The Gauloises Yamaha team heads to Germany for the tenth round of the MotoGP World Championship this weekend just days after sealing its seventh victory of the season at Donington Park. All of those wins have come at the hands of reigning World ...
The Gauloises Yamaha team heads to Germany for the tenth round of the MotoGP World Championship this weekend just days after sealing its seventh victory of the season at Donington Park. All of those wins have come at the hands of reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi, but the recent form of his team-mate Colin Edwards has suggested that a victory for the American is not too far around the corner and the pair will be looking to carry their momentum to the Sachsenring - a circuit that promises to be a major challenge for the 2005 version of the Yamaha YZR-M1.
The German venue's tight and twisty characteristics gave Rossi some unexpected problems with the 2004 bike last season but this new machine has already proved that it is a more complete package. The base set-up that the team has found for both riders has allowed them to be quickest out of the blocks at five of the last six circuits, where either Rossi or Edwards has set the fastest time in the first free practice session, and helped Rossi to take victory in wet conditions as well as dry.
Early practice form has also translated into race results for the pair, with Rossi in particular demonstrating why he is now a clear favourite for his fifth consecutive MotoGP World Championship crown. Victory at Donington Park on Sunday took his season-tally to seven wins, a second and a third place from the opening nine races of the season and extended his advantage at the top of the standings to 104 points - just three points less than nearest challenger Marco Melandri's current total.
Meanwhile, consecutive podium finishes for Edwards followed by a steady fourth place in the treacherous conditions at Donington Park have propelled him to third place in the championship, just one point short of Melandri in second place. The American is now targeting another top finish as he aims to overturn the Italian and provide Yamaha with a championship one-two ahead of the four-week summer break before the eleventh round of the season at Brno in the Czech Republic on August 28th.
There is a slight change to the race day schedule again this weekend, with the MotoGP event taking place at 12:30pm local time after the 125cc race, which kicks off the action at 11am, but before the 250cc race at 2pm.
VALENTINO ROSSI: A SCORE TO SETTLE alentino Rossi says he is ready to Vput last season's disappointment at the Sachsenring behind him as he Vchases another victory to put the seal on an incredible first half Vto the season. The Italian struggled with set-up problems with the V2004 version M1 at the German track and finished fourth, but has more Vconfidence than ever in the current bike's capabilities - particularly Vafter his victory at Donington Park on Sunday.
"Donington was a very special win for me because there were two or three times when I almost didn't make it to the end of the race," says Rossi. "When I saw the big 'casino' at the beginning I thought to myself: 'I do not want to crash today.' Of course, I was lucky but I also rode very strongly. I am not as fast at Sachsenring as I am at Donington, especially last year when we had some problems with the M1, but I think we are more competitive this season and will be able to fight for the podium.
"Things have gone very well in the first half of the year but we have some tracks coming up that I don't like - especially Sachsenring and Brno. I won an important race against Biaggi at Brno in 2001 but I don't like the track. Also Sachsenring will be very difficult but hopefully it will be dry and we will be able to find the best set-up for the bike very quickly, like at the past races.
"Before this season I had never won in the wet with the Yamaha, but this year we have managed it more than once. I am happy and also surprised with the amount of points we have scored. My team has worked brilliantly and I hope that continues in the second half of the season. My aim is to finish on the podium at every race until the end of the season. Also, my record number of victories in a season is eleven so I would like to beat that!"
COLIN EDWARDS: SECOND PLACE IN SIGHT olin Edwards' recent form has given Chim plenty of reason for optimism for this weekend, with second place Cin the MotoGP World Championship now a realistic target ahead of the Choliday period, even at a circuit that holds one of his worst racing Cmemories. On his first visit to the Sachsenring riding for Aprilia two Cyears ago Edwards was forced to leap from his bike when it burst into Cflames, famously turning the American into a high-speed fireball.
"The Sachsenring... that's the place we had the barbecue a couple of years ago!" laughs Edwards. "Actually, despite that, I don't mind the track at all and I finished fifth there last year, which wasn't too bad under the circumstances. It's a strange circuit with two very different parts - one where it's very difficult to overtake and another which requires a massive physical effort because it works the left-hand side of your body really hard.
"The tyres are under a lot of strain and it's vital to make the right choice so they don't overheat on the left-side. Then there's the downhill right where you have to be careful in the first few laps, because that side of the tyre takes a bit more time to get up to temperature. Generally I get along pretty well with the layout and there are always a lot of fans so it should be a good weekend.
