Nakano shows renewed form in Italy

Race

The Mugello MotoGP, held June 8, may have finished as an all-Italian affair, with Valentino Rossi (Honda), Loris Capirossi (Ducati) and Max Biaggi (Honda) dominating the 23-lap race – the trio finishing in that order – but the Italian one, two, three didn’t come easy after the incessant harassment of d’Antin Yamaha Team rider Shinya Nakano. The jockey-sized Japanese launched off the front row and slammed his YZR-M1 into the thick of the Italian war at the first turn, which included Rossi, before slipping past second placed Biaggi to nip at the heals of race leader Capirossi soon after. By mid race distance Nakano had settled into the intense pace and remained a threat until mid-race.

Although he eventually lost touch with the leaders Nakano held onto his fourth place despite the repeated attempts made by fifth-placed Honda rider Sete Gibernau. Then, within sight of the finish line, Nakano was the next victim on surprise challenger Makoto Tamada’s (Honda) list – Nakano finishing the race in a very respectable fifth place.

Despite all the efforts made by Fortuna Yamaha Team-mates Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri the duo were unable to match the intense pace this weekend and eventually ended the day with a disappointing eighth and 11th place respectively. After a solid start, which saw Checa as high as fifth in the opening few corners, the Spaniard dropped back to eighth by the end of the first lap, yet looked set to remain in contention up until half-race distance. At this point the 30-year-old was back in the top six with only a 4.4 second deficit, before losing touch with the battle for fourth.

All hopes for a top five result at his home Grand Prix came to an end when a troublesome clutch caused Melandri problems in the most crucial points of the 5245m circuit. The 20-year-old Italian, who won the 250 race here last year, was confident and feeling good on the YZR-M1 during the opening few laps. Melandri featured as high as sixth, and was still making solid progress when it became difficult to select third gear on his factory machine – which proved too much of a deficit to overcome at such an intense pace. He ended the day only 0.10 seconds behind tenth-placed Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Team).

D’Antin Yamaha Team
Shinya Nakano 5th:
“I’m very, very happy. I got a very good start and I stayed in the front group all the time I could, but as I anticipated the Italians’ pace was just too high. Both the bike and I were working at 100 per cent, and the tyre choice was simply perfect, but a podium was not to be. We are improving and I’m happy because it was the best result for the team so far this year. But in Montmelo, where it feels virtually like my home GP, I aim to continue from where we have left off and hope to get a podium finish.”

Fortuna Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 8th:
“I can’t be satisfied with the final result but overall we did a good job. The team has worked very hard, everyone has pushed themselves to their own limits; the technical side in the garage, and me on the track. Nakano did well all weekend on his Yamaha so we know that we had more potential. We will take today’s experience with us to Barcelona. At least I felt a bit better during the race and especially felt good on the bike at the beginning, but at the end I was behind by about 1½ seconds and it was difficult to close the gap any more.

“My main aim right now is to find a good pace. If I knew the solution I would let you know it! We need to work carefully again from here and analyse the technical data from the race. I will talk with the Yamaha engineers and we’ll look at the chassis side of things, perhaps in a slightly different direction. I hope that the answer is not too far in the future.”

Marco Melandri 11th: “That was not such a good race. I had a problem with the clutch, but most of all I had problems when I was in third gear. I couldn’t open the throttle and therefore couldn’t push hard in all the corners. At the beginning when the tyres were new it wasn’t quite so bad but I had to balance my weight on the front and enter the corners very fast. When the tyres wore out more through the race I felt myself getting slower, and the clutch problem increased as the tyres wore out. In the last lap I overtook Olivier about three times but then when I was having problems on a corner he overtook me again.”

Gauloises Yamaha Team
Olivier Jacque 10th:
“It was a very frustrating race. Right from the start I realised that we’d made a bad choice with the rear. The front was fine but the rear just didn’t give the grip and I nearly fell a number of times. The only way to look at today positively is to regard it as a testing session, analyse the mistakes we made and correct them. And we have to do that quickly as the next race is coming up very soon.”

Alex Barros DNF: “Like the other Yamaha riders I tried a number of different front tyres during the warm-up, but in the end I opted for one we used yesterday in practice. Right from the start, though, I realised I made a mistake and crashed – the front just went away from me. It has cost me a lot of championship points, something I really wanted to avoid after missing out on second place last year by so little.”