Carlos claims a determined second


The 11th round of the MotoGP World Championship (September 8) came under the attack of not only the most exotic two-wheeled motorcycles on the planet but Portuguese weather too when wind and heavy rain lashed the 4182m Estoril circuit. Defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda) was the man who splashed his way to yet another win, to close in on his second MotoGP title, while Portuguese polesitter Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) recovered from a difficult opening few laps to clinch a gutsy second place finish on the ever-improving YZR-M1.

The Spaniard suffered excess wheelspin from the start, relegating him as far back as 12th on the opening lap, before finding the momentum to climb eight places in three laps. Once on the tail end of the leading quartet Checa began the progress of inching his way to yet another podium performance. Tohru Ukawa (Honda) was unable to match the pace of the #7 machine and settled for a safe third.

However, the man robbed of the win was fellow Spaniard Sete Gibernau, who shot off the grid to take the race lead on lap three, building a buffer of nearly six seconds, before victory slipped through his fingers with four laps remaining. But the Suzuki man was only one of nine riders to be caught out by the treacherous conditions; seventh placed finisher Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) being the first victim. Abe’s misfortune began on the sighting lap when he lost the front of his YZR500 at walking pace – forced back to the pits to mount his spare machine he started from the rear of the grid. The Japanese completed the race one place behind Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Max Biaggi.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 2nd:
“I had a lot of wheelspin in first, second and third as we accelerated away from the grid, it wasn’t nice having so many riders come past me on the way to the first turn. But I stayed calm, took a few laps to get the feeling for the conditions, then I started passing riders. When I was behind Rossi, Ukawa and Roberts I could see they were pushing really hard; they were faster than me in some sections and I was faster in others. I got Roberts then Ukawa, but Rossi was too far-gone, so I worked at controlling Ukawa. The conditions were very delicate, we made adjustments in warm-up and some more on the grid, but the track was still slippery, more so in some places than others. Considering my start, I’m happy with second.”

Max Biaggi 6th: “It’s been a tough weekend. Since Friday we’ve not been able to find the right set-up. We had planned to test some adjustments to the new chassis during warm-up but the rain stopped that, so I raced the older chassis, just because I’m more familiar with that one. I feel sorry for Gibernau and I’d like to say Rossi rode a good race, he fought for that win, it wasn’t just luck.”

Marlboro Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio: “In those conditions there’s a very thin line between staying up and falling down. The race seemed to go on forever, for the riders, I’m sure, and also for us, but finally we were able to celebrate Carlos making the podium. He confirmed once again that he’s very strong in the wet, coming back from 12th on the first lap. Max also did not so bad, those points are very important for the championship, and it’s so easy for a rider to make a mistake in such conditions. As a team I think we can be fairly happy, we’ve scored pole at the last two races, Max won at Brno and Carlos got second today. But that doesn’t mean we’re slowing down. We’re testing here tomorrow when we will work for more improvements to our overall machine set-up. Then we’re off to Rio – it’s a very tight schedule.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 7th:
“I really know how to make a race more difficult for myself, don’t I? I feel so sorry for my mechanics; I put them under so much pressure when I crashed on the sighting lap. What I don’t understand is why. I entered the turn slower than normal but then the front-end just folded and I crashed. I was so surprised. I had to get back to the pits, but the bike was too damaged and I had to use my spare. Considering everything, the crash and how slippery it was, that wasn’t such a bad result.”

Pere Riba DNF: “That was such a difficult race; the conditions were so slippery, and with my limited track time and confidence at the moment, I couldn’t get comfortable with the bike. Time is what I need, and it’s something I just haven’t had.”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
John Hopkins 8th:
“I really got caught out by how slippery it was out there. There was a little stream of water running across the track, coming off the back straight, and I guess that time it finally bit me. The front-end got a big slide over it and I had to stand the bike up to avoid crashing, which forced me to run straight on over the gravel trap. I just pulled the clutch in and hoped the thing would stay up. From there it was a pretty uneventful race. I did try to close the gap on Abe, but I just couldn’t do it.”

Garry McCoy 11th: “I don’t really have any answer to why it was such a bad result. I’m pretty disappointed. All I can put it down to is me, and the lack of track time I’ve had, especially riding hard in the rain. There was nothing particularly wrong with the bike.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Shinya Nakano 12th:
“Saying it was a tough race is an understatement. Already, on the warm-up lap, it felt like I was lacking grip, and though I managed to get off to a good start I still found it very difficult to keep up with the rest of the field. I tried to push as hard as I could, to control the slides off the exit of the turns, but it was so unpredictable. Eventually it caught me out, and I crashed in the chicane. I was able to re-start but then the engine started to feel strange and I didn’t want to push my luck.”

Olivier Jacque DNF: “I had a problem with the gearbox; I’m not exactly sure why, but I was finding it quite difficult to change down. Going up was ok, but it would get stuck on the down-change, which is why I crashed out. I was actually on the point of coming in when I crashed.”