Brno Czech Rep

MOTOGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2003
ROUND 10 – GAULOISES GRAND PRIX CESKE REPUBLIKY
12TH AUGUST 2003 – EVENT PREVIEW

CZECH REP. GRAND PRIX – 17/08/03 BRNO

Race report & Results

Raceday Sunday August 17
Track temperature: 45 degrees
Humidity: 30%
Ambient temperature: 27 degrees, dry and sunny

ROSSI SCORES BRNO WIN AFTER CLASSIC RACE

Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) had to ride at lap record pace to secure the win in a breathtaking Brno GP, and kept his absolute fastest lap for the very last. His new record of 1:59.966 even involved passing another rider, his race long companion and rival Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V).

Troy Bayliss (Ducati) was third after leading for the first ten laps, ending his race only 0.668 seconds behind Rossi.

For Rossi himself the race was a vindication of his self-belief after some relatively lowly results of late. “That was one of the best races of the year,” said the Italian. “For the first time we fought without tactics. Sometimes this year we have thought too much about the moves. Today there were four or five really fast guys who all wanted to be at the front. We pushed the bikes very hard and I made some mistakes. Sete made some and I crossed the line first. It was very special.”

Brno Czech Rep

Gibernau was full of praise for his rival, even in defeat. “Every race we have this year seems to be better than the other ones,” smiled Gibernau. “We are battling very hard and we tried 100% from the start. Congratulations to Valentino, he deserves it. Today he was the best – I tried my best to win, but he won. I heard that Valentino was in a crisis – I hoped he was in a crisis. If this is his crisis I do not want to know about it when he is not having a crisis!”

Having run with the leading bunch in the early laps, Brno specialist Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) slid down the order to finish fifth after experiencing turn in problems, running wide and almost losing the front. Biaggi was one place behind the Yamaha of Carlos Checa.

“This is certainly not a good result,” said Biaggi. “I did not enjoy riding and this has been a terrible race because I know I can go much faster at this track. At one stage I nearly fell but I jolted the handlebar with my left hand and that miraculously redressed the balance – but by that time Checa had overtaken me. I think the three hours we had in practice were not enough to set-up the bike correctly.”

The unhappy Biaggi was three seconds ahead of the quick learning Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) who held off the unwanted attentions of Alex Barros (Yamaha).

Another weekend of progress for Nicky Hayden was not enough to satisfy the young American’s hunger for success.
“Generally a positive weekend,” he acknowledged. “It was good being up the front in qualifying but this weekend I wanted a little more. I just seemed to be missing a little bit – me and the bike. I got on the back of Checa for a long time but just couldn’t get past. I’m happy I finished so close to the leaders, that gap was pretty close and it’s good to have moved up in the points as well.”

Eighth place was a disappointment for the hard work put in by Tohru Ukawa and his Camel Pramac Pons team. “

“The result is no good, eighth position,” said Ukawa. “In the middle of the race my pace was not so bad but at the beginning it was so difficult to be in the lap time. There was too much gap to make up to the top group. We have seen this many times this year. At the end there was much more spinning from the rear than earlier so the gap to Barros grew. Tomorrow I am testing here so we will try to find a solution.”

Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda) rode with his by now customary mix of aggression and security to finish ninth, struggling to overcome a bad start.

“There is no doubt about it, I just have to improve my starts,” he said. “I slip back and then I have to ride hard to make up for lost ground. Then I had the problem of a lack of grip at the rear when coming out of corners.”

Marco Melandri (Yamaha) took his Yamaha to tenth, with Olivier Jacque (Yamaha) 11th and Colin Edwards (Aprilia) 12th.

Rookie Ryuichi Kiyonari (Team Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) was in fine form again, learning each session and benefiting from some testing time at this track. “I got a good start in the race and I am really happy to have scored a point again in the championship,” said Kiyonari. “Even though I had some experience of this track I still did not find the race easy. I am very tired because the track is very long and difficult.”

Rossi’s win, his fourth of the year, puts him on a total of 212 points while Gibernau lost some ground to his main championship rival and now sits on a total of 178. Biaggi is in third with 141 points.

Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) had to watch a leading trio of Aprilia riders make the front running for almost the entire 20-lap 250cc event, the Italian star finally finishing fourth after a consistent display of fast lapping. Randy de Puniet (Aprilia) held off his race long partners Toni Elias and Manuel Poggiali to win his second race of the year.

Rolfo was frustrated to take fourth. “I didn’t make the best of starts and I had to recover quickly,” said the Italian, who still enjoys a genuine chance of the championship win itself. “After I had dropped back to fourth it was impossible to close the gap again and I did not have the acceleration I needed off the corners. It was like an elastic effect, close going into the corner, slower coming out.”

Sebastian Porto (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) was on the tail of the leading group after overcoming a third row start and he was to end his race five seconds down on Rolfo, in a fine fifth place.

After experiencing many problems finding a good set-up in practice, Porto nonetheless had to settle for fifth. “I could not get the best suspension settings and that affected my ability to ride my fastest,” said the Argentine. “When the machine is not set up 100% it is impossible to push hard enough to make up time to the leading group.”

Eric Bataille (Troll BQR Honda RS250RW) finished 12th, scoring four points, and Christian Gemmel (Kiefer Castrol Honda RS250RW) took the last point on offer with his 15th place finish.

Katja Poensgen (Dark Dog Molenaar Honda RS250RW was 20th, Gabor Rizmayer (Biro Racing Honda) the last finisher in 22nd.

The World Championship points standings show Poggiali in the lead with 145 points, Nieto second on 136 and Rolfo third, a single point down on Nieto and only ten behind Poggiali. De Puniet is on a total of 130 and Elias sits fifth on 126. Porto is eighth, with 98 points.

125
Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS125R) had a roller coaster ride to win his fourth race of the season and projected himself into a clear lead in the overall championship. Stefano Perugini (Aprilia) was second in the race while Alex de Angelis (Aprilia) inexplicably slowed from the leading group and then fought back to third.

Pedrosa was frequently the leader but such was the nature of this race, at the ultra-wide Brno circuit, that he was as low as sixth at one stage. Two separate high speed crashes, in which a leading rider fell and another crashed into his machine, saw first Lucio Cecchinello (Aprilia) and Steve Jenkner (Aprilia) exit the 19 lap race on lap nine.

Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) was the victim of the other heavy fall, when Pablo Nieto’s Aprilia tumbled in front of him, leaving him nowhere to go, and with a cracked right thigh.

A drop in pace towards the last few laps saw Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) slip from a possible podium to sixth. Masao Azuma (Ajo Motorsports Honda RS125R) was the final Honda points finisher in 13th after Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) fell out of contention,

For Pedrosa, he admitted that he rode his luck almost as well as he rode his machine, despite his 3.981 second lead at the flag.

“I am very happy today because for three races I could not get on the podium,” said Pedrosa. “I also feel a little lucky because Cecchinello and Jenkner crashed and they were in front at the time. I am very happy for myself, my team, Honda and Telefonica.”

The World Championship points table shows Pedrosa with a 25 point lead over Perugini, 162 to 137. Dovizioso lost some ground and finished the day with 112 points, while De Angelis promoted himself to fourth overall on 108.


HONDA TEAM QUOTES:

MotoGP:
Valentino Rossi , Repsol Honda Team: 1st:  “That was one of the best races of the year. I’m very happy. For the first time we race without tactics. Sometimes this year I have thought too much about the moves. Today there were four or five really fast guys who all wanted to be in front. We push the bikes very hard. I made some mistakes; Sete made some and I crossed the line first. It was for me just like the overtake I made on Jorge Martinez for the first victory of my career here. It was very special.”

Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda: 2nd: “I think that was one of the best races of the year. We all gave our maximum from the very start without thinking about tactics. Once Rossi took the lead I passed Troy as soon as I had the chance to make sure Valentino didn’t escape. In the final stages of the race we were all sliding around a lot and I knew it would be a tough head to head with Rossi. I made the most of a small mistake he made to overtake him and pushed hard to open up a gap, but then I made a mistake myself and Valentino went past. I can only say congratulations to him because he deserved it just as much as I would have. They are saying he is in a crisis – I hope not because I can’t imagine what he would be like at 100%!  Obviously I would like to have won but in any case I think we are showing we are very competitive. Of course, this is down to the fantastic team I am in and I would like to thank each and every one of them for a great job.

Max Biaggi, Camel Pramac Pons: 5th:  “This is certainly not a good result.”  “I did not enjoy riding and this has been a terrible race because I know I can go much faster at this track. At one stage I nearly fell but I jolted the handlebar with my left hand and that miraculously redressed the balance – but by that time Checa had overtaken me. I think the three hours we had in practice were not enough to set-up the bike correctly.”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 6th:  “Generally a positive weekend. It was good being up front on the qualifying days but today I was expecting a little more. I just seemed to be missing a little bit – me and the bike. I got on the back of Checa for a long time and couldn’t get past. I got the run on him a few times but that was it. I’m happy I finished so close to the leaders – that gap was pretty close and it’s good to have moved up in the points as well. I’ll take all the positives from the weekend and move on – to the tests tomorrow and the next GP in Portugal.”

