Barros takes a respectable fifth in tough Jerez MotoGP


Alex Barros (Gauloises Yamaha Team) made up for a poor qualifying performance to finish the third round of the MotoGP World Championship, held in Jerez, Spain (May 11), in a respectable fifth place. The Brazilian, who’d qualified 15th for the 27 lap race, was understandably cautious on the first circuit before cutting through the 22 bike field at a steady pace. He was fifth by lap seven, and then fourth by lap 13th. As the race progressed Barros found himself in a three-way tussle with Tohru Ukawa (Honda) and Makoto Tamada (Honda) before Ukawa made the most of the situation on the final lap and clinched fourth place by 1.5 seconds.

Marco Melandri made it a gritty MotoGP race debut aboard the Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1. The young Italian, who missed the opening two races of the year due his Suzuka crash where he suffered a double fracture to his ankle and a small fracture to the femur, produced an impressive start before filtering through the field to feature well within the top ten. Soon after, however, fatigue took its toll. Melandri, who was 15th after the first lap, showed maturity that belied his minimal MotoGP experience to be ninth by the tenth lap, before making a mistake under brakes and running off the circuit. Although the 19-year-old kept the bike upright he’d lost seven places before he rejoined the race and eventually finished the day 17th.

Shinya Nakano (d’Antin Yamaha Team) finished the day eighth, while Carlos Checa (Fortuna Yamaha Team) had a disappointing home MotoGP when his YZR-M1 suffered an electrical gremlin and stopped on the third lap. Adding insult to injury, the technical problem occurred only moments after the Spaniard had confidently taken sixth place from John Hopkins (Suzuki) while chasing down Italian Max Biaggi (Honda).

The race win initially looked set to be a six way encounter between Loris Capirossi (Ducati), Sete Gibernau (Honda), Troy Bayliss (Ducati), Valentino Rossi (Honda), Max Biaggi (Honda) and Checa. But as fate would have it both Capirossi and Gibernau crashed, following the demise of Checa, leaving Rossi to stamp his authority on the race with a 6.333 second win over Biaggi and third-placed man Bayliss.

Gauloises Yamaha Team
Alex Barros 5th:
“I made quite a good start, but then in the second corner some riders touched in front of me, forcing me to brake and lose four or five places. After that everyone settled down and I was able to concentrate on racing back towards the front, eventually getting up to fourth place. For a while I was catching Bayliss but then I started to run into problems with grip. Ukawa and Tamada were able to get past me, though; fortunately for me Tamada made a mistake and I managed to pass him back. Later I tried to take Ukawa back but eventually I had to back off and settle for the points. The last ten laps were really hard.
Now we are going testing in Mugello next Wednesday and Thursday, where we will have lots to do. We need to work on grip, power and stability under brakes. Hopefully we’ll find some solutions that will allow us to be more competitive at Le Mans.”

Olivier Jacque 10th: “The start of the race wasn’t too bad and I could fight hard, but our set-up, which worked fine in practice, turned out not to be suited to the race conditions. After a few laps the rear tyre was spinning everywhere and I couldn’t attack for lack of grip. Then towards the end, when I rode less aggressively, my times actually improved as I spun less. It is the same problem as we had at Welkom and we need to sort it out in Mugello this week.”

D’Antin Yamaha Team
Shinya Nakano 8th:
“Overall I am happy with this result. My start was pretty good, even though it was very difficult in the beginning to set a good pace with so many riders bunched up. Then as the field thinned out, and my rear tyre settled in, I was able to improve. Once I managed to pass that group I caught up to Hopkins and we had a good race before we touched, and I nearly crashed. Once that had happened I thought it better to finish a safe eighth than end up falling on my rear.”

Fortuna Yamaha Team
Marco Melandri 17th:
“I am not too disappointed with today. I enjoyed the start of the race for the first few laps, although I did knock my ankle again when I fell in this morning’s practice session. I then got into quite a good position but when I was in ninth place my back started to hurt a bit so I had to slow down slightly. I tried to get in front on the outside corner but I went too wide and went off the track at the first curve. Even though I dropped right back to almost last position I was determined to finish the race. If I can do the next races as I did at the start of this one, I think I can do okay.”

Carlos Checa DNF: “We lost a big opportunity to get a good result today. The race was going pretty well for me. The bike felt good, I had passed a few people and I felt comfortable with the pace. I really believed I had a chance to get a good result and I just could not believe it when the engine just died. I feel very sorry for everyone in the team because we had worked very well here. Even though my grid position was not good, the times were very tight and we had worked well to get the bike feeling good. But there is no point talking about what might have been. I have to remain positive and concentrate on carrying on all that good work to Le Mans. We need to keep going in this direction and I believe we can be competitive there. It’s amazing to have a problem again in Jerez. Last year it happened on the last lap and this year I couldn’t believe it happened again. Last year it was the only bike failure we had in the season so I hope that’s true again this year!”