Camel Yamaha Team look to end dramatic season on a high


One of the closest MotoGP World Championships in history heads into its final stage this weekend as the series heads out to Malaysia for the first of a five-race spell across three continents. Races at Sepang, Phillip Island (Australia), Motegi (Japan), Estoril (Portugal) and Valencia (Spain), will decide the destiny of a title which for the past five seasons has been lifted by Yamaha superstar Valentino Rossi. For the Italian to retain that honour he must turn around a 38-point deficit to current leader Nicky Hayden (Honda), although no fewer than nine riders still have the mathematical odds to take the honours.

Rossi’s chances were given a huge boost at the last round three weeks ago in Brno, where a second place finish combined with ninth for Hayden saw the gap between the pair slashed by thirteen points. That race went down as the closest top-15 finish of all time in the sport, strengthening this season’s reputation as one of the toughest ever and highlighting the number of points to be won and lost over the remaining five events.

Brno also witnessed Rossi's 87th appearance on the podium in the premier class and another top-three finish in Malaysia would equal Giacomo Agostini’s tally of 88 – a record bettered only by Mick Doohan. Rossi has finished on the podium at Sepang for the last five years, including a memorable victory for Yamaha in 2004 and a title-clinching second place behind Loris Capirossi (Ducati) last season.

Colin Edwards says that his target for the remaining five races is to assist Rossi’s title quest in any way he can whilst turning a consistent run of points-scoring finishes into at least a string of podiums. Tenth place in the last round at Brno was the 33rd successive race at which he has scored points – a MotoGP record again bettered only by Doohan on 37 – but the Texan’s goal is a return to the potentially winning form he showed earlier in the season.

Valentino Rossi: One of my favourites
Valentino Rossi is predicting a repeat of last year’s tough battle with fellow Italian Loris Capirossi this weekend as he looks to get one over on his compatriot after another memorable duel between the pair at Brno. The Yamaha man cites Sepang as one of his favourite tracks and he is hopeful that recent developments with the 990cc M1 machine will make it equally inclined towards the Malaysian venue.

“As everyone knows, Sepang is one of my favourite tracks and it’s always great fun to ride the M1 there,” says Rossi. “We made some really good progress in Brno so hopefully everything will work well from Friday morning and we can fight at the top all weekend. Last year Loris was incredibly strong in Sepang, similar to how he was two weeks ago in Brno and I am sure that this will be the case again this time!

“This year I can’t win the title in Malaysia so our aim once again is to finish on the podium and take as many points as possible in order to stay in the fight. These three races in a row are going be very important and at the end of them the championship could be much clearer. It’s always hard work, with a lot of flying and time changes in a short amount of time, but we will stay focused and do the best we can!”

Colin Edwards: No looking back
Colin Edwards, who lives in his hometown of Conroe, Texas, is used to long haul trips and is therefore undaunted by the demands of three ‘flyaway’ races in as many weekends. The 32 year old insists that thoughts of a poor run of form over the summer are now firmly behind him as he simply concentrates on a grandstand finish to his season over the final five races.

“Things really haven’t gone to plan lately and I think it’s fair to say that I hoped to be in a better situation going into the final run of races,” admits Edwards. “But there’s no point dwelling on the past - we made some positive steps at the test in Brno so we’ll see if that helps. We discovered last year that what works in Brno doesn’t necessarily work everywhere else but we definitely understand the bike better after that test so hopefully we will be in a better position come Friday morning in Sepang.

“I really like the Sepang track and then Phillip Island is one of my all-time favourites, so I am definitely looking forward to these races. We have two aims – one is to keep working with the team to find the best bike in order to give Valentino the tools to win the title, and the other is to get some good results and get on the podium. Having three ‘flyaway’ races in a row is always intense, but I am feeling ready for the challenge!”

Davide Brivio: The final push
Camel Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio is asking for one final effort from his team over the next two months as they cling on to the possibility of defending the crown they have won with Rossi for the past two seasons. The complicated logistics of five races across three continents always puts a further burden on every member of staff but Brivio is confident their extra exertions will once again be rewarded by results on the track.

“After a very long and hard season, this is the start of the final ‘push’ for everyone and I know that the riders, the team and everyone involved will give 100% through these final two months,” explains Brivio. “After Brno we did two days testing, and these were extremely important for the final few races. We tried a lot of new things and made some big steps forward with the setting and we got some very important information from our riders, which we hope will help us to remain at a competitive level until the end of the season.

“Our number one aim now is to give Valentino the means to stay in the running for the championship title, and then we will see what the situation is in Valencia. We hope that the Brno test has also given Colin plenty of confidence and we hope to see him getting some good results now and ending the season on a high. Sepang and Phillip Island especially are favourite tracks of both riders so hopefully these races will be good to us!”

Technically speaking: Sepang according to Jeremy Burgess
Sepang is one of the widest tracks on the calendar, measuring 16 metres across in some areas, and always features high track temperatures in the tropical climate. Races can be won and lost due to the ability of machinery to hold a line during turn-in at several points of hard braking. With four major hairpins and some fast and frequent changes of direction in its 5542m layout, Sepang provides a stern workout for the entire bike set-up and its largely predictable, if demanding, climate makes it the ideal winter testing venue.

“With the exception of Brno we have been to some tight and fiddly tracks recently but I would call Sepang a ‘real’ Grand Prix circuit,” explains Jeremy Burgess, Valentino Rossi’s Crew Chief. “Sepang is a great test track because it has a bit of everything – from two points that are fast enough for the riders to take in sixth gear to some tight and twisty first gear corners. As far as the corners are concerned there are some you accelerate through, some you stop at, areas where you are braking from high speeds – basically every area of the bike gets a workout.

“Last year we got caught out on tyres but we put a lot of laps in during the winter tests and over the last couple of races this is an area we have focused on. A good front-end set-up is also crucial at Sepang because there are lots of points where the riders are braking at full lean, so they need full confidence to know that the front won’t tuck. The heat is also an important factor and the rider must be careful not to push the tyres too early.”

Valentino Rossi: Information
Age: 27
Lives: London, UK
Bike: Yamaha YZR-M1
GP victories: 83 (56 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Czech Republic, 1996 (125cc)
First GP: Malaysia, 1996 (125cc)
GP starts: 168 (109 x MotoGP/500cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 42
World Championships – 7 Grand Prix (1 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 500cc, 4 x MotoGP)

Colin Edwards: Information
Age: 32
Lives: Conroe, Texas
Bike: Yamaha YZR-M1
First GP: Japan, 2003 (MotoGP)
GP starts: 60 x MotoGP
World Championships - 2 World Superbike

Sepang Lap Record: Nicky Hayden (Honda) 2005, 2’02.993
Sepang Best Lap: Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 2005, 2’01.731

2005 Malaysian Grand Prix Results:
1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati, 43’27.523
2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha, +1.999
3. Carlos Checa (SPA) Ducati, +2.069
10. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha, +22.275