British GP Donington

RESULTS

Raceday Sunday July 13
Track temperature: 38 degrees
Humidity: 44%
Ambient temperature: 27 degrees, bright sunshine

BIAGGI INHERITS WIN AS ROSSI INCURS TEN SECOND PENALTY

Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) was denied a fourth win of the season by overtaking Loris Capirossi under yellow (caution) flags and incurring a ten second penalty – applied
retrospectively, two hours after the end of the race. Rossi had mounted the top step of the podium to rapturous applause from a sun-kissed 72,000 crowd after crossing the line 1.2 seconds ahead of Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) in second and Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) in third.

With the ambient temperature hovering around 27 degrees and the track at a heady 38 degrees, Max Biaggi fired his RC211V off the line from pole position and peeled into turn one in the measured, fluid style that is his trademark. He looked comfortable from the off and as Gibernau followed him down the sweeping Craner Curves, Rossi was fighting his way through traffic from a poor start.

British GP Donington

Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) had crashed at the first corner on the first lap and as corner marshals waved yellow flags Rossi slipped past Capirossi on the start/finish straight. It was to be a move that cost him vital Championship points.

The race unfolded as if nothing had happened, the incident only coming to the attention of Race Control after Rossi had mounted the top step of the podium to the acclaim of the crowd. And the three podium finishers had made their post-race remarks under the assumption that the finishing order was ratified: Rossi, Biaggi, Gibernau.

But that was thrown to the wind when the bombshell dropped that Rossi was to be docked ten seconds for his offence. And although the new finishing order put Biaggi first, Gibernau second and Rossi third, the race itself was a hard-fought on-track victory for Rossi, a mighty second place for Biaggi and a resigned third for Gibernau.

Biaggi was looking as comfortable as any rider can with Rossi behind him and the Roman looked to be locked into an effective rhythm until he hit a false neutral going into the Esses on lap 13 and ran onto the dirt while Rossi slipped through into the lead. Max regained the track with dirty tyres and had to settle into a new rhythm with Rossi now two seconds ahead of him.

That he managed to stay in touch and finish only 1.2 seconds behind at the flag says much about his determination not to let the title run away with Rossi as we reach the halfway point of the 2003 season.

Rossi was as philosophical as anyone stripped of a hard-fought win could be. “The final result is disappointing for me,” he said. “I never saw the flags and I did nothing wrong intentionally. I’m disappointed but rules are rules and I can’t argue with the law. I only hope the outcome doesn’t affect the Championship in the end.”

Biaggi was magnanimous in victory. “The decision of the race officials means that the 25 points go my way, but as a rider I can sympathise with Rossi. I understand what he must be feeling at this time because the same thing happened to me in Barcelona in 1998 when I had won on the track. The only difference is that the decision subsequently cost me the Championship.”

Gibernau took slightly less satisfaction form the result knowing that it didn’t change the way he felt about his own performance. “I couldn’t fight with them and I had to be smart and just do what I could. They did a better job than me in qualifying and in the race and I’ll do what I can to learn form this.”

Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss (both Ducati) finished fourth and fifth respectively while Carlos Checa (Yamaha) and Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia) were sixth and seventh. US rookie Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) recorded his best result of the year so far with an eighth place.

“I have to say I was expecting more today,” he said. “I thought I had a little more speed as things felt especially good in the warm-up. I guess overall the weekend was reasonably positive and in the race I had some good battles with the guys. We’re off to test in Brno and hopefully things can keep picking up all the time.”

Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) had a torrid time at Donington for the third year in succession when he was punted off the track at the first turn on the first lap. “I am disappointed because I had hopes of producing a good performance today,” he said. “It is clear that this circuit is unlucky for me. There is not much left to say except that I hope my luck improves in two weeks.”

Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) finished 13th after a troubled weekend. “I never managed to get the right feeling at the front,” he said. “I wasn’t able to be aggressive in the race precisely because I didn’t have enough feel and that’s really important here.”

Although Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) finished one place behind Tamada in 14th he was slightly more upbeat. “I wanted to improve my lap times in the race – and I did,” he said. “I was also able to confirm the effects of some settings and I’m happy about that too.”

The World Championship points table now shows Rossi still leading with 167 points, Gibernau second with 133 and Biaggi on 130.

Fonsi Nieto won the 250 Grand Prix from Manuel Poggiali, with Anthony West third (all Aprilia). Nieto took the lead after catching the leading duo of Poggiali and Tony Elias (Aprilia) when Elias ran wide trying to overtake Poggiali at McLeans on lap 17. A five rider breakaway of those three riders, Anthony West (Aprilia) and Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) had made the running from the off.

The closing laps were action-packed as West repeatedly tried to steal third place from a determined Elias. First he dived inside the Spaniard at the Melbourne Loop on lap 24 of the 27-lapper, but ran wide on the exit and was re-passed by Elias. Then he tired the same thing on the next lap and made it stick.