Tohru Ukawa, Camel Pramac Pons: 8th: “The result is no good, eighth position. “In the middle of the race my pace was not so bad but at the beginning it was so difficult to be in the lap time. There was too much gap to make up to the top group. We have seen this many times this year. At the end there was much more spinning from the rear than earlier so the gap to Barros grew. Tomorrow I am testing here so we will try to find a solution.”

Makoto Tamada, Pramac Honda Team: 9th: “There’s no doubt about it: I’ve just got to improve my start. I slip back and then it’s very hard to make up lost ground. Then I had the problem of a lack of grip at the rear when coming out of the corners, as I had to wait till the bike was not leaning down so much before opening up the throttle. When it’s like this, I can’t be as aggressive as I’d like. It means I lose all the advantage I gain when braking. I’m not satisfied with ninth place in today’s race. I wanted to do better, especially here in Brno, as it’s a track I really like. We’ll be working hard tomorrow to solve this problem: we’ve just got to find a way to deliver all the power of my RC211V’s engine down to the ground.”

Ryuichi Kiyonari, Telefonica MoviStar Honda: 15th : “I got a good start and went on to pick up a World Championship point. It wasn’t an easy race because this track is so difficult, it is a long race and a high pace. It was very tiring but also a lot of fun.”

Fausto Gresini, Team Manager: “That was a stupendous race – not good for the heart.. fantastic. In a duel like the one we have seen today the two riders, Sete and Rossi, have demonstrated that they are both at the same level. Sete has shown great bravery and he is the pride of our team. I want to thank him publicly: Sete, you are a top rider. Thank you for making our dreams a reality – for our small family you are a hero. As far as Ryuichi is concerned I think he had his best race today and I hope he can continue in the same way”.

250cc:
Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda, 4th: “I didn’t make the best of starts and I had to recover quickly as I knew that if the leading group got away it would be difficult to catch them. Even when I achieved this initial objective later on in the race I made another small mistake which made it impossible, that was the difference.”

“With the conditions imposed by the characteristics of the circuit, and in respect to the front row starters, it was impossible to close the gap again. When I tried again to close the gap under braking I did not have the acceleration I needed off the corner. It was like an ‘Elastic effect’ – close going into the corner, slower coming out. This made it impossible in the end. In general I am very satisfied with the way things have gone all weekend, both the bike and myself have been 100%.”

Sebastian Porto, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 5th: “Taking into account the way the weekend has gone I’m happy with fifth place. The set up problems on the front end were a real headache – we tried everything but could not find a solution. Without the bike at 100% it was impossible for me to follow the rhythm at the front but I pushed as hard as I could but the bike did not respond as I hoped. Anyway we have collected some valuable points and now we can start to think about Estoril.”

125cc:
Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 1st: “”Before the race we were not sure which front tyre to take but luckily we went for a hard compound. I tried to get away from the start with a strong rhythm but when I realised I was being passed in the slipstream down the straight I decided to hang in the group. A series if crashes left Perugini and I together so I tried to step up the pace again and managed to escape from him. With one last effort I set my fastest lap of the race on the last lap. I needed a race like this after three disappointing races. My advantage in the championship is important but it’s nowhere near over.”

Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Racing Honda, 6th: “I had some problems with the suspension in practice and had no grip.  I believed we had fixed it but in the race I had a strange problem with the rear end, it felt like the rear wheel was hopping. It was like that from the start. I just waited as long as I could before attacking but when I tried to race harder it was impossible.”

Masao Azuma, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 13th: “We tried to continue bettering the suspension set up in the warm up but I seized after three laps. I decided to start the race with the set up we had on Saturday. We are going in the right direction and today’s result was not so bad in the circumstances. With Kikuchi San now helping us with set up ideas I’m sure we will get to where we need to be.”

Hiroyuki Kikuchi, Ajo Motorsports Honda, dns: Kikuchi broke the engine of his machine in the warm up and did not start the race.

Simone Corsi, Scot Racing Honda, dnf: “This has been a bad weekend for me, and on my first visit to Brno. Rain in the first session then two crashes not so good. In the race I got into a big slide and crashed!”

Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda, dnf: “The crash was an accident, Nieto could do nothing about it, that’s racing. It was a race where I had at least a good chance of a podium place, maybe more. I have a crack at the top of my thigh. It’s not serious enough to have an operation, just laying down and resting. It will take at least three weeks before I can put pressure on it. I doubt I will race at Estoril. That’s a pity because I finished ninth in the wet race last year”

Results

MotoGP
Race Classification MotoGP : (22 laps = 118.866 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Valentino ROSSI /ITA /Repsol Honda /HONDA/44’18.907/160.937
2/Sete GIBERNAU /SPA /Telefónica Movistar Honda /HONDA/44’18.949/160.934
3/Troy BAYLISS /AUS /Ducati Marlboro Team /DUCATI/44’19.575/160.896
4/Carlos CHECA /SPA /Fortuna Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/44’24.297/160.611
5/Max BIAGGI /ITA /Camel Pramac Pons /HONDA/44’27.636/160.410
6/Nicky HAYDEN /USA /Repsol Honda /HONDA/44’29.950/160.271
7/Alex BARROS /BRA /Gauloises Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/44’30.346/160.247
8/Tohru UKAWA /JPN /Camel Pramac Pons /HONDA/44’32.481/160.119
9/Makoto TAMADA /JPN /Pramac Honda /HONDA/44’42.180/159.540
10/Marco MELANDRI /ITA /Fortuna Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/44’45.311/159.354
11/Olivier JACQUE /FRA /Gauloises Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/44’45.592/159.338
12/Colin EDWARDS /USA /Alice Aprilia Racing /APRILIA/44’49.635/159.098
13/Noriyuki HAGA /JPN /Alice Aprilia Racing /APRILIA/44’58.438/158.579
14/Shinya NAKANO /JPN /d’Antín Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/45’00.147/158.479
15/Ryuichi KIYONARI /JPN /Telefonica Movistar Honda /HONDA/45’03.530/158.281
Fastest Lap: Valentino ROSSI 1’59.966 162.135 Km/h Lap 22

World Championship Positions:
1 ROSSI 212, 2 GIBERNAU 178, 3 BIAGGI 141, 4 CAPIROSSI 97, 5 BAYLISS 96, 6 CHECA 78,
7 UKAWA 74, 8 BARROS 71, 9 HAYDEN 67, 10 NAKANO 65, 11 JACQUE 55, 12 TAMADA 47,
13 EDWARDS 46, 14 HAGA 33, 15 ABE 24.

250cc
Race Classification 250cc: (20 laps = 108.06 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Randy De Punet /FRA /Safilo Oxydo-LCR /APRILIA/41’45.354/155.273
2/Toni ELIAS /SPA /Team Repsol Telefonica Movistar /APRILIA/41’45.881/155.241
3/Manuel POGGIALI /RSM /MS Aprilia Team /APRILIA/41’46.305/155.214
4/Roberto ROLFO /ITA /Fortuna Honda /HONDA/41’50.846/154.934
5/Sebastian PORTO /ARG /Telefonica Movistar jnr Team /HONDA/41’55.761/154.631
6/Fonsi NIETO /SPA /Team Repsol Telefonica Movistar /APRILIA/41’56.229/154.602
7/Franco BATTAINI /ITA /Campetella Racing /APRILIA/42’00.632/154.332
8/Sylvain GUINTOLI /FRA /Campetella Racing /APRILIA/42’00.919/154.315
9/Naoki MATSUDO /JPN /Yamaha Kurz /YAMAHA/42’18.106/153.270
10/Hector FAUBEL /SPA /Aspar Junior Team /APRILIA/42’21.521/153.064
11/Hugo MARCHAND /FRA /Equipe de France – Scrab GP /APRILIA/42’21.962/153.037
12/Eric BATAILLE /FRA /Troll Honda BQR /HONDA/42’36.054/152.193
13/Dirk HEIDORF /GER /Aprilia Germany / APRILIA/42’37.653/152.098
14/Chaz DAVIES /GBR /Aprilia Germany /APRILIA/42’38.224/152.064
15/Christian GEMMEL /GER /Kiefer Castrol-Honda Racing /HONDA/42’38.417/152.053
Fastest Lap: Toni ELIAS 2’03.969 156.900 Km/h Lap 11

