Japanese GP: Yamaha Team race report

Marlboro Yamaha third in Suzuka thriller. Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa enjoyed a superb beginning to GP racing's new four-stroke era, taking a hard-charging third place at soaking wet Suzuka this afternoon. Team-mate Max Biaggi had a...

Marlboro Yamaha third in Suzuka thriller.

Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa enjoyed a superb beginning to GP racing's new four-stroke era, taking a hard-charging third place at soaking wet Suzuka this afternoon. Team-mate Max Biaggi had a less lucky day, he was one of many victims of the treacherous conditions, sliding off his YZR-M1 unhurt.

Overall the event was a great success for the Marlboro Yamaha Team, who had suffered some difficult times during recent preseason tests. But untiring work by the crew turned things around in time for the Japanese GP and YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda believes things can only keep getting better from here.

"That was a very exciting race, Carlos did a good job," grinned Yoda. "And I think he could've done better. After this morning's wet warm-up we decided to set up the 'old' chassis for rain and the new chassis for the dry, because the forecast said that the rain might stop at lunchtime. I think the new chassis would've been better because I could see that the bike was a little difficult to turn at the hairpin and chicane. Also, the new chassis had a better engine, with more horsepower and smoother delivery. It was a shame that Max fell but I think we can look forward to him having good results at the next races."

CHECA'S GREAT BEGINNING

Carlos Checa's excellent ride to third place was a new beginning for the Marlboro Yamaha Team man who has been looking forward to four-strokes more than some of his fellow former 500 riders. The Spaniard rode superbly from start to finish, getting the holeshot from the front row, then running third or fourth for much of the race before forcing past Shinichi Itoh (Honda) to make sure of third four laps from the finish.

"The main thing was to keep the leaders in sight," he said. "After Rossi and Ryo passed me I pushed hard to stay close to them, and then started working on Itoh. I passed him when he lost the front through the esses, his bike went sideways and his rear wheel hit my fairing, so I lost the front too. I looked and him and he looked at me, like we were both going to crash. After that I pushed hard again and I'm so happy to get third in my first race with the M1. In fact, wet-weather results aren't so 'real', so in some ways the most important thing this weekend was yesterday's qualifying session because that showed we're already at a high level with this machine. The bike is ready to fight to win, that's the main thing, so I'm confident for the next race."

BIAGGI'S UNLUCKY DAY

Max Biaggi was one of nine riders - almost half the grid - to crash out of today's Japanese GP. The former Suzuka lap record holder was coming back from a difficult getaway from the grid when he slid off on lap seven. Biaggi, who qualified a close fifth-quickest yesterday, had been 12th after two laps and was 11th when he went down at Degner 1.

"I touched the white line with my front tyre, it was a silly mistake, but it's very easy to fall in these conditions," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider. "I really wanted to get some points today. I got a bad start because I had a lot of wheelspin away from the grid. After that I was riding my own race and feeling fairly comfortable. The bike was pretty good, I was just losing a little time through the esses. We were unlucky to have rain because we'd done some good work on bike set-up during practice. Now we look to South Africa, where I hope we can get a good result."

ROSSI WINS FIRST RACE OF NEW ERA

Last year's 500 World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda) was victorious in the first race of the new four-stroke MotoGP era, winning a nail-biting duel with Akira Ryo (Suzuki). Rossi spent the mid-stages of the race shadowing the local wild card, before slipping ahead with six laps to go. "I knew Ryo knows this track very well in the wet, so I used him to understand the limit," said Rossi, who had never before ridden his RCV in the wet.

Other high-profile fallers in the race included Rossi's team-mate Tohru Ukawa, former 500 champ Kenny Roberts (Suzuki), former 500 winners Garry McCoy (Yamaha) and Sete Gibernau (Suzuki) and former 250 winner Shinya Nakano.

1.Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team 49'32.766
2. Akira Ryo (JPN) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI +1.550
3. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team + 8.353

MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team - Fell on lap 7

-myt-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Valentino Rossi , Tohru Ukawa , Sete Gibernau , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Shinichi Ito