Elias was close enough in touch to try a last lap last corner inside move at Goddards, he made the first part stick and got in front of West. But he ran wide on the exit and let not only West back through for third, but he lost fourth place also to Robby Rolfo who stuck determinedly to his task throughout the race.

“It was a very hard race,” said Rolfo. “We still need a little more acceleration at tracks like Donington, right now we are giving out rivals too much of an advantage. We have to continue working hard and that’s why we leave for the Brno to test tomorrow.”

Sebastian Porto (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) finished sixth. “From lap ten I had problems with the engine,” he said. “Probably something electrical because it kept coming and going, but I finished and collected some points. We have to make sure none of this happens in Germany.

The points table for the 250 World Championship now shows Poggiali leading with 121 points with Nieto close behind after this win with 106. The there’s Toni Elias tied on 97 points with Rolfo and West in pursuit with 94.

The 25-lap 125 race saw Hector Barbera (Aprilia) win his first ever Grand Prix in a typically manic last two laps. The lead changed hands at least twice per lap with Barbera making sure of his win by staying out of trouble in the last half of the final lap – at the front.

Four riders were involved in the scrap: Barbera, Andrea Dovisioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) who finished second, Stefano Perugini (Aprilia) who was third and Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS125R) who tangled with his nemesis Perugini on the final lap. Lucio Checchinello (Aprilia) was involved up front until lap 14 when he fell at Goddards and managed to rejoin the race to finish tenth. Mika Kallio (Ajo Motorsports Honda RS125R) was seventh.

Pedrosa collided with Perugini at the Melbourne Loop and was deflated and angry at his plight. “There is little to say,” he said. “I think everybody saw what happened. I had a clear chance of making the podium until Perugini stuffed me up. It cannot be that Perugini is allowed to pull these dirty moves.”

Dovisioso was mildly frustrated at the finish. “I should have been able to pass Barbera,” he said. “It was all a bit too comfortable at the front and I was going to attack him at the Melbourne Loop. But Pedrosa passed me and I had to repass him which left it too late to pass Barbera.”

The World Championship points table now shows Pedrosa still in front with 124 points, Steve Jenkner (Aprilia) second on 98 and Lucio Cecchinello third on 97 points.

HONDA TEAM QUOTES:

MotoGP:

Max Biaggi, Camel Pramac Honda Pons, 1st: “I am happy with my performance in the race because we have done some excellent work adapting to the new chassis in only four hours of practice. The decision of the race officials means that the 25-points go my way, but as a rider I can sympathise with Valentino. I understand what he must be feeling at this time because the same thing happened to me in the race in Barcelona in 1998 which I had won on the track. The only difference is that that decision subsequently cost me the championship.

Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 2nd. “It was a very hard race, Max and Valentino set a fast pace from the start. When I was aware I could not follow them, I was loosing a couple of tenths a lap out of the turns, I concentrated on keeping the damage at a couple of tenths. Even if I’m happy with my result I don’t feel like I finished second, I was third. Valentino rode a great race.”

Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda, 3rd:  “The final result of the race is disappointing for me. I was on a fast lap and never saw the flags. I did nothing wrong intentionally. I am disappointed but the rules are the rules and I can’t argue with the law. I didn’t take advantage of the situation and went on to win the race. I only hope the outcome of the race doesn’t affect the Championship in the end. I feel clear in myself. I won a hard fought clean race. I race on the track –not in the office.”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 8th: “I have to say I was expecting more today. I thought I had a little bit more speed than that especially as things felt so good this morning in the warm-up. I guess overall the weekend was reasonably positive. In the race I had some good battle with some guys. Bayliss and me early on, and also Edwards and Haga. In the last laps the rear brake gave up and I had no confidence in braking. I used the rear brake a lot – especially round here to try and keep the front wheel on the ground. Overall the weekend was OK and things seem to be coming better. We’re off the Brno to test next week. Hopefully picking things up all the time.”

Makoto Tamada, Pramac Honda Team: 13th: “I never managed to get the right feeling for the front of the bike during the last three days here in Donington. We worked on the settings and tried out a number of tyre solutions, but I didn’t get the confidence I needed to be competitive. Still, I’m not going lose my cool or try to cross my bridges before I come to them, and I’m looking forward to the tests in Brno – one by one, we’re going to be examining all the details I want to understand. I wasn’t able to be aggressive in the race precisely because I didn’t have the right feeling for the front of the bike, and that’s really important here, so the lack of grip I had in the closing stages of the race meant I could only maintain my position. But it’s not going to get me down and I’ll be concentrating all I can on the work that needs to be done.”

Ryuichi Kiyonari, Telefonica Movistar Honda: 14th: “Today the team challenged me to better my time from qualifying and I did it. I also picked up two important points in the championship so I am very satisfied”.

Fausto Gresini, Team Manager: “It was a tough race. Tyre choice here proved to be the key. In the end we went for a hard compound and maybe this wasn’t the best decision. Anyway, I am happy because we have got another good result.  I am also very satisfied with Ryuichi, who improved his best time here and picked up another two points in the championship.

