Abe finishes as the top-scoring Yamaha in Jerez

Race

For the second consecutive year Norick Abe has left the Jerez MotoGP World Championship round as the top-scoring Yamaha rider. In 2001 it was a second place result the Japanese had produced; while in 2002, during the third round of the title chase, held on May 5, it was sixth – adding 10 point to the Antena 3 Yamaha rider’s championship tally. It now places Abe fifth in the championship standings with 30 points – six behind Loris Capirossi (Honda) – and he now replaces Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) as the leading Yamaha.

For the Spaniard his home MotoGP ended on a low when the Yamaha YZR-M1 suffered electrical gremlins, which brought a premature end to his race only a few corners from the chequered flag. Up until that point Checa, who had been running second in the championship, was positioned sixth while in a two-way battle with Abe.

His Marlboro Yamaha teammate Max Biaggi managed a strong start to the 27-lap race to be in a position to challenge for fourth place by the second lap when he was flagged for a jump-start. Unaware of the signal to pit for the stop-and-go penalty Max was black flagged three laps later. It was the first of two jumps starts; the second board displaying the number 19 of Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3) a few laps further into the race. Ironically both riders were girded up along side one another for the start. The Frenchman came in for the 10-second stop-and-go – returning to the fray in 17th place before eventually finishing 11th.

Up front it became a Honda affair with Tohru Ukawa initially setting the pace after his four-stroke teammate Valentino Rossi received a shunt from Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) that pushed him back to sixth. But the defending champion wasn’t deterred and carved through the field to eventually take his second win of the season, and build on his championship points lead which now totals 70pts. Daijiro Katoh put in his best MotoGP performance to take the runner-up slot, while Ukawa eventually settled for third after a magnificent scrap with fourth placed Loris Capirossi.

Meanwhile Aprilia has put in a protest against Red Bull Yamaha WCM rider Garry McCoy and Jeremy McWilliams (KR) for passing Regis Laconi under a yellow flag on the final laps. Both riders have appealed the claim and the final results are still pending.

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 6th:
“It wasn’t such a bad start but I really ended up being boxed in on the entry into turn one, which left me with very little room to move – I think I lost four places there alone. Normally I get a chance to make that up in the first lap or two but this time everybody seemed to have more confidence than usual. It meant that I couldn’t start to make up any ground until later in the race; luckily the bike felt really good then too. It was the last part of the race when I was fighting with Checa, and just as I made my pass on the last lap his bike stopped.”

Pere Riba DNF: “I tried to follow the group but I just couldn’t keep up the pace safely. I kept overshooting the braking markers and running wide because of my shoulder, which I injured in Suzuka, so I decided that it just wasn’t safe to continue. There’s nothing to gain from riding around like that.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Olivier Jacque 11th:
“I thought I’d got away with that, but then I saw the board and I knew I had to come in. When I returned to the race I finally managed to pass a few riders for a reasonable position, even so it was difficult to keep up the motivation. But I’m happy with the times I was doing so that’s a good sign.”

Shinya Nakano 17th: “The start wasn’t so bad. I was pretty comfortable so I made a move on McWilliams coming up to the back straight, and then as I entered the hairpin I lost feel on the front and overshot the turn – low-siding into the gravel. Luckily I was able to continue although it was very difficult to stay focused for the first few laps. Unfortunately I didn’t get back into the points but you have to try because at that stage you never know what can happen by the end of the race.”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
Garry McCoy 13th:
“My leg was giving me a fair bit of trouble during that race, especially with all these right handers. It was my right knee that was the worst through those parts of the track. It became more of an issue as the race wore on, yet that’s when the bike started to slide the way I like it and my times started to improve. I guess that’s the best I could do considering the situation and the qualifying position.”

John Hopkins 15th: “I think overall it wasn’t too bad, it’s another point at least – although in hindsight another rear tyre could have made a difference. I felt good on the bike and I wasn’t making that many mistakes so it’s all progressing. Now I need to start focussing on a race strategy so that I know when to push and how to save my tyres. It’s something that I really didn’t have to consider that much in the States, but here it make the difference.”

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa DNF:
“The bike just stopped and I don’t know why. That’s life but maybe it’s better to stop on the last lap when you’re sixth than when you’re first! Now we have to look towards our next test and the next race. It was a pity because I think we did a really good job this weekend. I was feeling good on the bike as the race went on. In the early laps I had some front-end push, so I wasn’t able to brake and flick into the turn with confidence. But as the rear grip and the fuel load went down a little there was less front-end push, so I felt more comfortable. Now we must go testing at Mugello and keep working towards improving the package.”

Max Biaggi DNF: “The bike moved maybe 20 centimetres over my starting marker, so I braked and put my foot down – so I didn’t gain any advantage. If the race direction thinks that I’d jumped the start, fair enough. The problem was that the stop-and-go board was surrounded by many other boards so I didn’t even see it. When the black flag was displayed the officials were on the track, so it was easy to see and I stopped immediately. I think everyone would agree we had some real bad luck here.”

Davide Brivio, Marlboro Yamaha Team Director: “It would seem we were out of luck today. The race direction said they saw Max jump the start and we’re not contesting that, but the stop-and-go sign wasn’t clearly displayed. We also put ‘IN’ on his pitboard but in the melee of the first few laps riders don’t generally look at their boards. We’ve been to race direction to alert them to these facts and they agreed that the sign was not visible enough. No further action will be taken against Max but, sadly, there’s nothing more we can do now. I feel so sorry for him and also for Carlos. He rode a great race, riding 100 per cent every lap, and it was bad luck that the bike should stop on the final lap. We’ve discovered that it was a failure with a small electrical component that caused the problem and we shall make sure it can’t happen again.”