World Championship Positions:
1 POGGIALI 145,

2 NIETO 136,

3 ROLFO 135,

4 DE PUNIET 130,

5 ELIAS 126,

6 BATTAINI 107,

7 WEST 104,

8 PORTO 98,

9 MATSUDO 67,

10 GUINTOLI 66,

11 DEBON 47,

12 OLIVE 27,

13 FAUBEL 21,

14 AOYAMA 20,

15 GEMMEL 19.

125cc:
Race Classification 125cc (19 laps = 102.657 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Daniel PEDROSA /SPA /Telefonica Movistar jnr Team /HONDA/40’59.354/150.269
2/Stefano PERUGINI /ITA /Abruzzo Racing Team /APRILIA/41’03.335/150.026
3/Alex De ANGELIS /RSM /Globet.com Racing /APRILIA/41’09.808/149.633
4/Mika KALLIO /FIN /KTM-Red Bull /KTM/41’10.406/149.596
5/Hector BARBERA /SPA /Master-MXOnda-Aspar Team /APRILIA/41’11.705/149.518
6/Andrea DOVIZIOSO /ITA /Team Scot /HONDA/41’12.322/149.481
7/Mirko GIANSANTI /ITA /Matteoni Racing /APRILIA/41’20.463/148.990
8/Gino BORSOI /ITA /Globet.com Racing /APRILIA/41’20.867/148.966
9/Youichi UI /JPN /Sterilgarda Racing /APRILIA/41’24.195/148.766
10/Gioele PELLINO /ITA /Sterilgarda Racing /APRILIA/41’34.296/148.164
11/Gabor TALMACSI /HUN /Exalt Cycle Red Devil /APRILIA/41’34.567/148.148
12/Jorge LORENZO /SPA /Caja Madrid Derbi Racing /DERBI/41’40.396/147.802
13/Masao Azuma /JPN / Ajo Motorsports / HONDA/41’40.716/147.783
14/Marco SIMONCELLI /ITA /Matteoni Racing /APRILIA/41’40.894/147.773
15/Mike De MEGLIO /FRA /Freesoul Racing Team /APRILIA/41’41.016/147.766
Fastest Lap : Lucio CECCHINELLO 2’07.836 152.154 Km/h Lap 4

World Championship Positions:
1 PEDROSA 162, 2 PERUGINI 137, 3 DOVIZIOSO 112, 4 DE ANGELIS 108,
5 CECCHINELLO 105, 6 JENKNER 98, 7 NIETO 88, 8 BARBERA 78, 9 UI  71,
10 STONER 60, 11 GIANSANTI 60, 12 KALLIO 59, 13 LUTHI 48, 14 BORSOI 44,
15 TALMACSI 38.

BRNO PROVES TOUGH CHALLENGE FOR BIAGGI AND UKAWA

The 22-lap Czech Rep. Grand Prix saw Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) finish a fighting fifth and his team-mate Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) eighth
after a fast-paced Brno race.

Biaggi was with the leading group of eventual winner Valentino Rossi (Honda), second place Sete Gibernau (Honda) and final podium place man Troy Bayliss (Ducati) but after dropping from his normal race pace on one lap when he lost the front, he ended his race fighting with Yamaha rider Carlos Checa and could not pass him on the final stages.

Ukawa had a race long battle with another Yamaha man, Alex Barros, and decreasing levels of traction as the race wore on, put Tohru a couple of seconds behind the Brazilian.

The last laps of the race were a Honda-Ducati battle between the three podium finishers and Loris Capirossi (Ducati), who finally retired with the end almost in sight. With Gibernau leading on the penultimate lap, Rossi made a brave attack that paid off on the last circuit and he scored his first win since Mugello (round five).

Behind the top five of Rossi, Gibernau, Bayliss, Checa and Biaggi it was the turn of Nicky Hayden (Honda) to score sixth, with Barros and Ukawa just behind. Makoto Tamada (Honda) and Marco Melandri (Yamaha) finished off the top ten.

Colin Edwards was top Aprilia rider once more, in 12th this weekend, and Andrew Pitt just missed out on points. He was sixteenth on his Kawasaki. John Hopkins took his V-4 Suzuki to 17th.

Neither Jeremy McWilliams nor Nobuatsu Aoki’s Protons finished the race.

In the overall championship standings Rossi extended his lead to 212 – 178 points over Gibernau, with Biaggi third on 141 points. Ukawa is seventh on a total of 74 points.

Max Biaggi (5th): “This is certainly not a good result. I did not enjoy riding and this has been a terrible race because I know I can go much faster at this track. At one stage I nearly fell but I jolted the handlebar with my left hand and that miraculously redressed the balance – but by that time I had been overtaken by Checa. I think the three hours we had in practice were not enough to set-up the bike correctly.”

Tohru Ukawa (8th): “The result is no good, eighth position. In the middle of the race my pace was not so bad but at the beginning it was so difficult to be in the lap time. There was too much gap to make up to the top group. We have seen this many times this year. At the end there was much more spinning from the rear than earlier and so the gap to Barros grew. Tomorrow I am testing here so we will try to find a solution.”

ROSSI TAKES POLE IN CZECH SUNSHINE

Valentino Rossi  (Repsol Honda RC211V) had to wait to take pole position at the Czech Grand Prix, with the Repsol Honda saving his hardest attack for his very last circuit of the 5.430km track to finally outpace his many rivals. Rossi lists Brno as one of his least favourite tracks, despite having won here in every capacity class, and today’s lightning turn of speed proves that he has overcome the disappointment of losing the last race at Sachsenring on the final corners.

Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) appeared to be the man in charge in the final timed session, having played pathfinder for the rest of the field on three occasions, rising continually to the challenge of the top Honda and Ducati riders as the one hour session reached its climax.

Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) slid off in the early stages of the final session, riding his damaged machine back to the pits and ending his afternoon’s work on his spare machine. He earned himself third in the classification.

Loris Capirossi (Ducati) gave the Honda riders a scare with a fast final lap, which was on course for a pole position until he lost time in the final two splits. All four of the top riders went under the 1:58 barrier, and the top nine were within one second of each other.

The needs of the Brno circuit mean that overtaking in the early laps is not an easy task and thus competition for even second row start positions was desperate to the end. The fast and fluid corners at Brno, and rapid chicanes, mean that almost any pass can be negated on the exit of the corner.

Tyre selection, if today’s high temperatures are repeated, will be another factor to come into play on raceday, and each rider had to make a choice between selecting race tyres and achieving a fast qualifying time in the final session.

The second row was hotly disputed territory, with Carlos Checa (Yamaha), Troy Bayliss (Ducati), Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) and Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) taking fifth through to eighth places. Hayden was second at one stage; an impressive feat from the young American, and Ukawa was also in possession of the second best lap time for a while.

“I am very happy with that,” said Rossi after his explosive final circuit. “We arrived here after making a stupid mistake at the Sachsenring but we have had some holidays and we are in very good shape. We worked very hard for this pole position, it is always important but especially here for the championship. A lap of 1m 58 seconds is unbelievable. I rode very well on that last lap and made no mistakes.”

Sete Gibernau can approach the race on Sunday with his head held high, after another great personal and team performance. “I think we got the bike very close to optimum dry settings in that session,” said Gibernau. “In the final qualifying I was on pole until the very last moment so that is a shame. I have to say thank you to my team and Michelin because they have worked very hard and very well. Tomorrow will be a very tough race but I am feeling very good about it.”

Biaggi was glad to be on the front row after his early crash. “I crashed on my second lap out because I saw a bike in front that was smoking and losing oil so I probably fell when I hit an oil patch on the track,” he said. “This incident forced me to use my second bike for the rest of the session. I did not feel as comfortable on this bike as I did on the other one so I set a relatively discreet time. However I know that I can go quicker and this gives me confidence for the race.”

Riding loose and rapidly Nicky Hayden looked like a veteran MotoGP campaigner rather than a class rookie, and was satisfied with his Brno weekend so far. “The second row! That’s the best I have ever qualified so I am really happy,” extolled Hayden. “Before today my best was 12th, so second row is a big improvement. Near the end I saw on my board ‘P3’, I thought it would be cool to skip the second row and go straight to the front!”

Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) was a real factor in the qualifying today, but gradually slid to a second row start. “We have made many improvements but a lot of other riders did the same,” explained Ukawa. “We have got better traction than yesterday but still not enough. The machine is OK, but it is going to be difficult to choose a tyre. We will try some more tomorrow morning, but everyone is in the same situation.”

Rookie Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) was inside the top ten once more, looking good at a track he has experience of in testing, even if he still had to ride hard for his top ten. “I feel I am pretty close to the limit so I don’t feel I have any room for improvement any more,” said the Bridgestone supplied rider. “This means I am going to have to find a constant pace tomorrow to make sure I am competitive at the end.”

