South African GP: Yamaha Team race report

MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN FIFTH AND NINTH AT WELKOM Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi rode their YZR-M1s to fifth and ninth in today's red-hot Welkom GP, round two of the new-look MotoGP World Championship. Checa rode a strong ...


Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi rode their YZR-M1s to fifth and ninth in today's red-hot Welkom GP, round two of the new-look MotoGP World Championship. Checa rode a strong race, running fourth until the last lap, while Biaggi's race was spoiled by a poor getaway from the front row of the grid.

"This has been a tough weekend, partly because this track is so bumpy, probably the bumpiest of the season," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio. "Carlos did a great job, it was just a pity that he lost fourth place on the final lap. Max had trouble with the clutch, something to do with the engine-braking system. We first noticed the problem this morning and though we tried to fix it, we had no time to test it again. He had the same problem at the start of the race which lost him a lot of places on the run to the first turn and it's very difficult to come back from a bad start at this kind of track. We will rectify this problem for Jerez. Yamaha and everyone within the team are working very hard to improve our performance. We are working on many new parts which we hope to have as soon as possible."


Carlos Checa rode a determined race in exhausting 32-degree heat at Welkom, coming through from a second row start to run fourth for most of the 28-lap race. Seventh after the first lap the Marlboro Yamaha Team man passed Garry McCoy (Yamaha YZR) and Suzuki riders Kenny Roberts and Sete Gibernau to claim fourth, which he held until the very last lap when Daijiro Katoh (Honda NSR) came past.

"I rode my maximum," said the Spaniard. "But although I'm happy with the job we've done, I'm not so happy with the result and I won't be happy until we're fighting for race wins. We are all working very hard and I know the bike will get better. I was already quite tired by the start of the race because I stalled the bike at the start of the warm-up lap and we had to push start it! After the start I was able to pass a few guys and get into fourth, which was the maximum result I could expect here. The bike's performance was very stable all the way through the race, though during the last few laps I was losing time through the fast right on to the back straight because the tyres were moving around a bit. I couldn't push any harder and I lost fourth place."


Max Biaggi rode his heart out to score his first front-row start with the M1 during yesterday's enthralling final qualifying session but all that hard work went to waste at the start of today's race. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man was beaten to the first turn by more than half the pack, ending the first lap down in 13th place. Biaggi worked hard from there but found it difficult to make progress as the race wore on. In the final laps he was able to pass McCoy, and made up three more places due to attrition.

"We had some problems with the clutch and the engine-braking system this morning, though we'd never had this trouble before," said the Italian. "Without this I would've had a better start and a better race, because the problem was also affecting me as I rode into corners. Because of that I found it very difficult to gain any positions. Basically, we have to work to improve our performance for the next few races."


World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda RCV) proved he's fallible when he made a last-lap mistake that allowed team-mate Tohru Ukawa to score his first win in the premier class. The pair were followed over the line at a distance by Loris Capirossi (Honda NSR), the first two-stroke finisher.

"The race was a bit like when we were both doing 250s in 1999, except this time I won," grinned Ukawa who led the race from two-thirds distance after Rossi had let him through. "I knew he was coming but after he'd overtaken me he made a mistake on the last lap. I'm very happy!"

1.Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol HONDA Team 44'39.467
2.Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team +0.932
3.Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons +8.259
4. Daijiro Katoh (JPN) Fortuna HONDA Gresini +26.962
5.CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team +27.227
6.Olivier Jacque (FRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 +27.889
7.Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin +30.215
8.Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 +30.781
9.MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team +43.796
10.Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM +45.501

1.Valentino Rossi (ITA) 45
3.Tohru Ukawa (JPN) 25
4.Loris Capirossi (ITA) 23
5.Akira Ryo (JPN) 20
6.Norick Abe (JPN) 20
7.Daijiro Katoh (JPN) 19
8.Shinichi Itoh (JPN) 13
9.Alex Barros (BRA) 10
10.Olivier Jacque (FRA) 10


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Norifumi Abe , Alex Barros , Tohru Ukawa , Sete Gibernau , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Daijiro Kato , Olivier Jacque , Shinichi Ito , Davide Brivio