Tohru Ukawa, Camel Pramac Honda Pons, dnf crash: “When I entered the first turn another rider rode into me from behind and I went to the ground. Apart from having some bruises, I have also cut my left elbow that needed a couple of stitches. But the Doctors have told me I will be able to race in Sachsenring without too much trouble. I am disappointed because I had high hopes of producing a good performance but it is clear that this circuit is unlucky for me.”

Sito Pons: ”I am particularly satisfied because our team has achieved its first victory since we started this new project this season. I’m especially happy about our high level of competitiveness with Max and the team have demonstrated throughout the weekend and which has produced this victory. I would also like to say that the result must be hard to take for Valentino Rossi who, together with Max, had an extraordinary race.”

250cc:

Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda: 5th: “It was a very hard race because I could run the same lap times as the leaders Maybe we still need a little more acceleration at circuits like Donington park, right now we are giving our rivals too much of an advantage.” Lamented the Fortuna Honda rider. “We have to continue working hard and that’s why we will leave for the Czech Republic tomorrow to test at Brno. We will try and prepare the German GP and hope we improve the Fortuna Honda in some aspects, and myself, to determine the best specifications.” “There is only a small margin in performance to close to make us completely competitive with our rivals in the race to take the title.” Said the Altadis rider. He went on to say. “Today it was very sad to loose fourth place by just one-thousandth of a second, after I had pushed so hard all through the race.”

Sebastian Porto, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr. Team, 6th: “I had some engine problems in the race. The engine would loose a little power, slow, then pick up again, it felt as if it was cutting in and out. It’s something electrical I think. It wasn’t too bad at the start but later in the race it made it difficult to follow the five riders in front of me. Over the last two laps it was quite serious. So in a way I’m happy with sixth place.”

125cc:

Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Racing Honda, 2nd: “I’m happy but I should have been closer to Barbera. He was too comfortable at the front. I was going to attack down the hill at the (Melbourne) hairpin but Pedrosa passed me at the chicane so I had to pass him back and it was then too late.”

Mika Kallio, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 7th: “The start was not so bad, for me. I was holding my position but after a couple of laps I had some really bad slides and lost many positions, and the top group. After that I tried to stay with the second group. My best lap time was 1.2 seconds slower than qualifying. I just don’t know why I was sliding so much.”

Masao Azuma, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 13th: “We have been having suspension problems and front end chattering all weekend. It was better today but not much. The engine was not as good as yesterday. I raced at the limit, I couldn’t do more today.”

Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda, 22nd: “On lap two we were in a line braking when Lorenzo came down the inside of all of us, he hit Sebastian. Lai had to pick his bike up and I was right behind him. I braked hard while the bike was at an angle and crashed. I picked it up and rode it but there was something wrong on the front end and I couldn’t ride hard enough.”

Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr. Team, dnf crash: “There is little to say, I think everybody saw what happened. I had a clear chance of making the podium until Perugini stuffed me up. It cannot be that Perugini is allowed to pull these dirty moves.”

Simone Corsi, Scot Racing Honda, dnf crash: “What can I say? I’m not at all happy. Jenkner hit me on the first lap and we crashed and were out of the race.”

Results

MotoGP
Race Classification MotoGP : (30 laps = 120.69 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Max BIAGGI /ITA /Camel Pramac Pons /HONDA/46’06.688/157.041
2/Sete GIBERNAU /SPA /Telefónica Movistar Honda /HONDA/46’13.826/156.637
3/Valentino ROSSI /ITA /Repsol Honda /HONDA/46’15.482/156.543
4/Loris CAPIROSSI /ITA /Ducati Marlboro Team /DUCATI/46’19.729/156.304
5/Troy BAYLISS /AUS /Ducati Marlboro Team /DUCATI/46’22.957/156.123
6/Carlos CHECA /SPA /Fortuna Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/46’33.773/155.518
7/Noriyuki HAGA /JPN /Alice Aprilia Racing /APRILIA/46’34.350/155.486
8/Nicky HAYDEN /USA /Repsol Honda /HONDA/46’38.700/155.244
9/Shinya NAKANO /JPN /d’Antín Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/46’41.487/155.090
10/Colin EDWARDS /USA /Alice Aprilia Racing /APRILIA/46’41.689/155.079
11/John HOPKINS /USA /Suzuki Grand Prix Team /SUZUKI/46’54.853/154.354
12/Yukio KAGAYAMA /JPN /Suzuki Grand Prix Team /SUZUKI/47’07.111/153.684
13/Makoto TAMADA /JPN /Pramac Honda /HONDA/47’12.848/153.373
14/Ryuichi KIYONARI /JPN /Telefonica Movistar Honda /HONDA/47’21.554/152.903
15/Nobuatsu AOKI /JPN /Proton Team KR /PROTON KR/47’36.979/152.078
Fastest Lap: Valentino ROSSI 1’31.023 159.111 Km/h Lap 2