Another rookie, Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) also went well, partly because he tested at Brno last month. “We did well here because this is a track we have actually been to before,” he explained. “We got good set-up information from the test, and I am happy for that experience as we approach the race.”

A shortened 250 qualifying session was thirty seconds shy of the full 45 minutes after a crash brought out the red flags. Manuel Poggiali (Aprilia), the championship leader, was narrowly the fastest man, 0.048 seconds clear of the chasing Randy De Puniet (Aprilia). An all Aprilia top five saw Fonsi Nieto third, Tony Elias fourth and Franco Battaini in fifth.

Poggiali’s time of 2:03.872 was still some way off the circuit best of 2:02.953 but the competition in the 250 class was such that Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) was sixth, after having to use his time from Friday as his best of the weekend.

“The fundamental problem has been our decision to dedicate the day to finding a very good set up and race rhythm, then maintaining it. Then, when I went out to get a fast time I could not because there were too many riders on the track,” said Rolfo. “In general I’m happy and that’s why things have gone so well for us over the two days of practice, even if I could not maintain my provisional front row position.”

Sebastian Porto (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) was tenth, bitterly disappointed to be prevented from setting a faster time when the red flag came out. “I came in to change the settings on the suspension, went back out again, found that they felt worse and then went back to the originals,” said Porto. “I only had one lap to set a better time but I was stopped when West had an accident and the resultant red flags ended the session.”

In the smallest capacity class Alex De Angelis (Aprilia) rode the slipstream of Stefano Perugini’s Aprilia all the way to a new track record of 2:08.100 and thus qualified in pole position for tomorrow’s 125cc Grand Prix. Provisional pole man Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS125R) was unable to beat the time set by De Angelis in two attempts at the end of the session.

Second place went to one-time fastest man Steve Jenkner (Aprilia), from Lucio Cecchinelli (Aprilia) and fourth place Pedrosa.

The second row of qualifying was headed by the Aprilia of Perugini, from Pablo Nieto (Aprilia) and second quickest Honda rider Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R).

Rounding out the top ten is three time 2003 season podium finisher Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R), with Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) nineteenth, just over two seconds from pole at this 5.403km circuit.

The late replacement for Mika Kallio in the Ajo Motorsports team, Hiroyuki Kikuchi, was 21st, one place behind his new team-mate Masao Azuma.

“I wasn’t able to hang onto pole position,” said Pedrosa. “But I am happy with my rhythm for the race. We had a few suspension problems in the final session, both front and rear, but they are not serious and I am sure I can sort them out.”

Luthi, who saved his best for last, said, “I’m very happy with my time and grid position. In fact the only problem I have is the choice of tyre for the race. The soft compounds are finished after a few laps and the harder compounds will slide early in the race. ”

For Dovizioso, tenth place was hard won. “I spent the session trying to find more rear wheel grip via the suspension settings,” he stated. “With the soft tyre we have problems with the bike moving around after a few laps and the hard one is too hard at the beginning and gives problems.”

HONDA TEAM QUOTES:

MotoGP:

Valentino Rossi , Repsol Honda Team: 1st: “I very happy with that. We arrive here after the stupid mistake at the Sachsenring but we make some holidays and now feel in good shape. We work very hard today for the pole position – it’s always important but especially here for the championship. This morning we worked very hard on the lap time and make good results and this afternoon the lap was fantastic. 58.7sec is unbelievable. I rode very well on that last lap and make no mistakes. Tomorrow will be very hard as many of the top group can make the ’59’s. We still need to make decision about the setting and the tyre choice but at the moment I am happy where we are.”

Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Team: 2nd: “Today we have shown that the problems we had yesterday were what held us up, and we have been able to set a good rhythm from the morning. In the final qualifying I was on pole until the very last moment so that is a shame  but I have to say I have enjoyed myself. I am satisfied because we have a good rhythm and that is very important for the race. Once again I would like to say thanks to the team and to Michelin for their help and excellent work. We still have a few things to sort out in the morning warm-up – tomorrow will be a very tough race but I am feeling really good about it.”

Max Biaggi, Camel Pramac Pons: 3rd: Max Biaggi: “I crashed on my second lap out because I saw a bike in front that was smoking and losing oil so I probably fell when I hit an oil patch on the track. This incident forced me to use my second bike for the rest of the session. I did not feel as comfortable on this bike as I did on the other one so I set a relatively discreet time. However I know that I can go quicker and this gives me confidence for the race.”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 7th: “Second row! That’s the best I’ve ever qualified so I’m real happy. Before today my best was 12th so second row is a big improvement. It’s just something I’ve been working on with the team and it seems to be commin good. Near the end I saw on my board P3 – I thought it would be cool to skip the second row and go straight to the front! Tomorrow I’ll be lookin’ to get a good start and hang with the leading group. The last few GP’s I’ve had to start further back and play catch up. I know I can run a fast pace and I’m real lookin’ forward to tomorrow.”

Tohru Ukawa, Camel Pramac Pons: 8th: Tohru Ukawa: “We have made many improvements but a lot of other riders did the same,” explained Ukawa. “We have got better traction than yesterday but still not enough. The machine is OK, but it is going to be difficult to choose a tyre. We will try some more tomorrow morning, but everyone is in the same situation.”

Makoto Tamada, Pramac Honda Team: 10th: “I feel I’m pretty close to the limit, so I don’t have much room for improvement any more. This means I’m going to have to find a constant pace tomorrow so as to be competitive right through to the end. However, I’d also like to go into attack mode, especially because this circuit gives lots of opportunities and there are plenty of places where it’s possible to go for your adversaries when braking. The most suitable tyres turned out to be the ones we tried out during the recent tests in July and, quite frankly, considering how fast I went during those tests, I really had been hoping to be a bit more competitive now. For the moment, I haven’t been. But we’ll see how things turn out tomorrow. During most of the session today, I didn’t have enough grip on the rear wheel when coming out of the corners.”

Ryuichi Kiyonari, Telefonica MoviStar Honda: 15th: “I had already tested at this circuit and it seems that it shows through in the results. Fifteenth position on the grid is a good result for me and my time was almost two seconds quicker than yesterday. I am already looking forward for the race to get started”.

Fausto Gresini: Team Manager: “I am very happy – Sete has shown that he is in excellent form. Today we focused on the set-up of the bike and the team have done a great job. Today we got the maximum performance out of the tyres to seal a good grid position. I am also very happy for Ryuchi – his time today was really surprising. Kiyonari is beginning to reap the fruit of everything he is learning this season, he is giving his all and he deserves a reward. He obviously still has a lot to work on but he will be backed all the way by his team”.

250cc:
Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda, 6th: “The fundamental problem has been our decision to dedicate the day to finding a very good set up and race rhythm, then maintaining it. Then, when I went out to get a fast time I could not because there were too many riders on the track.”

“In general I’m happy and that’s why things have gone so well for us over the two days of practice, even if I could not maintain my provisional front row position. My objective was to have good set up and rhythm for the race, which is going to be fast and hard. I have to be ready for those conditions that’s why I think in that aspect we have achieved our objectives.” Confirmed Roberto Rolfo.

“We have to recognise that it will be very important for us to continue to be on the front row in qualifying, I am convinced of that. If it was not for the traffic I found on the last laps of qualifying I would have achieved that objective.” Asserted a convinced Fortuna rider.

Sebastian Porto, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 10th: “I came in to change the settings on the suspension, went back out again, found that they felt worse and then went back to the originals,” said Porto. “I only had one lap to set a better time but I was stopped when West had an accident and the resultant red flags ended the session.”

125cc:
Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team: 3rd “I wasn’t able to hang onto pole position but I am happy with my rhythm for the race. We had a few suspension problems in the final session, both front and rear, but they are not serious and I am sure I can sort them out.”

Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda, 7th: “I’m very happy with my time and grid position. In fact the only problem I have is the choice of tyre for the race. The soft compounds are finished after a few laps and the harder compounds will slide early in the race. ”

Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Racing Honda, 10th: “I spent the session trying to find more rear wheel grip via the suspension settings. With the soft tyre we have problems with the bike moving around after a few laps and the hard one is too hard at the beginning and gives problems.  We also have some front end chattering, but not too much. We have some things to try in the morning warm up.”

Simone Corsi, Scot Racing Honda, 19th: “Ï had a crash this morning which held me back little. I braked too hard using a hard compound tyre and the font end turned in. I’m OK but it cost me track time. But to be positive I improved my time with every session so I’m looking forward to the race. I need a good start, if I get on I’m hopeful for the race.”

Masao Azuma, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 20th: “The bike is now better than at recent races. We have completely changed the suspension settings we used at Sachsenring, a bad race for us. There is still work to do to get the set up we need but we are going in the right direction. It’s completely different and better but not showing in the lap times, even if the feeling I have with the bike is very good. We have a couple of settings changes to try in the warm up tomorrow.”

