Rossi fourth and Checa sixth at a soaking Jerez

Race

Persistently wet conditions at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez upset the pre-race qualifying predictions and delivered a fourth and sixth place finish respectively for the Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha pairing of Valentino Rossi and Carlos Checa. The 27-lap race was held in fully wet conditions throughout making most riders opt for medium compound wet tyres front and rear. The race was something of a battle against the elements for all riders, with only 15 of the 23 classified as finishers. Up until the closing stages Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 rider Marco Melandri showed some of his former brilliance by featuring in the top three before being claimed as one of the eight no finishers.

Rossi and Checa, both starting from the front row, filed into the first turn behind early leader and eventual race winner Sete Gibernau (Honda).Coming under pressure from the riders behind, Rossi chose discretion at the start, as first Checa and then second place finisher Max Biaggi (Honda) passed him. A fight for second place saw the position swapped between Checa and Biaggi twice, but ultimately Biaggi made a small break, finding himself behind leader Gibernau, whilst Melandri powered through to take third place on lap four. Checa and Rossi held fourth and fifth positions respectively until Rossi mounted a successful attack on lap nine and Alex Barros (Honda) passed Checa soon after.

Rossi survived a huge near-high-side at the exit of the first hairpin on lap 12 and Barros took the opportunity to glide past on the sodden track surface. With Melandri out on lap 19, after falling on the slippy track, Barros was promoted to third, Rossi fourth. After experiencing traction and vision concerns, Checa made a late attack on Colin Edwards (Honda) and duly passed him to finish in sixth place.

Meanwhile Melandri’s Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 team-mate Norick Abe endured the tricky conditions to come home 11th. Although disappointed by immediate events, the Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 Team takes great encouragement from Melandri’s showing – and with their ‘home’ race at Le Mans in France in two weeks time; the team will be looking to demonstrate its competitiveness again.

Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha), 4th 
"Finally I am happy and relieved because it was a miracle not to fall off. It’s a great shame because I couldn’t go so fast at the end. I didn’t have much grip, mostly from the rear and we’ll have to work on set-up to improve this. It’s strange not be on the podium because the last time was in Brno in 2002, when I had a tyre problem. Each lap I was trying to be more aggressive and the front of the bike felt okay. I think we have quite a gap to make with Honda in wet weather, but in general we have had a good weekend, with another pole position. One thing is for sure, this is going to be a great championship! Like I have always said, Sete and Max are going to be my main competitors."

Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha), 6th
“From the beginning I had some slides from the back. I also had a problem with some water getting into my visor but basically I lost some traction from the rear and that was all. Then I got some confidence again in the rear tyre and was able to fight with Edwards. Some areas held more water than others but it is always a delicate job in these conditions. The set-up was not so bad overall, just not enough side grip to go any faster."

Davide Brivio (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team Director)
"This is not the weekend we expected. We knew it would rain but if it had been dry I think it would have been much different. We have to learn from today where we have problems in the wet, even if we are very competitive in the dry. Things were not so bad; we remain close to the top of the championship points with Valentino. Now we have to look forward to the next race and hope for dry conditions. This was a good experience to get information and to improve the bike.”

Norick Abe (Fortuna Gauloises Tech3), 11th
“The conditions were so bad. We were still looking for the ideal rain set-up this morning, and grip was hard to find. I took the race step-by-step and just as I was getting faster, it started to rain even harder and then there was even less grip. I had to be careful because I knew Capirossi was behind me and I wanted to keep him there. We’re testing here tomorrow and I’m sure we’ll find the right set-up to build on from this.”

Marco Melandri (Fortuna Gauloises Tech3), DNF 
“I’m so sorry for the team and for Yamaha because they all did such a good job. Things felt good all the way through the race and we adjusted the engine management on the grid to get a really good feel for the wet. But when the back-end stepped out I wasn’t even on the throttle. I was gradually improving my times in the later stages of the race but not risking anything. This is a shame, but the bike feels so much better than last year and that’s a real plus.”

Hervé Poncharal (Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 Team Director)
“That was so disappointing. When you have a rider lying third with eight laps to go and with a 10 second lead over the next rider you don’t expect to see things end up like that. We’re not lucky. We’ve been doing well, especially in the rain, and we knew we’d be in contention if it was wet. Everything looked so good. At least Marco has showed he has the potential for a top three finish. He is young and we’ve got to forget about it and look ahead. On the plus side Norick had a good steady race from a low grid position and he scored some valuable points.”