World Championship Positions:
1 ROSSI 167,

2 GIBERNAU 133,

3 BIAGGI 130,

4 CAPIROSSI 84,

5 BAYLISS 64,

6 BARROS 62,

7 CHECA 57,

8 UKAWA 56,

9 NAKANO 54,

10 HAYDEN 46,

11 JACQUE 43,

12 EDWARDS 40,

13 TAMADA 37,

14 HAGA 30,

15 HOPKINS 22.

250cc
Race Classification 250cc: (27 laps = 108.621 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Fonsi NIETO /SPA /Team Repsol Telefonica Movistar /APRILIA/42’58.011/151.681
2/Manuel POGGIALI /RSM /MS Aprilia Team /APRILIA/42’58.280/151.665
3/Anthony WEST /AUS /Team Zoppini Abruzzo /APRILIA/43’00.569/151.530
4/Toni ELIAS /SPA /Team Repsol Telefonica Movistar /APRILIA/43’00.944/151.508
5/Roberto ROLFO /ITA /Fortuna Honda /HONDA/43’00.945/151.508
6/Sebastian PORTO /ARG /Telefonica Movistar jnr Team /HONDA/43’23.041/150.222
7/Franco BATTAINI /ITA /Campetella Racing /APRILIA/43’25.674/150.070
8/Randy De Punet /FRA /Safilo Oxydo-LCR /APRILIA/43’29.602/149.844
9/Naoki MATSUDO /JPN /Yamaha Kurz /YAMAHA/43’48.359/148.775
10/Alex DEBON /SPA /Troll Honda BQR /HONDA/43’51.348/148.606
11/Jay Vincent /GBR /Padgetts /APRILLIA/43’56.109/148.338
12/Hector FAUBEL /SPA /Aspar Junior Team /APRILIA/43’58.061/148.228
13/Chaz DAVIES /GBR /Aprilia Germany /APRILIA/43’58.261/148.217
14/Jakub SMRZ /CZE /Elit Grand Prix /HONDA/44’08.366/147.651
15/Dirk HEIDORF /GER /Aprilia Germany / APRILIA/44’09.677/147.578
Fastest Lap: Manuel POGGIALI 1’34.558 153.163 Km/h Lap 3

World Championship Positions:
1 POGGIALI 121,

2 NIETO 106,

3 ELIAS 97,

4 ROLFO 97,

5 WEST 94,

6 DE PUNIET 89,

7 BATTAINI 87,

8 PORTO 74,

9 MATSUDO 60,

10 GUINTOLI 58,

11 DEBON 40,

12 OLIVE 27,

13 AOYAMA 20,

14 GEMMEL 18,

15 STIGEFELT 17.

125cc:
Race Classification 125cc (25 laps = 100.575 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Hector BARBERA /SPA /Master-MXOnda-Aspar Team /APRILIA/41’25.907/145.649
2/Andrea DOVIZIOSO /ITA /Team Scot /HONDA/41’26.512/145.613
3/Stefano PERUGINI /ITA /Abruzzo Racing Team /APRILIA/41’28.504/145.497
4/Alex De ANGELIS /RSM /Globet.com Racing /APRILIA/41’35.077/145.113
5/Casey STONER /AUS /Safilo Oxydo-LCR /APRILIA/41’37.599/144.967
6/Pablo NIETO /SPA /Master-MXOnda-Aspar Team /APRILIA/41’41.805/144.723
7/Mika KALLIO /FIN /Ajo Motorsports /HONDA/41’46.911/144.428
8/Arnaud VINCENT /FRA /KTM-Red Bull /KTM/41’47.663/144.385
9/Gabor TALMACSI /HUN /Exalt Cycle Red Devil /APRILIA/41’48.119/144.359
10/lucio CECCHINELLO /ITA /Safilo Oxydo-LCR /APRILIA/41’49.549/144.276
11/Mirko GIANSANTI /ITA /Matteoni Racing /APRILIA/41’49.719/144.267
12/Gioele PELLINO /ITA /Sterilgarda Racing /APRILIA/42’00.060/143.675
13/Masao Azuma /JPN / Ajo Motorsports / HONDA/42’01.459/143.595
14/Alvaro BAUTISTA /SPA /Seedorf Racing /APRILIA/42’01.780/143.577
15/Mike De MEGLIO /FRA /Freesoul Racing Team /APRILIA/42’02.110/143.558
Fastest Lap : Lucio CECCHINELLO 1’38.463 147.088 Km/h Lap 7

World Championship Positions:
1 PEDROSA 124,

2 JENKNER 98,

3 CECCHINELLO 97,

4 DOVIZIOSO 93,

5 PERUGINI 92,

6 NIETO 77,

7 DE ANGELIS 76,

8 BARBERA 65,

9 UI 64,

10 LUTHI 48,

11 GIANSANTI 46,

12 STONER 40,

13 KALLIO 40,

14 BORSOI 36,

15 TALMACSI 23.

BIAGGI WINS AS ROSSI PENALISED FOR YELLOW FLAG OFFENCE

Camel Pramac Pons report


Camel Pramac Pons rider Max Biaggi inherited a win after taking the fight to series leader Valentino Rossi (Honda) and finishing second on track. But initial winner Rossi had overtaken Loris Capirossi (Ducati) under waved yellow flags on lap two and after examining TV replays Donington Park Race Control slapped a ten second penalty on him, hoisting Max to winner.