Hiroyuki Kikuchi, Ajo Motorsports Honda, (riding for Ajo Motrsports in place of Mika Kallio) 21st: “When I came here I didn’t know too much about the team situation. I tried Kallio’s set up but it was so different to what I’m used to it was not good for me. I have tried a set up closer to Azuma San’s and try to understand why the results have not been so good.”

FINAL QUALIFYING (16/08/03) – CZECH REP. GRAND PRIX,
17/08/03 BRNO

BIAGGI ON FRONT ROW WITH UKAWA ON THE SECOND

Despite falling on only the second lap of the final qualifying session Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) took third place on the grid for Sunday’s 22-lap MotoGP race, setting his own personal best lap of the 5.403km circuit with a 1m 58.908s lap. His team-mate Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) secured a second row start after setting eighth best time, 0.7 seconds up on his Friday mark.

Ukawa had instant success on the stopwatch as the second and final qualifying session began. He almost immediately improved on his previous day’s front row time, but dropped to fifth fastest as Nicky Hayden (Honda) performed a similar, but ultimately swifter, trick.

With the top three times set in the first session proving unbeatable in the first half of the final hour, the struggle for final supremacy became a tense affair.

With just over 20-minutes left Ukawa promoted himself to second, making for a Camel Pramac Pons 1-2 with Biaggi in front, but the final ten minutes saw the leading order change over and over, with Sete Gibernau (Honda) taking what looked to be the pole time on three separate occasions, only for the Spaniard to be overcome by other riders.

The high air temperatures delivered 44°C track temperatures each of which made for some dramatic sliding from riders intent on taking a front row start at this tricky circuit.

The eventual front row was headed by Valentino Rossi (Honda), languishing in a lowly position at one stage but securing pole with a 1m 58.769s lap. Gibernau’s last lap put him second, only 0.009 seconds ahead of the battling Biaggi.  Three Italian riders have featured at the top of the results sheets on many occasions this year and Loris Capirossi (Ducati) completed the usual tricolore trio in fourth place.

The second row comprises Carlos Checa (Yamaha), Troy Bayliss (Ducati) and Nicky Hayden (Honda) just ahead of Ukawa.

First Aprilia in the practice order belonged to Colin Edwards in 12th place, one spot and one row ahead of his American compatriot John Hopkins (Suzuki). In 19th place, Garry McCoy was the first Kawasaki rider home and Jeremy McWilliams took his Proton KR to 21st place in a tough day for the smaller teams.

Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) was not competing in the second qualifying session, having crashed heavily in the untimed session and being immediately flown to hospital, where he was fortunately found to be not seriously injured.

Final Qualifying:
1. Valentino Rossi (Honda) 1m 58.769s
2. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 1m 58.899s
3. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 58.908s
4. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1m 58.916s
5. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 1m 59.295s
6. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 1m 59.373s
7. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 1m 59.432s
8. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 59.629s
9. Alex Barros (Yamaha) 1m 59.765s
10. Makoto Tamada (Honda) 2m 00.145s

Max Biaggi (3rd): “I crashed on the second lap and I didn’t know why. There was a bike close in front of me which had smoke or spray coming from it, so maybe that was the cause. My second bike was not my favourite one but we still set a good time.”

Tohru Ukawa (8th): “We have made many improvements but a lot of other riders did the same. We have got better traction than yesterday but still not enough. The machine is OK, but it is going to be difficult to choose a tyre. We will try some more tomorrow morning, but everyone is in the same situation.”

15–16–17 August 2003

ROSSI HEADS HONDA CHALLENGE AT BRNO

The 16-race MotoGP season clicks over into double digits at Brno this weekend with reigning
World Champion Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) still leading what has become a fascinating and increasingly close battle for overall championship honours between himself and two other RC211V riders.

Second place man in the series Sete Gibernau (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) scored his fourth win of the series at the Sachsenring round three weekends ago, closing to within 29 points of the otherwise irrepressible Rossi. Riding a wave of self-confidence since his return to the Honda fold this year, Gibernau has made himself the star of the current series and looks to Brno – the easternmost GP of the European season – as another opportunity to peg back some points on the leader.

Despite suffering his first no score of his 2003 season, after falling at the tight and twisty Sachsenring circuit, Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) still finds himself the third player in a trio of Honda riders clearly heading the championship table. Three times a Brno race winner in the premier class of GP racing, Biaggi is going for win number two of his 2003 season, at one of his all time favourite circuits.

Such has been the efficacy of the RC211V and the experience and hunger of this year’s top three Honda riders that they have taken eight of the possible nine wins between them. The remaining win went to fourth place man in the championship Loris Capirossi (Ducati) who secured victory at Catalunya in round six.

The Brno track is a beloved venue for many riders and the old road circuits of yesteryear still encircle the current purpose built Automotodrom Brno track. Despite it’s contemporary levels of safety and facilities Brno is still one of the longer venues on the campaign trail at 5,403m and has been a MotoGP fixture since it opened in 1987.

For Rossi, a win at Brno would extend his lead in the championship, irrespective of Gibernau’s placing. With the incentive of going for thee premier class championship wins in a row, the idol of millions worldwide is in determined mood pre race, despite some bad luck at Brno in the past. “Brno is not one of my favourite tracks and I have not such good memories about last year’s race,” said Rossi, who, like many of his rivals, has also tested at Brno recently. “The testing we did with the team a few weeks ago was successful and we hope for a good result this weekend for the championship.”

Rossi, son of Grand Prix racer Graziano, has been a fan of bike racing since birth and believes that this season is a special one for MotoGP enthusiasts. “I think the fans will be in for a great show as the season moves on,” said the 24-year-old Rossi. “There are seven GP’s remaining and the championship is very tight. Some tracks will favour me; some will favour others. This season I have been lucky and unlucky. Sometimes I was beaten by the weather sometimes by the rules and sometimes by my own mistakes.”

Rossi has been beaten on four of those occasions by Sete Gibernau, who is motivated by the results of his recent outing at the Czech track.

“The test we did at Brno before the Sachsenring was a great help to us,” affirmed Gibernau. “ We have had a good base setting for he wet from the first time we ran the bike on a wet track. Our dry track set up was not as good but at the Brno we were able to concentrate our time on general machine settings without the pressure of qualifying. I can say that we are now very close to finding the optimum base line set up for the dry. I set some good lap times at the test, not just one fast lap, so I will go into first practice at Brno with confidence.”

Max Biaggi, who can count on four 250cc GP wins at Brno as well as his three in MotoGP, underlined before the start of race action that he has long since changed his approach to the Czech circuit.

“I cannot put up with my crash at Sachsenring yet, and it’s right I feel so! I’ll forget about it only winning. It’s impossible to fight for the title with just  podium finishes: that’ why at Sachsenring I was pushing so hard. Now we are going to Brno a track which has a special place in my heart. I cannot explain exactly what I feel when I enter that long last uphill straight or when I ride through the corners in the last section. It’s exciting. There you need a great engine but a clean riding style help you to learn precious tenths. It’s a track very wide where you can find your own lines, not like the Sachsenring where you have just one line to follow. To be competitive here you have to be fast in the corners, to let the bike flow through them. I look forward to race there, indeed”.

Rookie Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) came of age in many respects at Sachsenring, scoring a career best fifth before heading off to a fateful Suzuki 8-Hour race, where he crashed on oil. The American hero sits tenth overall in the championship, learning more with each race that passes.

“I was hoping to come to the next GP off the back of a good Suzuka 8-hour but it isn’t to be,” said Hayden. “Despite that I’m really looking forward to Brno. We tested there just before the Sachsenring and tested a lot of different stuff. Nothing radical but things worked and the bike felt real good at the German GP straight after and the results showed. I wanted to be in a position towards the middle of the season to be running with the fast guys. I feel I am now.”

Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) sits sixth overall, having had a mix of results this season. He is going for his first podium finish of the year, at what is a good venue for him.

“It’s my favourite track,” said Ukawa simply. “I would have preferred to take a rest for a while after Germany but there was the Suzuka 8-hour to do. I’m happy to go to Brno though. There’s good grip and it’s nice and wide. I prefer the fast, wide tracks to the smaller places.”

Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) has been running Bridgestone tyres this season and used his testing time at Brno to select suitable rubber for the challenge ahead.

“I’m looking forward to Brno and hope the days we spent testing the tyres will give us an objective advantage,” said the multiple SBK race winner for Honda. “Shinichi Ito was at the test and we both agreed that two tyre combinations, of the 40 or so combinations we tested, will work very well on that track at the Grand Prix.”

Another MotoGP rookie this year, Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) used his Brno testing time well, and feels that he may well have an advantage compared to most circuits on the GP trail.

