Island proves tough on Yamaha


'After the success at the Malaysia MotoGP, where Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team) took the YZR-M1’s second win of the 2002 season, expectations where high when the championship moved to the penultimate round, held in Australia on October 20. But the gusty Island circuit proved to be somewhat challenging for the YZR-M1, and the Roman Emperor was forced to be content with sixth place. The result came after a race-long skirmish with Nobuatsu Aoki (KR), Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3) and Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) – the trio finishing seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.

Garry McCoy’s home GP came to a premature end, for the second time in succession, when the rear Dunlop on the Red Bull Yamaha WCM YZR500 blistered and forced the second place qualifier into the pits for a tyre change. The Australian was running as high as fifth, after the more powerful four-strokes swamped him off the line, before things went a little sour on lap 13.

This left Valentino Rossi (Honda) and Alex Barros (Honda) to decide the race win as the pair powered away to a ten second lead over Tohru Ukawa (Honda), Daijiro Kato (Honda) and eventual fifth place finisher Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Honda). Barros looked to hold all the aces, leading every lap across the line until lap 23, when Rossi made his move. The Brazilian fought back repeatedly before out-braking himself on the final lap entering the Honda corner hairpin – handing the race win to Rossi. Barros recovered to finish second.

In only his second outing on the YZR-M1, Jacque crossed the line in eighth but only after some fairing modifications were needed at nearly 300kmh. The Frenchman was forced to remove part of the carbon-fiber bodywork after a cracked piece of side fairing prevented him from moving around freely on the bike.

Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) was a non-starter after he crashed his YZR-M1 entering the ultra-fast turn one during the Saturday morning practice. Although nothing was broken a Sunday morning medical check indicated it would be unwise for the Japanese to continue riding this weekend. He will return, four-stroke mounted, in Valencia on November 3.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Max Biaggi 6th:
“It was impossible to do better than that. I tried everything but I’m not happy with the result. Things have been difficult all weekend, and though we tried many setting changes throughout practice and qualifying, we couldn’t really resolve our problems. At least I’m still second in the World Championship, so I’ve simply got to do better than Ukawa at Valencia. It would be imperative for me to finish second overall, for Yamaha and for myself.”

Carlos Checa 11th: “Last night we changed to our previous-spec chassis, but then I had engine problems in warm-up, so I couldn’t fully test the settings we’d decided upon. I was able to give some feedback though, so we could make some small adjustments to the suspension balance for the race. The early laps were okay; then we lost some stability through the high-speed turns. I tried everything – different lines, moving my body position around on the bike and using the throttle differently – but with no real effect. The main thing is that we’ve learned a lot this weekend, which will help us build a better bike for 2003.”

Marlboro Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio: “It’s been a difficult weekend. We struggled all weekend to find a good compromise with our settings, which has been especially frustrating after Max’s fantastic win at Sepang, but that’s racing. Max and Carlos couldn’t ride the way they want to ride. The general concern has been front-end confidence and the bike moving around. Now we will analyse all the data from this weekend and try again at Valencia, where we hope our riders and bikes will get the results they deserve.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Olivier Jacque 8th:
“About three-quarters of the way through the race a portion of the fairing broke away and I had to tear it away while I was trying to race with Kenny. I lost some ground on the Suzuki, and I lost my concentration a little while it was all going on, but then I got back into the rhythm and started to reduce the gap that Roberts had made on me. I eventually closed in enough to get the run coming onto the front straight, enough to nail him just as we came over the line. It was not a race win, but it was a small victory in my first full race on the four-stroke. The other thing I was worried about, for a while, was that the sound was so different with that part of the fairing missing that I wasn’t sure if everything was all right with the engine – it was a real distraction. I must admit that we went into this race with a set-up that wasn’t perfect, because the bike was a little sensitive to changes in direction, so I think we need to understand the suspension needs a little better before things will improve for us.”

Shinya Nakano 13th: “I timed the start well; I got away with the main group and even made up a few places on the opening few laps, but with the cross wind down the straight the bike began to weave rather aggressively whenever I got into anybody’s slipstream and I couldn’t keep the momentum going to make the pass before the first turn. I tried to keep up with Carlos and Sete but clearly we need to work a little more on our set-up before we can really race against those guys consistently.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
José Luis Cardoso 15th:
“Yes I had a good race with Hopkins and Harada; I’m happy with the result mainly because we had a few problems with the set-up yesterday and we weren’t able to fix it in the morning warm-up. We thought we’d try a thinner front tyre profile, but we hadn’t tested it at all during the weekend and weren’t that sure if it would work… it did, thankfully.”

Norick Abe DNS
Red Bull Yamaha WCM
John Hopkins 16th:
“I got off to an alright start, but I was riding a bit off the pace on the first few laps. I was a fraction shy of my braking markers, and it took me a little while to be settled down enough to be able to race against the other guys. Once I did things began to improve, but then the rear tyre started sliding around. It had lost its edge grip, which made it a little difficult to keep up the corner speed. Eventually I made a mistake and went into Southern Loop a little too hot and lost the front on the grass and crashed. I was just glad to be able to get back on the bike and make up a few places.”

Garry McCoy 18th: “By the 13th lap the rear of the bike was just sliding around everywhere, and it nearly spat me off a few times, so I thought it best to come in. It was impossible to continue because I was losing it going into the turns and on the apex. The rear was completely blistered so we changed the tyre and I went back out. The second rear tyre was exactly the same as the first, yet it was able to do the next 13 laps without any problem. I cruised around behind Barros and Rossi, but I would never have made a pass because they were racing for the win, so I just sat back and watched the fun they were having.”