Max’s Camel Pramac Pons team-mate Tohru Ukawa had a wretched day when he crashed in morning warm-up and was then taken out of the race in a first lap, first corner incident that sealed a forgettable weekend for the brave Japanese rider. Donington is not a happy hunting ground for him and this is the third year in succession that he has failed to finish a race here.

Max led from pole into and out of the crucial first corner and was soon into his smooth, rapid rhythm at the head of the pack, but Rossi was making progress through the field and by lap three he was behind Max. Then Max ran wide on the entry to the Esses on lap 13 and Rossi was ahead. And no matter how Max tried to close the gap between himself and Rossi, which was more than two seconds, he couldn’t get near enough, although he’d reduced it to 1.2 seconds at the flag.

Sete Gibernau (Honda) who until the official decision had been third was elevated to second after Rossi’s penalty but admitted that he could not match the searing pace set by Max
and Rossi today. The first three finishers were a full six seconds ahead of fourth-placed Loris Capirossi (Ducati) who was lucky not to be knocked off his machine by the spinning Yamaha of Marco Melandri who crashed on lap five at the Esses.

His team-mate Troy Bayliss was fifth, more than ten seconds ahead of sixth-place finisher Carlos Checa (Yamaha), in a race that was effectively spoiled by Melandri’s accident.
The riders following the leading trio of Max, Rossi and Gibernau were left out of touch after slowing to avoid the stricken Melandri and his machine.

Tohru is not too badly hurt after his fall and has two stitches in his right arm to repair soft tissue damage as well as the usual unavoidable aches and pains from crashing at speed. He will ride in the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in two weeks time.

World Championship standings after eight of 16 rounds:
1.Valentino Rossi (Honda) 167 points
2. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 133 points
3. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) 130 points
4. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 84 points
5. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 64 points
6. Alex Barros (Yamaha) 62 points
7. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 57 points
8. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 56 points
9. Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) 54 points
10. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 46 points

Max Biaggi (winner): “The decision of the race officials means that the 25 points go my way, but as a rider I can sympathise with Rossi. I understand what he must be feeling at this time because the same thing happened to me in a race in Barcelona in 1998 which I had won on the track. The only difference is that the decision subsequently cost me the Championship.”

Tohru Ukawa (did not finish): “I’m very upset. I’m not sure exactly who it was that did it, but I got taken out of the race and nothing ever seems to go well for me here. I’m feeling a bit sore, as much about my luck here as anything else, but I will be even more determined to make up for this in Germany.”

British Grand Prix at Donington, Final Qualifying Saturday July 12

BIAGGI GRABS FIRST POLE OF SEASON AS ROSSI HITS TROUBLE


At the height of an English summer in the tranquil parkland surroundings of Donington Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) made the most of his great rival Valentino Rossi’s cracked front wheel rim to go pole for the first time this season.

Just as Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) was revving up for a final assault on the 1m 30.862s lap that had elevated Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) to pole with ten minutes of the hour-long session remaining, his front tyre went flat. A crack in the wheel rim reduced tyre pressure to the extent that he was forced to pit as the session drew to a close.

But Biaggi was out there carving away at Gibernau’s time and in a fluid and rapid six laps in the final ten minutes the Roman posted a 1m 30.740s pole time. He might even have bettered that time had it not been for a mistake on his hottest lap that he reckons cost him at least two tenths of a second.

Rossi had set a 1m 30.938s time in the first ten minutes and it was to be enough to keep him on the front row despite the frenzied efforts of Yamaha riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri to unseat the reigning Champion from the front row.

With Biaggi on pole and Gibernau second Melandri joined the select group of riders who had lapped under the 1m 31s barrier in third place in the final minute of the session. The front row looks like this: Biaggi, Gibernau, Melandri and Rossi.

Qualifying on the front row is a vital part of any rider’s Donington requirements on account of the two fast right-handers that follow the start/finish straight. If riders get boxed-in on those turns they can easily lose touch with the front runners as the pack descends Craner Curves and heads out into the further reaches of the 4.023km track.

“I’m really happy to have got pole,” said Biaggi. “The new chassis is very good and me and the team are really getting to grips with it. We’re still not getting 100% from the bike on the fastest parts of the track but overall we’ve got to be very happy with this. I would like to dedicate this pole position to Antonio Cobas who is in hospital and we all wish him a speedy recovery.”

Sete Gibernau was equally satisfied. “Obviously I would have liked to stay on pole,” he said. “But it’s just as important to have a good rhythm. We needed some track time on the bike in the dry and I’ve felt really strong since we arrived here, but we have to keep making progress and we can’t relax for a minute here.”