“I’m really looking forward to Brno, it will be the first European track I have any experience on before racing there,” he explained. “The test we made there before Sachsenring was good for me. I made many, many laps at the track during the test and my lap times improved each time I went out. I like the circuit a lot.” Nineteenth in the standings, Kiyonari is looking for his first top ten race finish in a MotoGP race this weekend.

A closely fought win for Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) at the Sachsenring 250ccc Grand Prix pushed the consistent Italian rider to within seven points of the championship lead in the run up to the Czech race.

Rolfo’s 100% finishing record has seen him on the podium three times, and never outside the top nine in races. His recent win makes the championship a three horse race at present, with Manuel Poggiali (Aprilia) and Fonsi Nieto (Aprilia) on 129 and 126 points respectively, while Rolfo has 122.

Understandably Rolfo approaches Brno with a keen sense of anticipation after his Sachsen success but another factor has elevated his mood still further.

“The win in Germany, and the test at Brno have boosted our confidence, particularly the Brno test,” said Rolfo. “We gathered a lot of valuable information about the Honda. It was a bonus at Sachsenring but it will be even more valuable when we go to Brno. I’m really looking forward to that race.”

Eighth overall could well be improved on by Sebastian Porto (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS250RW) another rider who is a real fan of the Brno layout.

“I like Brno very much, it’s one of the best racks we race on,” he said. “It’s also a nice place to visit. I think I can make a good race of it at Brno. If we start where we left off at Sachsenring we will be OK. The chassis on our bike is very good but we need a bit more acceleration up the hill. It will be a hard and difficult race but I always like racing there.”

After taking fourth at the Sachsenring race 125cc World Championship Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS125R) enjoys a 20 point lead – 137 to117 – over his closest challenger Stefano Perugini (Aprilia), with third place man Lucio Cecchinello (Aprilia) slightly adrift on 105.

Perugini was the most recent 125cc race winner, and Pedrosa will have to keep the pressure on in the Czech Republic. A one position improvement on his second place at Brno last season would be the perfect solution for the young Spaniard, who has scored three race wins so far this year, at Welkom, Le Mans and Catalunya.

“I’m ready for the race. I only took a few days off but even then I worked on my physical condition because the rest of the season will be very hard physically, and mentally. The classification is quite close now. Brno is a circuit I really like, last year I finished second. The track has the type of corners I like, long fast bends, and some good slow corners. The only part of the track that I find hard is the final uphill section, my bike gives a little to the Aprilia’s there.” Commented Pedrosa.

Mika Kallio (Ajo Motorsports Honda RS125R) relishes the challenge Brno is about to offer him. “I like the Brno track, it’s a bit like Sachsenring only longer and faster,” he stated. “In fact the track is much faster but the up-and-downhill character of the track suits my style, I have a good feeling at Brno. I will aim to improve on last year when I finished 10th.

Masao Azuma (Ajo Motorsports Honda RS125R) spent some down time at home to collect his thought s for the end of season push. “I’ve had two weeks holiday, a relaxed time when I can think clearly,” he said. “I’m too nervous about the race performances. Back to Japan, I prayed a little and hope we can find the right direction again before Brno.”

Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) hopes for an upturn in his fortunes at Brno. “Brno will be much better than Sachsenring for me,” he explained. “I prefer racing at the Brno circuit. The track is a little like Sachsenring in character, but much bigger and faster. I’m looking forward to it. I took my holiday after Sachsenring and tried to forget my crash, I have to be positive.”

One exception to the rule that Brno is a track riders love comes in the form of Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R). “I don’t like Brno very much, in fact Sachsenring and Brno are the two grand prix tracks I like least of all,” he stated.  “Last year we had a few problems, particularly front end chatter that cost me much time. I only managed to finish 21st, I have to be a lot better this year.”

Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) is a novice to Brno, but his team is not. “I’ve never seen Brno, not even for a test,” said Corsi. “But the bike is working well and the team have all the data necessary to help me in first practice so I’m looking forward to the race. I hear the track is really good to race on.”

ROSSI HEADS HONDA CHALLENGE AT BRNO

The 16-race MotoGP season clicks over into double digits at Brno this weekend with reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) still leading what has become a fascinating and increasingly close battle for overall championship honours between himself and two other RC211V riders.

Second place man in the series Sete Gibernau (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) scored his fourth win of the series at the Sachsenring round three weekends ago, closing to within 29 points of the otherwise irrepressible Rossi. Riding a wave of self-confidence since his return to the Honda fold this year, Gibernau has made himself the star of the current series and looks to Brno – the easternmost GP of the European season – as another opportunity to peg back some points on the leader.

Despite suffering his first no score of his 2003 season, after falling at the tight and twisty Sachsenring circuit, Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) still finds himself the third player in a trio of Honda riders clearly heading the championship table. Three times a Brno race winner in the premier class of GP racing, Biaggi is going for win number two of his 2003 season, at one of his all time favourite circuits.

Such has been the efficacy of the RC211V and the experience and hunger of this year’s top three Honda riders that they have taken eight of the possible nine wins between them. The remaining win went to fourth place man in the championship Loris Capirossi (Ducati) who secured victory at Catalunya in round six.

The Brno track is a beloved venue for many riders and the old road circuits of yesteryear still encircle the current purpose built Automotodrom Brno track. Despite it’s contemporary levels of safety and facilities Brno is still one of the longer venues on the campaign trail at 5,403m and has been a MotoGP fixture since it opened in 1987.

For Rossi, a win at Brno would extend his lead in the championship, irrespective of Gibernau’s placing. With the incentive of going for thee premier class championship wins in a row, the idol of millions worldwide is in determined mood pre race, despite some bad luck at Brno in the past. “Brno is not one of my favourite tracks and I have not such good memories about last year’s race,” said Rossi, who, like many of his rivals, has also tested at Brno recently. “The testing we did with the team a few weeks ago was successful and we hope for a good result this weekend for the championship.”

Rossi, son of Grand Prix racer Graziano, has been a fan of bike racing since birth and believes that this season is a special one for MotoGP enthusiasts. “I think the fans will be in for a great show as the season moves on,” said the 24-year-old Rossi. “There are seven GP’s remaining and the championship is very tight. Some tracks will favour me; some will favour others. This season I have been lucky and unlucky. Sometimes I was beaten by the weather sometimes by the rules and sometimes by my own mistakes.”

Rossi has been beaten on four of those occasions by Sete Gibernau, who is motivated by the results of his recent outing at the Czech track.

“The test we did at Brno before the Sachsenring was a great help to us,” affirmed Gibernau. “ We have had a good base setting for he wet from the first time we ran the bike on a wet track. Our dry track set up was not as good but at the Brno we were able to concentrate our time on general machine settings without the pressure of qualifying. I can say that we are now very close to finding the optimum base line set up for the dry. I set some good lap times at the test, not just one fast lap, so I will go into first practice at Brno with confidence.”

Max Biaggi, who can count on four 250cc GP wins at Brno as well as his three in MotoGP, underlined before the start of race action that he has long since changed his approach to the Czech circuit.

“I cannot put up with my crash at Sachsenring yet, and it’s right I feel so! I’ll forget about it only winning. It’s impossible to fight for the title with just  podium finishes: that’ why at Sachsenring I was pushing so hard. Now we are going to Brno a track which has a special place in my heart. I cannot explain exactly what I feel when I enter that long last uphill straight or when I ride through the corners in the last section. It’s exciting. There you need a great engine but a clean riding style help you to learn precious tenths. It’s a track very wide where you can find your own lines, not like the Sachsenring where you have just one line to follow. To be competitive here you have to be fast in the corners, to let the bike flow through them. I look forward to race there, indeed”.

Rookie Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) came of age in many respects at Sachsenring, scoring a career best fifth before heading off to a fateful Suzuki 8-Hour race, where he crashed on oil. The American hero sits tenth overall in the championship, learning more with each race that passes.

“I was hoping to come to the next GP off the back of a good Suzuka 8-hour but it isn’t to be,” said Hayden. “Despite that I’m really looking forward to Brno. We tested there just before the Sachsenring and tested a lot of different stuff. Nothing radical but things worked and the bike felt real good at the German GP straight after and the results showed. I wanted to be in a position towards the middle of the season to be running with the fast guys. I feel I am now.”

Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) sits sixth overall, having had a mix of results this season. He is going for his first podium finish of the year, at what is a good venue for him.

“It’s my favourite track,” said Ukawa simply. “I would have preferred to take a rest for a while after Germany but there was the Suzuka 8-hour to do. I’m happy to go to Brno though. There’s good grip and it’s nice and wide. I prefer the fast, wide tracks to the smaller places.”

Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) has been running Bridgestone tyres this season and used his testing time at Brno to select suitable rubber for the challenge ahead.

