Rossi claims third title while Checa finishes fifth


Today Valentino Rossi (Honda) claimed his third consecutive premier class title after a dominating performance at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The flamboyant Italian only needed to finish one place behind his main championship rival Sete Gibernau (Honda) to clinch the number one plate. But, despite the risks, Rossi steamed past the competition to cross the line 2.042 seconds ahead of Gibernau to finish the race with a 63point lead over Gibernau, with only two rounds remaining.

Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa, who’d qualified second behind Rossi for today’s 21 lap race, produce a solid start to enter turn one in third place. The Spaniard trailed Gibernau and Loris Capirossi (Ducati) on the opening lap before fending off a challenge from the champion elect. Staying focused Checa produce a string of fast and consistent laps, but eventually he had to relinquish second to a determined Rossi. Unperturbed, the 30-year-old continued to chase race leaders Gibernau and Rossi, before eventually coming under the attack of Max Biaggi (Honda) and Nicky Hayden (Honda) – leaving Checa to finish a respectable fifth.

Shinya Nakano (d’Antin Yamaha Team) put in yet another strong performance to finish eighth despite a poor start, while Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Marco Melandri was not so fortunate. After suffering from a lack of grip for the duration of the race, in addition to a poor qualifying result and difficult start to the race, the 2002 GP250 World Champion ended the 14th round of the season with a disappointing 11th place.

For the Gauloises Yamaha Team the Malaysian Grand Prix was a weekend to forget with Alex Barros crashing out of the race as early as turn two, while Olivier Jacque never even made the race start. The former managed to remount his lightly damaged M1 to finish the race 15th, while Jacque opted not to race after still suffering from light-headedness following his Friday crash.

Fortuna Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 5th:
“I had a reasonable start but immediately noticed I had much less grip than I have had all weekend. I’m not sure why but we think it was probably because of the rain earlier today and the change in track temperature. I didn’t have enough traction with the rear, or enough front feeling. It became more and more noticeable during the race. I managed to hold out in fourth position as long as possible, but then Hayden overtook me right at the end. There was also a bit of chatter when I was braking hard, especially towards the end of the race. We don’t yet know exactly what the problem was but it’s a shame as we’ve had one of our most positive weekends of the season. Thanks anyway to my crew, who have worked so hard in these last three days.”

Marco Melandri 11th: “Today was just a continuation of the problems I’ve been having all weekend. I never really found any grip and today I had a few engine problems. It was a constant battle for eleventh place with Haga on the Aprilia, who overtook me on the straight on almost every lap. In the end I managed to keep in front of him. Anyway I’m not happy with 11th place, especially after a fifth place in Motegi last weekend. We have to look ahead to Phillip Island and make sure that this grip issue is resolved there.”

D’Antin Yamaha Team
Shinya Nakano 8th:
“The early part of the race was fine, but then I made a small mistake on the brakes. It allowed Ukawa to pass me, who I followed for quite some time before I could get past again. I had a small grip problem, but nothing unusual. I just need a better start and that should make life easier for me.”

Gauloises Yamaha Team
Alex Barros 15th:
“My second corner crash was my fault. I was trying to get past Marco, braked a little too hard and touched the back wheel of Roberts. The handlebars were a little bit twisted, but luckily, apart from that, the bike wasn’t too damaged and so I set off to try and get some points. Right at the end I really pushed to try and get past Kenny but just didn’t have enough grip left.”

Olivier Jacque DNS: “I was hoping to ride in the warm-up to see how I felt, but in the end I couldn’t even do that. I went to the Mobile Clinic and they gave me some anti-inflammatory medication but advised me that the only real solution was rest. Hopefully I’ll have recovered in time for the Australian GP next weekend.”