Rossi was glad to be on the front row. “I made my best time at the beginning,” he said. “And after I’d spent the rest of the session looking for a race set-up and a race tyre I tried to improve on that. But the front tyre lost pressure and there was nothing I could do. We are in a good position and we’re looking forward to a dry race tomorrow.”

Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) had to be satisfied with tenth place and the Japanese rider knows he has more work to do in tomorrow morning’s warm-up session. “My time is not too bad,” he said. “But looking at the grid positions it isn’t good enough. It will be vital to make a good start tomorrow after we have worked some more on the settings.”

The ever-realistic Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) qualified 13th. “That wasn’t such a great session today,” said the American rookie. “I felt okay yesterday and this morning was good too, but this afternoon we had a few tiny problems and I never really got into it – maybe I got a little excited. I need to get a good start in the race and go from there.”

Rookie Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) managed a 16th place grid slot suffering from front-end problems. “I have little grip from the front,” he said. “And lack of grip means lack of confidence. We tried all the possible solutions and still haven’t got the results we expected. So I’m starting from a less than brilliant position.”

Despite qualifying in 20th position Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) remains optimistic for the race. “I’ve improved my time from yesterday and I know I can go even quicker in the race,” he said. “I’ll have a bit of extra time in the warm-up tomorrow and then we’ll race.”

The 250 qualifying session was dominated by the Aprilias with lone Yamaha representative Naoki Matsudo stealing the final front row place. The grid will form up with Fonsi Nieto in pole, Manuel Poggiali next to him and Tony Elias (all Aprilia) in third.

Nieto relied on his 1m 33.859s time from yesterday’s session for pole and although Poggiali crashed on his final qualifying lap (without injury) he will start tomorrow’s race. Randy de Puniet and Franco Battaini qualified fifth and sixth respectively and Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) was the first Honda rider on the grid in seventh place.

“The start will be very important,” said Rolfo. “After that the lap times will be high 1.34s to low 1.35s. I’m confident I can run those times without problems, despite today’s little difficulties. I think the race will be a very closely contested affair between a group of the faster riders.”

Sebastian Porto (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) lines up next to Rolfo in eighth. “Donington is a really difficult circuit for set-up and we still need to improve the grip on the rear end,” said the Argentine. “If we manage that I think we can take another half a second off the lap times. It will be vital to make a good start, because if you lose touch with the front group at this circuit it is very difficult to recover.”

Stefano Perugini (Aprilia) qualified in pole position for tomorrow’s 125cc Grand Prix by knocking Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS125R) off the top spot in the final seconds of the frenzied final qualifying session. Four Honda riders are in the top five qualifying positions for the race: Pedrosa in second, Andrea Dovisioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) third, Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) fourth and Mika Kallio (Ajo Motorsports Honda RS125R) fifth heading row two.

“I’m happy with my qualifying today,” said Pedrosa. “The chassis is very good and the engine is almost as good as I need. The only thing left to choose is the tyre but the weather will decide that and I guess most will choose the same tyre combination. I think I will have a good race tomorrow.”

Dovizioso was less happy. “I’m a little angry with myself,” he said. “I had the chance to do better in that session, but on the last three laps there were too many people in groups to get a good slipstream.”

Simone Corsi was delighted. “Fantastic!” he beamed. “My first time on the front row on my first visit to Donington Park. I have a very good feeling with the bike around here and every time I went out I improved. At the end of the session I got lucky and found a good slipstream.”

HONDA TEAM QUOTES:

MotoGP:

Max Biaggi, Camel Pramac Pons, 1st : “The new chassis is much better and there’s still more to come from it. In the last five or six laps I really gave it everything and I went all out to get on the front row. I knew a good lap time would come and even when I made a mistake on my second fast lap the time was still in the 1m 30.9s bracket. I knew I could go faster and I’ve finally got a pole. The team is working well and I dedicate this pole time to Antonio Cobas – we race for you.”

Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda: 2nd: “I am very satisfied. I would obviously liked to have stayed on pole, but I think it is more important that I have a good rhythm. We needed some track time in the dry and I have felt strong on the bike since we arrived here. We are on the right track and I would like to thank Honda and Michelin for their support. My team is doing a great job and, obviously, this is reflected in the result. In any case, I am conscious that we have to continue progressing and not relax for one minute. The race tomorrow will be tough, we are all in similar lap times and it will be important to get a good start, go with the lead group and try and set a good rhythm from the start. I feel very motivated and excited for the race.”

Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda Team: 4th: “Quite a good session for sure. At the beginning after three laps I make my best lap time and then spend much of the session looking the best tyres and the best set-up for the race. My pace was not so bad and we make a good rhythm. Then we try to make a better lap time and at the end of the session we had some problems with the bike. I don’t understand why but it was like the front tyre had no pressure and it was not possible to push. But anyway we are in a good position; the team work very hard and we look forward to a dry and good race tomorrow.”

