News Report 21 May 2006

2006 MotoGP Le Mans

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Le Mans
4180 m
05 / 21 / 2006
Time to be confirmed

Bad luck strikes again for Camel Yamaha Team at Le Mans


Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi’s unfortunate start to his MotoGP World Championship defence continued today as the Italian rider was hit by another bout of bad luck at Le Mans, where he was forced to retire from the lead with an engine problem. This time his team-mate Colin Edwards was also hit by the jinx, the American being pushed wide in the second corner of the race and running into the gravel traps. The silver lining to the day for the team on a cloudy day in France was that Edwards did manage to get back on track and charge through from last place to finish in sixth – arguably the individual rider performance of the race.
Rossi started the fifth round of the season in confident mood after finding a good set-up for his YZR-M1 machine during the dry practice sessions and he quickly translated that pace to the race, moving from seventh on the grid up to second place by lap three. After two laps behind early leader John Hopkins (Suzuki) the World Champion took control and opened out a comfortable advantage over Dani Pedrosa (Honda), who also got past Hopkins. With eight laps remaining Rossi looked on course to become the first rider this season to win two races but to his despair disaster struck, leaving Pedrosa to fight it out with Marco Melandri (Honda) for the win. Melandri made the decisive move for victory with five laps remaining before Pedrosa was also passed for second place by Loris Capirossi (Ducati).

Colin Edwards (6th; + 11.519 seconds)
“To be honest I don’t quite know what happened at the start. I had my plan which was to run it around the outside like I did last year but things just went haywire from the start and riders were coming at me from everywhere. I got baulked by somebody – it might have been Dani Pedrosa but I’m not sure – and I couldn’t get to the outside so I had to move where the space was and go tight. Everybody was wide through the right and came across me as we went left into the chicane so I had nowhere to go but the gravel. Last year it would have probably been okay but the changes they made to the track played against me. I lost four or five seconds there and probably lost another four or five trying to get past people during the first six laps. I wanted to overtake on the exits but they all had so much grip at that stage of the race that it was impossible and I just had to wait for opportunities on the brakes. The setting of the bike was good – the only thing I was missing was a bit of rear grip at the end but with the pace I had we should have been on the podium today.”

Valentino Rossi (DNF)
“The team did a great job with the new chassis this weekend and I really enjoyed being able to ride so fast during the race, so it is a real shame that it ended like that and of course I am very disappointed. Everything was working really well, the bike and tyres felt perfect but then the engine went. A bike stopping on me like this has only happened to me a couple of times in my career, and never with a four-stroke, so for it to happen today is typical of our luck at the moment. Something seems to have gone wrong for us at each of the first few races of the season, apart from Qatar, and it has put us in a difficult situation with regards to the championship. We know that championship is a big challenge now but the last word has not been spoken yet. Now we need to look at it race by race, maybe not think about the championship for a while and concentrate on trying to win as many races as possible from the remaining 12.”

Davide Brivio – Camel Yamaha Team Director
“We are trying to smile but obviously we are all very disappointed – especially Valentino. Our engineers did a great job to get the bikes prepared for this race and both Valentino and Colin were ready to fight for a top result. It was great watching Valentino in harmony with the bike and it looked as though it was going to be a classic Valentino Rossi race, making his way to the front and then controlling his advantage over second place. Unfortunately the engine broke and we are analysing it now to find out why. I have to say Colin rode a great race after being forced wide in the first corner and in general we will take a lot of positives from this weekend, even if we don’t feel too great right now. Today we should have had two riders on the podium, but we have 12 more chances to try!”

Most impressive result of the season so far for Tech 3 Yamaha Team
The home Grand Prix for the Tech 3 Yamaha Team provided the best result of the season so far as lead rider, Carlos Checa finished 11th overall with teammate James Ellison also scoring championship points finishing 14th.

In his 100th appearance for Yamaha in the premier class, Checa was involved in an exciting battle with factory riders Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki), Tony Elias (Honda) and Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki). Carlos is now the second longest serving Yamaha rider in the premier class behind Norick Abe who had 162 starts for the innovative Japanese company

The result added further confirmation to the improvement in the Dunlop race tyres the team is using during the 2006 season with Carlos the closest he has been to the leading pack at the end of the race. The team will remain at the Le Mans circuit for a further two days to evaluate a range of the latest Dunlop rubber with various specifications for wet and dry conditions.

Carlos Checa (11th, Fastest lap 1’36.781)
“It was a good result and I also feel it is the best progress for the year as well. At the beginning I was putting in good lap times but after lap 11 or 12 the rear tyre dropped down and I couldn’t keep the pace and of course I was thinking about finishing the race. I tried to keep in the 37’s and keep the battle going with Vermeulen and Elias but I had a lot of movement at the rear and I thought ‘ok I want to keep the tyre as good as possible.’ Then Nakano was coming and I tried to push more to keep Nakano behind and I managed to do this. It was good to have a fight for most of the race. We will take a lot of information away from here. We know where we are and where we want to go. I was very happy with the progress of the bike and now we have two days of testing. I hope we can test many things that we have planned whether it is wet or dry especially on tyres and also to confirm all the settings on the bike that we think can help. I’m looking forward to this as at Turkey and China I was a little bit depressed as we seemed to keep hitting the same wall all the time but now I think we have jumped over the wall and we are much more in front than what we were and this is very satisfying for the team. Even if we are a bit behind we have improved the areas a lot more than before. I hope in two days we can finish everything because you always want to test more. I’m ready to test the two days and I have a lot of motivation to do this so we now know we have some direction to head and what we need to go faster. Dunlop has brought many things and has many ideas so it should be a big help for the next few races.

James Ellison (14th Fastest lap 1’37.572)
”The race wasn’t so bad actually and I’m happy when I see my lap times are getting closer to Carlos all the time. We really made some positive progress this weekend. The way the race went was a good boost to myself as besides getting closer to Carlos’s time I feel that I’m moving forward as I’m getting closer to the leaders in race time by the end of the race as well, but we have to improve so we can keep doing those lap times for most of the race. I’m looking forward to Monday and Tuesday where we have a full two-day test and I think we can make big improvements. It’ll be great to get in two solid days of testing. I don’t care what the weather’s like as long as we get through the allocation of tyres we have. There’s a lot of things I want to try on the bike as well so hopefully it will be dry so we can do all the work. What we want to do is start playing around with angles swingarm length and all that sort of stuff to find the best settings as obviously the tyres have a lot different characteristics to what the other Yamaha riders are using.

Herve Poncharal - Tech3 Yamaha Team Director
This has been the best weekend of the season so far. We have the best race position with 47 seconds to the leaders which is the closest gap we have ever had so far. Most important was the first half of the race as we were together with Vermeulen and Elias lapping at the same pace and I think that is the first time that has happened too. Unfortunately the second part of the race we struggled a little bit to keep the same pace and that is what we have to work on. In China we had the consistency without the performance. Now we have the performance but we have lost a little consistency so clearly this is what we have to work on. We are testing here Monday and Tuesday and Dunlop has brought plenty of tyres to test. The test will now be a lot easier when you have a more positive frame of mind because although it is not the best thing that can happen to finish 11th, it is not too bad when you know how competitive the MotoGP grid is. James also had his best race with both riders in the points and he continues to improve and get faster every time he rides the bike. We had a lot of laps in the dry and wet as we closed the gap to everyone else so we know now we’re heading in the right direction and after this test I think things will be even better.