No score for Melandri after an initially brilliant ride


After an initially impressive ride, Marco Melandri’s string of bad luck continued at the Sachsenring when the Fortuna Yamaha Team rider crashed out of fourth place in the closing stages of the German Grand Prix, held July 27. The 20-year-old Italian, who won the German GP250 race last year, produced a lightning start to charge through the field from 12th on the grid to fifth by turn one. Carrying this impressive momentum further, the 2002 GP250 World Champion then slipped into fourth, by lap one, before pouncing on second place the following circuit. He made an audacious double pass on Loris Capirossi (Ducati) and eventual race winner Sete Gibernau (Honda) while entering the penultimate turn.

Melandri then opted to hold station behind defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda) until lap four when Gibernau and Troy Bayliss (Ducati) shot through to take second and third respectively. Settling in, to what was a comfortable fourth place, the MotoGP rookie looked set to claim a well deserved 13 points when his YZR-M1 slipped out from beneath him. Unable to engage the correct gear while entering the tight turn 12 Melandri’s brilliant performance came to a premature end with only seven laps remaining.

Up front Rossi and Gibernau set a scorching pace that eventually saw both riders finish more than 13 seconds ahead of third placed Bayliss, and the rest of the field. Rossi had taken early control of the race before Gibernau made a move on lap 20. The Spaniard, who has already claimed three victories this year, was well positioned to take his fourth race win when Rossi made his pass on the final lap. Although the move initially stuck Rossi made a mistake on the crucial final turn – handing the win to Gibernau by a mere 0.060 seconds.

Shinya Nakano (d’Antin Yamaha Team) was unable to produce one of his recent textbook starts and found himself in 12th place as the MotoGP field crossed the line for the first time. Even so the Japanese jockey produced a consistent and competitive pace that eventually saw him claim seventh place ahead of Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa. For the 30-year-old Spaniard it was further disappointment after an initially promising provisional qualifier. Plagued by a lack of grip throughout the weekend, however, Checa was unable to find a solution come race day and struggled to make any impression on the lead group.

Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Team) made up for a poor Saturday performance to finish ninth, while Norick Abe (Yamaha Factory Test Team) claimed a creditable tenth. The Japanese Yamaha wildcard entry initially qualified 16th, after crashing his one and only racebike during final qualifying. Meanwhile Alex Barros (Gauloises Yamaha Team) had a weekend to forget when he crashed out of a top ten result on lap 15.

D’Antin Yamaha Team
Shinya Nakano 7th:
“I enjoyed that very much. It was a tough race because I had a bad start but I was still fast enough to follow the fastest guys. At mid race distance I caught Tohru Ukawa and we had a great battle. With two laps to go I tried to make a pass on him, but I had a moment so I opted to finish a safe seventh place. Today I gave 100%, and now I’m going with my parents to spend ten days in Japan. I need the rest, but otherwise I’m looking forward to Brno.”

Fortuna Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 8th:
“It’s a similar situation here to Donington, and we tried many things to improve rear stability. That has been my biggest problem at these past two races. We have moved away quite a lot from the set-up we had in Catalunya and Assen where I had stronger results. I managed to gain some places, but couldn’t seem to go any further forward. It’s frustrating because I was hoping to improve my position in the championship. I am going to have a rethink with my engineers and crew to see in which way we should now go in terms of set-up.”

Marco Melandri DNF: “I started well and was able to overtake early on, but at the same time I wasn’t able to get on the throttle as much as I would have liked. After a few laps I decided it was better not to force things, but wiser to stay behind Bayliss and to keep my own pace. At the beginning the soft tyres gave me some problems, even though I had a good start, but then after a few laps my pace improved and I was certain that I could finish the race in fourth or fifth position. I was in the downhill run and normally I change down from fifth to third gear there. But this time I changed from fifth to fourth by mistake and I fell off.

“It’s a shame because I was having such a great race, and that mishap could have been avoided. At one point I could see I was getting closer and closer to Bayliss and I really thought I would finish the race well. Anyway now I know I can be competitive at all the races because I was able to fight with the top riders in Donington and here. I am close to the best riders, and now my aim is to finish a race.”

Gauloises Yamaha Team
Olivier Jacque 9th:
“Given how we struggled during qualifying, for the race we decided to take a gamble with the geometry of the bike. Unfortunately it didn’t really improve the lack of grip we suffered from since the start of the weekend. Despite that I made a good start, moving from 18th to eighth in one lap, and did everything I could to stay up towards the front. I was right on the limit all through the race, but with the rear tyre spinning up so much I couldn’t maintain my position and started to slip back down the field.”

Alex Barros DNF: “I went for the clutch at the end of the straight but there was nothing there! As a result I went straight on and crashed. We’re not sure what went wrong, but the mechanics are looking at it now. Fortunately I didn’t hurt myself badly, though my shoulder is hurting a little bit more than it was before. I’m very disappointed, as up until then I was gaining about two tenths of a second on the group in front of me and could have, maybe, finished seventh or eighth. It is extremely frustrating to have gone through an operation on my hand, and suffered so much all throughout qualifying, just to finish in the gravel.”

Yamaha Factory Test Team
Norick Abe 10th:
“We made mistake today with the engine braking settings. We had too much engine braking entering the turns, which really upset the rear of the bike. Considering my bad qualifying result, which was enough of a setback to make up for at such a tight track, this set-up made it a very difficult race. I did try and change my riding style in the second half, and it helped, but not enough to do better than tenth.”