Tohru Ukawa, Camel Pramac Pons: 10th:  “The lap time itself is not so bad but
still not enough to get me as close to the front as I’d like to be. There was a problem with the rear tyre sliding and no matter what tyre I tried, the problem was still there. We need to make some more adjustments to the suspension settings tomorrow to try and make the tyre work better. I’ve got to get off the line well because a good start is crucial here.”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 13th: “Not such a great session this afternoon really. I felt OK yesterday for the first day here and slept on it last night. This morning was good and I got going pretty quick from the start. This afternoon we had a few tiny problems and I never really got into it – guess I got a little excited. I need to sleep on what I learnt today, enjoy the warm up tomorrow, get a good start for the race and go from there.”

Makoto Tamada, Pramac Honda Team, 16th: “The main problem is the lack of grip at the front of the bike. And lack of grip means lack of confidence. We worked really hard, trying out all the best possible solutions but we still haven’t achieved the results we were expecting. So I didn’t get the lap time I was hoping for and I’ll be starting out from a not exactly brilliant position. I’ve decided to go onto the grid tomorrow with the frame I used in previous races and I’ll leave all the comparative tests on the new-configuration frame till we try it out next week in Brno.”

Ryuichi Kiyonari, Telefonica Movistar Honda: 20th: “I am happy – I have improved my time from yesterday, but I know I can go even quicker. Tomorrow in the warm-up I will have a bit of extra time to improve my feeling with the track. Then we will race, and I feel optimistic.”

Fausto Gresini: Team manager: “We are ready for the race – it will be a tough battle. Yesterday things were already going well and we just needed to find the final set-up. Now I am calm. It is clear that is will be a difficult race tomorrow but it is the same for everybody. We feel quite competitive and in shape to fight for the win. As far as Ryuichi is concerned, we are all happy with the way he has improved his times. It is another experience for him and I hope it will be a positive one”.

250cc:

Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda: 7th: “We changed some things on bike set up which proved to be inadequate. That made me lose important time in the last qualifying session. But I think that from the second row I can be confident of taking a good race result.” “In general the engine looks to be very competitive and only the mistake I made with the set up conditioned my performance in a big way but the chassis and suspension has given has given m confidence at the end. But not, unfortunately, enough to help me improve my grid position.”
“Tomorrow I think the race will be a very closely contested affair between a group of riders, that will make the start very important. After that the lap times will be high 1.34s to low 1.35s. I’m confident I can run those times without problems, despite today’s little difficulties.” Concluded Roberto Rolfo.

Sebastián Porto, Telefonica Movistar Jnr Team: 8th: “We have changed the bike radically from yesterday to today, so much so that today was almost like the first day for us. But it was worth it because now I can ride more or less how I like and the new engine is starting to show some potential. Donington is a really difficult circuit for set-up and we still need to improve the grip on the rear end. If we manage that I think we can take another half second off the lap times.  It will be vital to make a good start, because if you lose tough with the front group at this circuit it is very difficult to recover”.

125cc:

Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 2nd: “I’m happy with my qualifying today. The chassis is very good, the engine is almost as good as I need. The only thing to choose is the tyre but the weather will decide that and I guess most will choose the same tyre combination. I think I will have a good race tomorrow.”

Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Racing Honda, 3rd: “I’m a little angry with myself, I had the possibility to do better in that session. We did a lot of tyre testing today, we have three tyres to choose from. The one we chose for the race we concentrated on ding  lot of laps on. On the last three laps there were too many people in groups to get a good slipstream.”

Simone Corsi, Scot Racing Honda, 4th: “Fantastic, my first time on the front row on my first visit to Donington Park. I have a very good feeling with the bike around here and every time I went out I improved. At the end of the session I got lucky and found a good slipstream.”

Mika Kallio, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 5th: “The bike was very smooth today. We have got rid of the handling problems we had in the last races, I can now hold my line coming off the corners. The only real problem I have is in the middle of the two sow corners, I can’t get the bike turned quick enough and it’s hurting my exit speed.”

Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda, 13th: “Good, almost perfect now. I got out of the pits first in that session and when Steve Jenkner came passed e he waited until I got in behind him, that’s when I set my fastest lap.”

 


Masao Azuma, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 22nd: “My comment is very short today. I have a very, very bad suspension set up. We have been trying a lot of things, now I don’t know what to do!”

Final Qualifying:
1. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 30.740s
2. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 1m 30.862s
3. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) 1m 30.926s
4. Valentino Rossi (Honda) 1m 30.938s
5. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 1m 31.035s
6. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 1m 31.036s
7. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1m 31.067s
8. Olivier Jacque (Yamaha) 1m 31.241s
9. Colin Edwards (Aprilia) 1m 31.354s
10. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 31.385s

Camel Pramac Pons rider Max Biaggi stormed to his first pole position of the year at a sun-kissed Donington Park and the Roman’s challenge to reigning Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda) is in robust shape here at the halfway point of the season.

