Checa’s gritty fourth at grotty TT

Race

Front row starter Carlos Checa (Fortuna Yamaha Team) produced a gritty ride in what was a typically wet Dutch TT, to finish the 19-lap race as the top Yamaha YZR-M1 rider – in fourth – for the second consecutive Grand Prix. The restarted race – declared wet after the initial warm-up lap for a dry race – saw the 30-year-old exit the first turn jostle in tenth place, after some hardcore, paint-swapping action.

The following few laps saw a number of lead changes, between Sete Gibernau (Honda), Max Biaggi (Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Honda), until the field settled into a race rhythm on lap four. At this point Checa began a run that showed the Fortuna Yamaha Team rider’s full potential, carving his way through the highly competitive field, while still matching the lap-times of the lead trio right up until mid-race distance. His momentum lifted the Spaniard to fifth on lap 12, and eventually fourth on lap 17, after passing Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia) – the latter crashing moments after the red and silver M1 slipped by.

Although Checa continued to pressure Rossi for the final podium place, the deficit was too great, with only a few laps remaining, and the factory Yamaha rider was forced to settle for a respectable fourth place finish behind race winner Gibernau, second-placed finisher Biaggi and championship points leader Rossi.

Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Olivier Jacque completed the top five, but only after suffering from a misting visor for most of the latter half of the race. Prior to the setback the Frenchman had charged through into the top three and looked set for a solid podium finish, while his team-mate Alex Barros finished a lonely eighth.

It was another disappointing weekend for the Fortuna Yamaha Team’s new signing Marco Melandri; a fogging visor also hindering the 2003 MotoGP rookie. With his vision impaired so drastically, and safety clearly an issue, the 2002 GP250 World Champion was forced to retire on lap 14. The 20-year-old Italian was running 14th at the time.

Fortuna Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 4th:
“I had a bad start, as it was difficult to see anything. The rear tyre spun and there wasn’t much traction. I couldn’t see well for the first part of the race but then I got used to it. It’s a very scary feeling, going from line to line like that, trying to make out the shapes of the other bikes. But it was so important to finish this race and I’m happy that I have achieved that. We need to continue working the way we have this weekend, to see what went right and what didn’t go so well, and hopefully we’ll continue to improve every time.”

Marco Melandri DNF: “I could hardly see anything at all right from the beginning of the race. There was just a tiny part of the visor that I could see out of so I had to hold my head in an awkward position to try to see anything. When the other riders overtook me it was impossible, because of their spray I could only see immediately in front of me. Every time I got onto the straight I tried to clean the visor with my hand, then I found myself close to the white line and touched the ground for a second so I decided it was too dangerous to continue. Obviously I’m disappointed about today because I have felt good on the bike during this whole weekend. I hope I can take that positive feeling with me to the next race.”

Gauloises Yamaha Team
Olivier Jacque 5th:
“It was good to be able to fight up at the front at the beginning, and I’m reasonably happy to finish fifth – I think the work we did in Barcelona after the Catalunya GP has paid off. Unfortunately during the race I could see very little out of my helmet, which made it impossible to stay with the front-runners. It was like riding on a vast lake – I couldn’t see the edge of the track or any braking points.”

Alex Barros 8th: “I could hardly see anything out of my helmet – visibility was really atrocious! I’m just glad to finish the race in one piece, especially as my rear tyre wasn’t that great towards the end. I also had a big fright when Aoki and his bike slid in front of me. I just managed to go between them, but I must have missed Aoki by virtually nothing. For me it has been a day to forget.”

D’Antin Yamaha Team
Shinya Nakano 13th:
“This was an strange race. I got some wheelspin off the line and to make things worse in the first few laps I couldn’t see anything. Step by step, however, I began to feel more confident and after I had overtaken Melandri I pushed harder to catch up with the rest, but I left it too late.”