“I’m looking forward to Brno and hope the days we spent testing the tyres will give us an objective advantage,” said the multiple SBK race winner for Honda. “Shinichi Ito was at the test and we both agreed that two tyre combinations, of the 40 or so combinations we tested, will work very well on that track at the Grand Prix.”

Another MotoGP rookie this year, Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) used his Brno testing time well, and feels that he may well have an advantage compared to most circuits on the GP trail.

“I’m really looking forward to Brno, it will be the first European track I have any experience on before racing there,” he explained. “The test we made there before Sachsenring was good for me. I made many, many laps at the track during the test and my lap times improved each time I went out. I like the circuit a lot.” Nineteenth in the standings, Kiyonari is looking for his first top ten race finish in a MotoGP race this weekend.

A closely fought win for Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) at the Sachsenring 250ccc Grand Prix pushed the consistent Italian rider to within seven points of the championship lead in the run up to the Czech race.

Rolfo’s 100% finishing record has seen him on the podium three times, and never outside the top nine in races. His recent win makes the championship a three horse race at present, with Manuel Poggiali (Aprilia) and Fonsi Nieto (Aprilia) on 129 and 126 points respectively, while Rolfo has 122.

Understandably Rolfo approaches Brno with a keen sense of anticipation after his Sachsen success but another factor has elevated his mood still further.

“The win in Germany, and the test at Brno have boosted our confidence, particularly the Brno test,” said Rolfo. “We gathered a lot of valuable information about the Honda. It was a bonus at Sachsenring but it will be even more valuable when we go to Brno. I’m really looking forward to that race.”

Eighth overall could well be improved on by Sebastian Porto (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS250RW) another rider who is a real fan of the Brno layout.

“I like Brno very much, it’s one of the best racks we race on,” he said. “It’s also a nice place to visit. I think I can make a good race of it at Brno. If we start where we left off at Sachsenring we will be OK. The chassis on our bike is very good but we need a bit more acceleration up the hill. It will be a hard and difficult race but I always like racing there.”

After taking fourth at the Sachsenring race 125cc World Championship Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS125R) enjoys a 20 point lead – 137 to117 – over his closest challenger Stefano Perugini (Aprilia), with third place man Lucio Cecchinello (Aprilia) slightly adrift on 105.

Perugini was the most recent 125cc race winner, and Pedrosa will have to keep the pressure on in the Czech Republic. A one position improvement on his second place at Brno last season would be the perfect solution for the young Spaniard, who has scored three race wins so far this year, at Welkom, Le Mans and Catalunya.

“I’m ready for the race. I only took a few days off but even then I worked on my physical condition because the rest of the season will be very hard physically, and mentally. The classification is quite close now. Brno is a circuit I really like, last year I finished second. The track has the type of corners I like, long fast bends, and some good slow corners. The only part of the track that I find hard is the final uphill section, my bike gives a little to the Aprilia’s there.” Commented Pedrosa.

Mika Kallio (Ajo Motorsports Honda RS125R) relishes the challenge Brno is about to offer him. “I like the Brno track, it’s a bit like Sachsenring only longer and faster,” he stated. “In fact the track is much faster but the up-and-downhill character of the track suits my style, I have a good feeling at Brno. I will aim to improve on last year when I finished 10th.

Masao Azuma (Ajo Motorsports Honda RS125R) spent some down time at home to collect his thought s for the end of season push. “I’ve had two weeks holiday, a relaxed time when I can think clearly,” he said. “I’m too nervous about the race performances. Back to Japan, I prayed a little and hope we can find the right direction again before Brno.”

Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) hopes for an upturn in his fortunes at Brno. “Brno will be much better than Sachsenring for me,” he explained. “I prefer racing at the Brno circuit. The track is a little like Sachsenring in character, but much bigger and faster. I’m looking forward to it. I took my holiday after Sachsenring and tried to forget my crash, I have to be positive.”

One exception to the rule that Brno is a track riders love comes in the form of Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R). “I don’t like Brno very much, in fact Sachsenring and Brno are the two grand prix tracks I like least of all,” he stated.  “Last year we had a few problems, particularly front end chatter that cost me much time. I only managed to finish 21st, I have to be a lot better this year.”

Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) is a novice to Brno, but his team is not. “I’ve never seen Brno, not even for a test,” said Corsi. “But the bike is working well and the team have all the data necessary to help me in first practice so I’m looking forward to the race. I hear the track is really good to race on.”

FACT FILE –

This magnificent 5.403km undulating circuit was built in 1986 and hosted its first grand prix, the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix a year later which was won by Australian Wayne Gardner riding the Honda. It has staged grand prix racing ever since with the name changing to the Czech Republic Grand Prix in 1993.

Grand Prix racing had been staged at a famous road circuit on the outskirts of Brno since 1965. Safety considerations meant the track staged its last 500cc grand prix in 1977 which was won by Johnny Cecotto, riding the Yamaha.

Plans were then formulated to build a purpose built circuit in the wooded hills above the town which is famous for the production of beer and guns. The track was finally completed in 1986 before staging that first grand prix a year later. It’s a popular venue with riders because of its width and fast chicane-style bends.

It´s also a popular track with Camel Pramac Pons star Max Biaggi. He won four consecutive 250cc grands prix at the circuit before winning the 500cc race in 2001 and the MotoGP race last year. Also at a recent test for all the major teams, he was fastest on both days comfortably beating his pole setting time of last season. Last year his team-mate Tohru Ukawa was third in the MotoGP race.

Brno is steeped in grand prix history and had the foresight to build the new purpose built track when time had run out on the old road circuit. Driving to the new track from Brno you are reminded of a bygone age with the old pit lane and buildings still forming part of the main road out of town.

TRACK FACTS – CZECH REP. GRAND PRIX – 17/08/03 BRNO

Length: 5.403kms
Width: 15m
Pole Position: Left
Right corners: Eight
Left corners: Six
Longest Straight: 636m
Constructed: 1986
Modified: 1996

Lap record: Daijiro Katoh (Honda) 2.00.605s – 161.277 km/h
(25/8/02)

Pole setting lap 2002: Max Biaggi (Yamaha) 1m59.646s –
162.570 km/h

Race Winner 2002: Max Biaggi (Yamaha) 44m36.498s – 159.880s
km/h

Max Biaggi 2002 – first
Tohru Ukawa 2002 – third

COBAS INSIGHT – Antonio Cobas, the Technical Director of
Camel Pramac Pons

Brno is a legendary circuit which has hardly changed since we first raced there in 1987. Its unique characteristics mean we have to achieve a bike set-up different to any other circuit in the MotoGP World Championships.

The 15m width of the track makes it ideal for smooth riding 250cc-like techniques and you only have to look at Max´s success´s at the track to confirm that point. To illustrate the significance of that width on the riding technique and skills, you just have to look at the first corner. It´s a
right hander after the start and finish straight which is nearly at a 180´ degree angle and not such a big radius but is still taken at around 135 km/h by the top riders.

Another peculiarity about Brno is the steep slopes, both up and down. The track is 450 metres above sea level and has a variation of 74 meters from the highest to the lowest point. The steepest downhill section has a gradient of five per cent whereas the steepest uphill climb has a gradient of 7.52 per cent over 950 meters.

We must provide the riders with a very agile machine, so that the changes of direction in the five wide chicane-type bends can be negotiated as fast as possible because in three of them they lead into the long climb right up to the start and finish line.

It’s also vital we set-up the engine so that the riders have the opportunity of taking all the corners as smooth as possible. Due to the considerable width of the track, the riders can accelerate very early on through the corners if the engine is set-up adequately. Another characteristic of the track relating to the set-up of the bike is that the gear ratios used are the closest in the whole World Championship season. A good example of this is that the sixth gear, which is not particularly high, is used at approximately 295 km/h whereas second gear is used at approximately 190 km/h. For this reason, the ratio of the gears is the closest of the year.

Although we have not raced the four-strokes at Brno, we had a very good test with Max there just a couple of weeks ago. He set the fastest times over the two days and has a great
record at the circuit which really suits his smooth riding style. He won the MotoGP race there last year, the 500 in 2000. and won the 250 in four consecutive years. Tohru will be coming back from the Suzuka 8 hours and also has a good record at Brno, finishing third last year.

Brno provides us with some unique challenges and that´s why we enjoy going there so much.

FUCHS KAWASAKI RACING TEAM BACK IN ACTION AT BRNO

Refreshed, fit and ready for the resumption of the MotoGP battle after the summer break, the Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team return to the fray in this weekend’s Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno.

Regular Australian team riders Garry McCoy and Andrew Pitt, plus German wild card Alex Hofmann, have all taken advantage of the three week European summer break to recharge their batteries since last month’s German Grand Prix.

