Donington disappointment for the Yamaha camp


After an ultimately close combined qualifying for the British Grand Prix, with only one second covering the top 13 contenders, expectations were high for a close MotoGP main event, held July 13, at Donington Park. But despite an initially promising opening few laps the Yamaha Factory contingent ended the eighth round of the MotoGP World Championship with little more than disappointment following the demise of the first of three riders today.

In a bizarre twist of fate Alex Barros (Gauloises Yamaha Team) was the victim of a raceday warm-up collision, which resulted in the Brazilian crashing out of the session and breaking the metacarpal bone in his right hand. The incident took place in turn one, mid way through the session and only seconds after Barros had exited the pits. Suzuki ‘wildcard’ rider Yukio Kagayama had overshot his braking point and collided with the side of the Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1 sending Barros into the gravel trap and ending any chance of him contesting the British Grand Prix.

Although it was more positive story for Carlos Checa (Fortuna Yamaha Team), who qualified fifth for today’s race, the end result was still short of what the he and the bike are capable of. Timing the lights well he leapt off the grid for a solid run into turn one, but by mid race distance the Spaniard was unable to mount any serious challenge for a podium result and was left languishing back in a lonely sixth place. The 30-year-old’s setback was the result of a lack of grip from the notoriously slippery Donington circuit.

It was further frustration for MotoGP rookie Marco Melandri (Fortuna Yamaha Team) who began today brimming with confidence following his best ever qualifying performance in the premier class – qualifying third, 0.186 seconds shy of pole – only to end the day prematurely. The 2002 GP250 World Champion openly said that he felt more comfortable on his 220-plus horsepower YZR-M1 than he had all season, and was looking forward to challenging for a podium place in the 30-lap race, when his weekend took a turn for the worse on lap five.

Melandri, who won the 250 race here last year, launched off the line like a veteran, entering turn one fourth before taking third only a few corners further on. The 20-year-old then remained in the top four as the lead group pulled a gap on the competition, only for the Italian to lose the front of his machine entering Fogarty Esses. This left the Honda trio of Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau to break away and finish the race first second and third respectively. However, a protest made against Rossi for passing under the yellow flag on the start of lap two has seen the defending MotoGP World Champion incur a 10 second penalty – dropping the Italian back to third in the official results.

Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Team) also ended his weekend without any points following a highside on the exit of Melbourne Hairpin, which left Shinya Nakano (d’Antin Yamaha Team) as the second and final Yamaha to cross the finish line – in ninth.

Fortuna Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 6th:
“My start was good and I was able to follow the leaders. Then Marco had an unfortunate fall, which broke my pace. From that point the gap was too big and I couldn’t catch up with the group again. I kept pushing but lost stability with the rear, which was difficult to manage. Towards the end of the race I’d got used to it and I kept a constant pace but I was hoping for better. At the moment this problem with the rear is my weakest area so now it is my target to improve that and to maintain a good pace throughout the following races.”

Marco Melandri DNF: “I made a little mistake on the third lap. I had a bit of a problem when I rode with a full tank because it seemed to unsettle the rear of the bike. I braked a bit too late, maybe, and I think that the front may have touched the white line. I’m so sad because I was going so fast and really thought that I might have a chance. What can I say – I’m so sad. Though at least I can see that I have the capability of doing very well.”

D’Antin Yamaha Team
Shinya Nakano 9th:
“It was a difficult race. I touched a rider at the start and after that Ukawa crashed in front of me. It took me some laps to find a good pace but then I was behind Hopkins. I managed to pass him and push harder. At the end I caught Edwards and enjoyed the fight for ninth place. I’m not so happy with this result, but next round is in Sachsenring, my favourite track so I’m looking forward to that.”

Gauloises Yamaha Team
Olivier Jacque DNF:
“The start of the race was difficult, I got stuck behind Bayliss and struggled to find my rhythm with a full tank of fuel. Then around the mid-race point the bike became a little easier to ride and I was attacking harder to try and get past Checa. Unfortunately I gave it a little too much throttle coming out of a corner and the bike let go suddenly and I high-sided off. I hit my head pretty hard and feel a bit dizzy. My left big toe is also hurting, but I should be OK for the German GP.”

Alex Barros DNS: “During this morning’s warm-up Kagayama missed the brakes at the end of the straight and hit me as I was coming out on to the track. I went to see Dr Costa straight after the crash and he told me I’d broken the fifth metacarpal in my right hand and that it was impossible to ride today. He has put my hand in a short plaster so that I don’t lose too much muscle strength in my forearm. He also told me to move my arm as much as possible so as to accelerate the calcification process. I will have to wait to see Dr Costa a week on Wednesday before I know if I can race in Germany. I’m extremely disappointed – this is the first time I haven’t been able to race due to injury since 1992, when I broke my collarbone at Magny Cours.”