"Fourth place at Donington was definitely not the result we wanted but the momentum from Assen to here has been fantastic and I've moved into third in the championship. I'm only one point behind Melandri and it would be nice to go home for the summer holidays in second place. That's definitely the goal."
DAVIDE BRIVIO: ANOTHER BIG EFFORT Gauloises Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio says he is looking for one more big effort from his team before the summer holidays, after an intense first half of the season that has reaped rewards on all fronts. Not only does Rossi lead the riders' standings, but Yamaha and Gauloises Yamaha have extended their advantages in the manufacturers' and teams' championships respectively.
"This is the tenth race of the season so over half of the championship is gone and we have a good advantage," reflects Brivio. "We had some problems with the M1 at Sachsenring last season but if that happens again we know Valentino is in a position where he can control the race because of the cushion he has in the championship. Of course, our intention is to see both Valentino and Colin at the front again, as they have been so many times this season, but we will have to wait and see.
"I am very interested to see how well Colin does in Germany because for the last three races he has been on top form and his team are working very well. So far it has been a very exciting season for Yamaha in general so we hope that can continue in the second half of the year. Everybody in the team has worked so hard all season but now we have to give one more big effort before taking a well deserved holiday."
BLAST FROM THE PAST: CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF YAMAHA GLORY The Sachsenring circuit has featured intermittently on the MotoGP World Championship calendar since 1961 but Grand Prix racing in Germany has a rich and colourful history at a variety of legendary circuits. The Solitude, Nurburgring and Hockenheim circuits all played host to the series before it moved back to its current venue in 1998, and it was at Hockenheim that Yamaha enjoyed most success.
Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey all took famous victories there, but perhaps the most remarkable was that of Christian Sarron in 1985. After winning the 250cc title for Yamaha with fifteen wins the previous year, Sarron stepped up to 500cc racing in impressive style, finishing on the podium in the second round at Jarama and then ending a 30 year premier-class victory drought for France with a masterful wet display that left Lawson and Freddie Spencer trailing in his wake.
"For some people it was a surprise that I won but for me it wasn't," recalls Sarron, who scored a total of 18 podiums for Yamaha in the premier-class. "I had won a lot of wet races in the 250cc class and also on a 750 at Hockenheim so I expected to do well. The only surprise was that I got a really bad push-start and ended up in last place. It was so hard to see in all the spray but I just kept passing people and passing people. I didn't even know I was at the front until my team held out the pit board!
"Of course it was a great feeling and I will always remember my only 500cc win, although to be honest I don't think it was my best performance and it isn't my best memory as a rider. That would be the Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp in 1989. It was a similar performance but it was in the dry and I came through to take second place behind Eddie Lawson. In my opinion, the performance is always more important than the result.
"I have a lot of happy memories from my career with Yamaha and I am so glad to see them on top of the World Championship again. I think they took a lot of unfair criticism when the M1 came out but I always believed it was a good bike - it just needed a rider with the confidence and skill to push it hard enough to find the right setting. Valentino Rossi has shown himself to be exactly that man and I am so happy that they found each other."
Located in the heartland of the former East Germany's once glorious motorcycle racing industry, the Sachsenring is built right next to the old road course, a characteristic the track shares with Brno in the nearby Czech Republic. The current circuit could not be more different, its ultra-modern nature showing in its relatively slow lap times, with a surfeit of slow corners juxtaposed with some dazzlingly fast ones.
The 3.671km circuit has already changed its layout since it was first used for MotoGP in 1998, with the addition of a super fast downhill right hander in 2003, an awesome challenge which has already proved to sort out the best from the rest. With a relatively short 780m pit straight, running sharply uphill from the long Queckenberg hairpin, and the throttle only fully open for 10% of the lap, outright power is not the key at Sachsenring. Some riders use only four of the possible six gear ratios on a flying lap. The ability to set-up the machine to deal with the disparity between fast and slow corners is one main goal and as the track is relatively new, bumps are not that much of a concern in relation to other circuits.
The main consideration in preparation for Sachsenring is the fact that the track features only four right handers, but has no less than ten lefts, meaning that the machine is heeled over to that side for half of the entire lap distance. Premature wear on one side of the rubber can be minimised by the use of dual compound tyres, but the section from Omega corner onwards has no less than seven left hand corners, one after the other, the next right being the dramatic downhill right hander of the new section. One of the main overtaking possibilities follows immediately after the aforementioned fast right, the Sachsen corner being a favourite place to put in a pass before the uphill dash to the finish line.