Malaysia: Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team preview

Rossi and Checa Ready For Tropical Challenge Just a week after the superheated race in Qatar, the Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha pairing of Valentino Rossi and Carlos Checa approach another of the toughest and most physical events on the calendar, the...

Rossi and Checa Ready For Tropical Challenge

Just a week after the superheated race in Qatar, the Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha pairing of Valentino Rossi and Carlos Checa approach another of the toughest and most physical events on the calendar, the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. With temperatures in the high thirties and intense humidity, Sepang is a power-sapping event for the competitors, who have to be in top physical condition before they can even contemplate a successful race.

The Yamaha Factory Team's 2004 progress was interrupted in Qatar, as neither rider finished; Rossi falling and Checa being forced to retire when heading for a podium. Rossi's 39-point lead has been slashed to 14, after his number one championship rival, Sete Gibernau, secured the inaugural Qatar MotoGP win. There are now three races to go in the 2004 Championship; after Sepang the paddock heads South to Australia, before returning to Europe for the final round in Valencia, Spain, on October 31st.

Both Yamaha riders have a good record at the Malaysian venue. In 2003 Rossi took pole position and then won the race by two seconds ahead of Sete Gibernau, clinching his third consecutive premier class title in the process. Meanwhile, Carlos Checa secured second place on the grid last year and rode a strong race to finish fifth. For the super fit Spaniard, the Malaysian sunshine and tropical humidity hold few fears, and he will be giving his all as he looks to follow his Qatar pole position success with a podium in Sepang


After a fall in the Qatar race, Rossi acknowledges that his championship challenge has been made all the more difficult. "Obviously the result in Qatar was a great disappointment, but luckily I am not hurt and therefore we must put it behind us and concentrate on the next challenge in Malaysia," said the five-time World Champion.

Rossi enters Sepang in a unique position, having tested twice there on the Yamaha pre-season. "We have an advantage coming to Sepang, compared to most of the other circuits this year, because we tested there twice at the start of the year. This means that we already have some data for the M1 at this track. Although the bike has changed a lot since the start of the year, I hope that this will help us to find a good set-up and qualify in a good position. It will be a hard race; it's a high-speed track with two long straights and once again we will be racing in high temperatures, but I am positive. For sure it will be easier than in Qatar!"

In conclusion, Rossi stated, "I've got a good record at the circuit; two wins, plus I've been on the podium for last three years. Last year it was a perfect race for me; pole position and then the race win, clinching the Championship. I can't win the Championship here this time, but I hope that I can have a good weekend and extend my lead once more."


After a superb qualifying at Qatar, only to suffer the heartbreak of being forced out before the end of the race, Checa, the perennial positive thinker, is itching to get going again in Sepang. "Despite my disappointment at not being able to finish last weekend, I am feeling confident about Malaysia and looking forward to it," said the London-resident Spaniard. "My team and I are working at a good level, and we had a good pace all weekend in Qatar. Unfortunately I couldn't quite stay with Sete and Colin during the race, and this is my target for this weekend; to stay with the leaders."

The track itself is an attraction for Carlos. "It's a great track and the pace is always fast; it will be a good race," commented Checa. "We will start with the same set-up as we used in Qatar, where everything was working well, and see how it goes. I hope I can be consistently fast throughout the weekend once more, as I was in Qatar, and fight for the top places on Sunday."


Watching a comprehensive championship lead being eroded away in Qatar was not an easy thing for anyone in the Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team to do, but the team leader Davide Brivio acknowledged that it has made things fascinating for MotoGP's watching millions. "Unfortunately last weekend we were unable to take the results we deserved with both riders" stated Brivio. "Now we are only 14 points ahead in the championship, which has certainly made things more interesting. We need to concentrate our efforts and fight until the end."

He continued, "We now have three incredibly important races, and Sepang is just the first one of these. We go there with a target to get as many points as possible with Valentino, especially more than our competitors in the Championship. Let's see what we can do. Of course we tested there at the start of the year and this is useful, although the bike has changed a lot since then."

In conclusion, Brivio praised Checa after his impressive Qatar showing. "I am sorry that bike trouble stopped Carlos from getting a podium in Qatar, and I look forward to him fighting in the top group again this weekend. I hope he can take the result he deserves in Sepang."


The Sepang track is one of the widest on the calendar, 16 metres across in some areas, and always features high track temperatures in the tropical climate. Races are won and lost at Sepang due to the ability of machinery to hold a line during turn in at several points of hard braking. With four major hairpins, and some frequent changes of direction in its 5542m layout, Sepang gives brakes and front suspension a punishing test, under extreme operating conditions.

A popular testing venue, Sepang boasts a high grip co-efficient and a relatively bump free racing line. It was the venue of Rossi's introduction to the Yamaha YZR-M1 in January this year. Sepang is also a proven track for the M1, with Max Biaggi taking a race win on the four-cylinder machine in the 2002 season.

Fast sweeping corners also feature at Sepang, situated some 2kms from the Kuala Lumpur International airport. Changes in camber and elevation on some of the faster corners put extreme strain on grip on the entry and exit, making compromise the watchword in finding an ideal machine balance.

Neutrality of steering and suspension balance is the aim at Sepang, even if the frequent high braking loads require harder springs to be fitted than normal. The rear shock will also carry a high spring rating, to help the rear under hard acceleration from the many hairpins and low gear turns.


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Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Valentino Rossi , Sete Gibernau , Davide Brivio