For the holidays the Kawasaki riders spread across a hot, sun-baked Europe with Hofmann and Pitt heading for the beach, while McCoy retreated to his alpine apartment in the Pyrenees principality of Andorra.
Southern Italy was Hofmann’s destination while Pitt went to the French coast near Marseille to link up with reigning Supersport 600 World Champion, and Kawasaki colleague, Fabien Foret.

The Czech Republic Grand Prix will be Hofmann’s fourth wild card race of the season, although, like Pitt, he will be lining up for his first MotoGP race appearance at the challenging 5.4 km Brno circuit, which features a sequence of fast, sweeping downhill and uphill sections across forested hillsides.

However with the benefit of last month’s intensive two-day test session aboard the Ninja ZX-RR both Pitt and Hofmann are at ease with the Brno layout as they face the challenge of the tenth round of the World Championship.

Meanwhile McCoy is a Brno regular having soldiered through many on-track battles in both 125 and 500cc Czech Grand Prix. And McCoy’s fearless style has been rewarded with some brilliant Brno results in recent years.

Garry McCoy
“As a rider I certainly know what it takes to be on the front row and the podium at Brno, but unfortunately this race is still a bit early in the development of a new bike to aim for that this weekend. My main focus is to keeping working closely with bike and tyre technicians to build on the work we did at the recent Brno test; both Kawasaki and Dunlop are throwing all their available technology at the project, moving forward step-by-step. The holiday break was perfect for me; I enjoyed being at home in Andorra, going to the gym every day even though it was 35 degrees even in the alps; at least it was cool in the evenings to get some sleep.”

Andrew Pitt
“It was great spending some time with Fabien Foret and we managed to fit it quite a bit of jet skiing and wake boarding, we had to, it was bloody hot. I did quite a bit of cycle training in the hills to stay fit, but in the end the heat was a bit much; it was 39 degrees one day so I headed back to Germany and then Austria for a few days. In Austria I spent a day catching up with a fitness trainer who has worked in Formula One just discussing some new training ideas. As for Brno I really enjoyed the track when we tested there last month, it’s big, wide and fast and even though the performance of the Kawasaki is not exactly where everyone would like it to be at the moment I’m motivated to get the best result possible.”

Alex Hofmann
“I’m almost black from spending almost everyday on the beach in southern Italy. It has been really been fun and relaxing although I have been on my bicycle for two hours every evening making sure I stay fit. The Brno track is quite technical and fast and one that I really like; I’m hopeful that I will have a good chance of scoring some championship points there. At our recent test in Brno there was a good step forward with the new Dunlop tyres, especially side grip, and the data from the test should give us a good starting point for the ZX-RR set-up this weekend.”

SUZUKI TEAM BACK TO BUSINESS AT BRNO

Team Suzuki Press Office Tuesday 12th August 2003.

Team Suzuki riders Kenny Roberts Junior and John Hopkins return to the fray at Brno this weekend, for a race that bisects the 2003 summer break.

The magnificent Brno circuit – fast, technically challenging, and with superb natural grandstands for the vast crowd – acts as a pivot point of the season. Although it is the tenth of 16 rounds, in other ways the Czech Republic GP marks the start of the second half of a season of rare interest and excitement.

Until the last round in Germany, after the season-starting flyaways, the European season had been proceeding apace, with a race at least every fortnight. Then came two weekends off.

Brno is followed by another two free weekends, one more European round in Portugal, then the gruelling end-of-season final flyaways take in four countries – Brazil, Japan, Malaysia and Australia – in five weekends. Then comes the grand finale, in Valencia on November 2.

Team Suzuki’s focus for the season has been aimed at achieving the best possible results in the relentless racing programme while at the same time race-developing their ground-breaking 2003 machine. The task is to get all the radical technical solutions to work in the harmony needed to turn top-ten finishes into rostrums.

Brno is a staging post in that progress, and the second race for new race department head Toshiyuki Yamada, who took over in a recent factory reshuffle. Yamada-San, who was part of the original design team of the hugely successful Suzuki RG500 of the Seventies and Eighties, and more recently worked with the Superbike racing project, was also at the  German GP. He adds years of racing experience to the team working to get the full potential out of the powerful 990cc V4 racing prototype GSV-R.

The machine was completely redesigned for this season, and so far has achieved a best of seventh place at Jerez, ridden by four-stroke rookie Hopkins. Roberts’s season was spoiled by an injury sustained at the Italian GP, and he missed the next three races before returning for the last round, at the Sachsenring in Germany.

“We’re very aware of the effort the factory is putting into this project, and we’re all still fully confident we can achieve our goal,” said team manager Garry Taylor. “We have all the ingredients – two superlative riders, a top title-winning race team, and a motorcycle that is pushing the technical boundaries.

“Brno is another chance to get them all working together to maximum effect, and you can be sure we will be making the most of it,” he said.

One challenge for the big new four-stroke GP machines and their riders will be the extreme heat that threatens the race, as a heatwave that gave warning at the early European rounds in Italy, Catalunya and the Netherlands has strengthened its grip.

In the heart of the continent, the landlocked Czech Republic has been enduring sweltering temperatures and near drought conditions. If these persist, they will add to the challenge of an already demanding circuit. It is also highly possible that overdue rains may come, repeating near flood conditions encountered at the circuit in the past.

KENNY ROBERTS – THE HEAT IS NO BIG DEAL

Everyone makes a big thing, but it hasn’t really been a holiday. It’s the same length of break as between the first and second races. I’ve been at home in a typical Californian summer, so I’m not worried about the conditions. The heat races are not a big deal for me, and I generally do okay in them. Of course it might rain at Brno. For this race, I’m waiting to see what the factory will bring in the way of parts or new solutions. I hope we can improve our situation.

JOHN HOPKINS – MAKING UP FOR LAST YEAR

This is one of my favourite tracks. It’s big enough that you can really open the bikes up, but also technical. You can really string the fast corners together, and horsepower isn’t everything. Last year I qualified on the second row of the grid on the two-stroke, and I was hoping for a good race. Instead I got a radiator leak right from the start, and I had to pull in to the pits. I hope this year I can make up for it.

ABOUT THIS RACE

There has been motorcycle racing at Brno for longer than the 53 years of the World Championship, but GP racing came here only in 1965. The country was then Czechoslovakia, behind the Iron Curtain, and the venue was an 8.6-mile (13.9km) public-roads circuit on the outskirts of the city, which is famed for its precision engineering (Brno gave its name to the famous “Bren-gun” of World War Two). That track was itself the third version of what had been an even longer road circuit, with part of that first ever track now used as an access road.

The last time the premier-class GP bikes raced there was in 1977, when they were 500cc, though the smaller classes continued until 1982 before the dangers forced the track off the GP calendar. But local enthusiasts along with a communist party anxious to build a sporting show-piece pushed ahead with a magnificent new purpose-built closed circuit, with a long lap and a challenging layout, first used in 1987, with the 500cc class back. Soon afterwards, political turmoil saw the Iron Curtain collapse and the Czechoslovakian GP last ran in 1991.

In 1993, the race resumed, with a new name to go with the new political freedoms – the Czech Republic GP, and four years ago new pit buildings and extended paddock facilities were built to keep the track’s standards up with the best.

The race attracts huge crowds, packing the vast natural grandstands. As well as the race, they enjoy the liberated atmosphere and cheap beer of the new country, making Brno a popular and important fixture on the calendar.

ABOUT THIS TRACK

A long lap of 3.357 miles (5.403 km), an average speed nudging 100mph and no really slow turns are the key to Brno – a wide circuit made up of long, sweeping corners and few straights. “Vertical corners” are an added complication, while although the average speed is high, the track rewards handling finesse and high corner speed more than brute acceleration and a high top speed. For most of the first part of the lap the track falls away steadily, making precise steering difficult as the front goes light. Then the track climbs sharply again after a long right-hander, imposing different demands on the rider and machine. “You have the bike on its side for a real long time, and one corner flows into the next. At the same time, there are places where you open the throttle wide and hold it there. It’s probably my favourite track,” said Kenny Roberts, who claimed his first front row qualifying position there in 1996, his first year riding a 500.

GP DATA

Brno

Circuit Length: 3.357 miles / 5.403 km.

Lap Record: 2:00.605 – 100.212mph / 161.276km/h. D Kato (Honda), 2002

2002 Race Winner: M Biaggi (Yamaha)

2002 Race Average: 44:36.498 – 99.344mph / 159.879km/h.

2002 Fastest Race Lap: see lap record

2002 Pole Position: Biaggi 1:59.646

2002 KENNY ROBERTS: 11th, Qualified 19th (Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki)

2002 SETE GIBERNAU: Fourth, Qualified ninth (Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki)

2002 JOHN HOPKINS: DNF – retired, Qualified seventh (Red Bull Yamaha)