Biaggi second while Checa’s win slips away


The Marlboro Yamaha Team was on the way to a best ever result, with Carlos Checa looking set to give the YZR-M1 its debut race win at the British MotoGP, held at Donington Park on July 14, before its any hope slipped away on the 18th lap. The Spaniard was leading defending MotoGP World Champ Valentino Rossi (Honda) from the outset, and was visibly faster in the crucial second half of the 4023m circuit when the front of his Yamaha folded over the bumps in the final hairpin. Checa was just one of many victims Goddards claimed over the three-day programme, including Rossi on Friday practice – the very crash that left the Italian nursing a fractured left thumb.

In a valiant attempt to salvage points Checa rejoined the race in 11th place before he was forced to retire one lap later. This left Rossi to take a comfortable win, his 46th from 100 starts, from a determined Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team), who proved to be the only remaining challenger.

Alex Barros (Honda) put in a strong performance to complete the podium as the first two-stroke mounted contender. He was followed by Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin), his never-say-die attitude promoting him nine places above his qualifying performance. Then came fifth-placed Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3).

John Hopkins’ (Red Bull Yamaha WCM) hopes of a top five performance, at a circuit that typically suits Dunlops, was beyond reach after nearly crashing at the Melbourne hairpin on the opening lap – relegating him from eighth to 13th. The flamboyant American did, however, recover to finish eighth. Meanwhile, Pere Riba was absent after breaking his left tibia and fibula in Saturday practice and looks set to be out of action for at least six weeks.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Max Biaggi 2nd:
“I’m pretty satisfied because I tried 100 per cent, as usual. I got a pretty good start from the second row, kept the door closed for the first few laps and then worked at staying concentrated because the pace was very fast. I could stay with Carlos and Rossi, although my bike was lacking a little agility through the fast section. All things considered, it wasn’t so bad because I’d been sick for a week before I came here. I’ve been on antibiotics, which always leave you a little low on energy.”

Carlos Checa DNF: “I was feeling very comfortable, no problem, the bike was going well and getting better as the fuel load went down. I didn’t feel like I was on the limit. We’d chosen the softest front available and it was sliding a little through the lefts. I was very concentrated, I wasn’t thinking about winning, just about being smooth and consistent. Unfortunately I held on to the front brake a little more than usual at that bumpy corner and that’s when I lost it.”

YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda: “Carlos tried very hard, he was pushing very hard. That’s why he crashed, because he wanted to win. I like his motivation; I really appreciate what he was doing out there today. Next time… Many riders crash at the left-hand corners here, because there aren’t so many, the left side of Carlos’ front tyre looked new after his race.

“Max also rode a good race. His last two GPs haven’t been so easy but he seemed more confident here, and I think we improved the handling of his machine for this track. We’ve also had positive feedback on the new crankshaft. Now we go to Germany and we’ll keep working hard to keep improving.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 4th:
“That was a much better result, don’t you think? The irony is I didn’t get a very good start at all, but I was able to make up so many places quite easily on the brakes. The bike was perfect. Mind you, even if I had of made a good start I don’t think I could have finished any higher than I did, so I’m happy.”

Pere Riba DNS

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Olivier Jacque 5th:
“Strange thing was the bike improved during the race, most likely due to the lessening fuel load, and the fact that I had a number of guys to dice with, which distracted me from worrying about the problem. Mainly it was the same thing we’ve been struggling with over the past two days; the bike just didn’t want to change direction like I wanted it to. The front didn’t feel secure and I nearly lost it around ten times in that race, but I rode really hard and finished off ahead of Gibernau.”

Shinya Nakano 10th: “Well the start could have been better, and then the first few laps weren’t too good, but once I got going I started to make up a fair few places. I did get stuck behind a couple of four-strokes for a while, but the rest of the race was trouble free.”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
John Hopkins 8th:
“I’d just made the pass on Aoki into the chicane and then the next thing I know the race is over. I’d gotten so into the race that I didn’t know I was on the last lap. Good thing I made the move when I did. I was feeling really good on the bike, especially on the brakes, although I did make a few mistakes into Melbourne Hairpin. The most costly mistake was made on the first lap, when I lost a ton of places.

Garry McCoy 12th: “It feels so good to finally finish a race, and at the same time, being able to compete with some other riders rather than circulating on my own. Regis was a challenge for a while, and he gave me a hard time once I got past, but after that the only issue became tyre endurance. I just wanted to get to the end so I concentrated on keeping it smooth and clean.”