A solid start for Checa at home MotoGP


The European leg of the 2003 MotoGP World Championship kicked off at Jerez, Spain on May 9, with Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa producing a solid free practice performance. The Spaniard set the second fastest time during the session on his YZR-M1, before producing a 1’43.064 in the afternoon qualifier to finish the day seventh overall. Although not completely happy with the final placing Checa is satisfied with the improvement in lap times made over the morning free practice. He is more than confident that he has the base chassis package to reduce the 0.741 second deficit over provisional pole and will focus his efforts tomorrow on fine tuning the suspension package to improve drive off the turns.

Shinya Nakano (d’Antin Yamaha Team) placed his YZR-M1 tenth on the grid with a 1’43.417 after initially featuring further up the time sheets midway through the session. The young Japanese was happy with the direction the team took with suspension set-up and is looking forward to shaving off more time on day two despite a crash in the afternoon session.

After setting the pace during the pre-season IRTA test Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Alex Barros was somewhat disappointed with today’s performance, proving to be less consistent on the track than is typical of the Brazilian. He eventually ended the day 13th fastest with a 1’43.743 after recovering from a morning practice crash.

Riding on the crest of his South African success Sete Gibernau (Honda) set the quickest time of the day, dislodging Tohru Ukawa (Honda, 1’42.432) and Loris Capirossi (Ducati, 1’42.571) from the number one slot with a 1’42.285, while defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1’42.624) was left to complete the front row.

Returning to the fray for the first time since his Suzuka practice crash, where he suffered a double fracture of his ankle and a small chipped fracture of the femur in the high-speed crash, Marco Melandri (Fortuna Yamaha Team) approached the opening qualifier progressively in an effort to build up his momentum without the risk of aggravating his recent injury. Although the young Italian didn’t suffer any major discomfort while riding the factory YZR-M1 Marco did feel that he lacked the physical strength to attack the circuit in the same aggressive manner he did during pre-season tests, held earlier this year.

Fortuna Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 7th, 1’43.064:
“This afternoon we improved our time a little bit over this morning. The temperature has changed since then however; it’s much hotter, so we have lost some grip. I have been testing both of my bikes which vary slightly in suspension set-up. At the end of the session I could not improve my lap time very much. Even so I am quite optimistic about tomorrow – our position was second this morning and seventh this afternoon. We are in a better position now than we have been at the last two rounds. There is quite a big time difference though between me and the leader, so we will have to make some more changes and see what we can do.”

Marco Melandri 18th, 1’44.102: “I don’t feel too bad but I got quite a bit of back pain in the last 15 minutes of the session,” said Melandri. “I have felt some back pain before now since my accident but it feels sore today after all the riding I have done, although it was fine this morning. I am having difficult riding because normally I use the rear brake a lot but I cannot do that now when I enter the corners. I am going to go to the Clinica Mobile for some treatment now and hopefully I will feel better tomorrow. The track feels more slippery as well which doesn’t help – the asphalt is so hot compared to when we tested here in the winter.”

D’Antin Yamaha Team
Shinya Nakano 10th, 1’43.417:
“I lost the front part way though the session. It wasn’t a big crash, and I didn’t hurt myself, so I was very lucky. Even with my number two bike I was lucky as it felt as good as my number one bike and I was able to push reasonably hard. We still need to fine tune things, but we’re on track so tomorrow should be better.”

Gauloises Yamaha Team
Alex Barros 13th, 1’43.743:
“This morning I selected first gear by mistake and crashed. Although it was at low speed, I landed right on my injured left knee and at first I thought I’d really hurt myself. Fortunately after about two minutes the pain started to fade… Then this afternoon I made a few more mistakes – on the last lap for example I missed a braking point – overall I’m disappointed with my performance as I should have been able to go at least as fast as I did during the IRTA tests at the beginning of the year. Fortunately now my leg feels OK, a little tender, but better than it was in South Africa, and hopefully I’ll be more on form tomorrow.”

Olivier Jacque 17th, 1’44.100: “I’m spinning the back tyre a lot coming out of the corners and it is costing me a great deal of time. The bike is also difficult to turn, and here it is crucial to have a well balanced bike. Still Checa did a relatively good time so there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do better as well. Even a relatively minor improvement in the bike’s set up could make a big difference to our grid position.”