. Of course he is not at his best, physically, but he did a good job.
"It's a great shame for Carlos and I'm very sorry for him because I think he could have been on the podium. His preparation this weekend has been very good and he got away well. We found a good base for the bike and he's riding well. So we're hoping for a good result in Le Mans. We are going to test in Mugello on Wednesday and Thursday. We have a few new things to try as well as preparing for Le Mans and Mugello. We have to check on Marco's condition during the next couple of days to see if he should test or whether it will be better for him to rest."