Max timed his run to perfection, gradually dialling in the new chassis as the day progressed and saving his best efforts for when it really counted – when no one else could mount a challenge to his 1m 30.740s time. With two minutes of the session left he hoisted himself to second and then with one minute to go he posted his pole time.

Less than one second covers the top ten qualifiers and Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons), who will start from the third row of the grid in tenth place, should be on the pace tomorrow
if he can make a good getaway into the right hand Redgate corner.

Sete Gibernau (Honda) qualified second after heading the time sheet with ten minutes to go and Marco Melandri’s late charge elevated the Italian MotoGP rookie to third on the grid for his first front row start in the premier class.

Rossi could only manage fourth on the grid and his front row grid position was achieved with a 1m 30.938s lap which he set very early on in the session. His efforts to better that time in the later stages were thwarted by a cracked front wheel rim, which forced him into the pits.

The front row qualifiers are the only riders to dip below the 1m 31s mark and row two is headed by Carlos Checa (Yamaha) with Troy Bayliss (Ducati) next to him only one thousandth of a second slower than the Spaniard.

Bayliss’ team-mate Loris Capirossi (Ducati) qualified seventh just three hundredths shy of the Australian’s time while Olivier Jacque will start from eighth place tomorrow.

Max Biaggi (pole): “The new chassis is much better and there’s still more to come from it. In the last five or six laps I really gave it everything and I went all out to get on the front row. I knew a good lap time would come and even when I made a mistake on my second fast lap the time was still in the 1m 30.9s bracket. I knew I could go faster and I’ve finally got a pole. The team is working well and I dedicate this pole time to Antonio Cobas – we race for you.”

Tohru Ukawa (tenth): “The lap time itself is not so bad but still not enough to get me as close to the front as I’d like to be. There was a problem with the rear tyre sliding and no matter what tyre I tried, the problem was still there. We need to make some more adjustments to the suspension settings tomorrow to try and make the tyre work better. I’ve got to get off the line well because a good start is crucial here.

1ST QUALIFYING (11/07/03) – BRITISH GRAND PRIX, 13/07/03
DONINGTON

BIAGGI AND UKAWA GO TOP TEN IN FIRST QUALIFYING SESSION


Camel Pramac Pons teamsters Max Biaggi and Tohru Ukawa put in their customary hard work in the initial qualifying session today. Ukawa ended the hour seventh fastest provisionally,
while Biaggi qualified just 0.150 seconds behind him in ninth place.

Tohru was running as high as second with ten minutes of the session to go, but with tomorrow’s final qualifying session to come, there was no urgent need to press home his advantage. The Japanese is feeling much happier with his RC211V after running some way
short of his race-winning potential at recent rounds.

Max was running a new chassis for the entire session. And although the Camel Pramac Pons team is without its renowned suspension expert Antonio Cobas, who is ill, useful progress
was made in establishing a baseline setting. The team will fine-tune this in tomorrow morning’s free practice session before going all-out for grid position in final qualifying.

Valentino Rossi (Honda) topped the times today and looked comfortable throughout the session although Troy Bayliss (Ducati), who fell this morning and then again early this
afternoon, bounced back to second with a lap time just a tenth of a second slower than the provisional pole-sitter’s time of 1m 31.196s.

Valentino

Sete Gibernau (Honda) continued his recent run of form with a provisional third place while Carlos Checa (Yamaha) elevated himself to fourth. And while the provisional grid may contain a likely looking line-up of front row contenders, there is still much more to come from the Camel Pramac Pons duo.

 

Sete

Loris Capirossi (Ducati) heads the provisional second row in fifth with Olivier Jacque alongside him in sixth place. And it was Colin Edwards (Aprilia) in eighth who split the Honda RC211Vs of Tohru and Max in the final minute of the session.

Loris

Alex Barros (Yamaha) lies tenth overnight and with the weather set to continue sunny with an ambient temperature of 21 degrees and a track temperature of 25 degrees, riders should be able to build on today’s work with their final hour of qualifying in similar conditions tomorrow.

First Qualifying:
1. Valentino Rossi (Honda) 1m 31.196s
2. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 1m 31.278s
3. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 1m 31.527s
4. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 1m 31.562s
5. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1m 31.583s
6. Olivier Jacque (Yamaha) 1m 31.655s
7. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 31.711s
8. Colin Edwards (Aprilia) 1m 31.820s
9. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 31.861s
10. Alex Barros (Yamaha) 1m 32.039s

Tohru Ukawa (seventh): “My lap times are a big improvement on my 2001 times which is a good start because I didn’t race here in 2002 after my big crash on the Friday. We tried a
lot of things with the suspension and engine-mapping to try and keep the front end down. It’s very easy to lift it too much here and although we have still got a long way to go, the bike feels good, and just as importantly, so do I.”

Max Biaggi (ninth): “We did all that session with the new chassis and although it was a useful session I couldn’t quite improve my lap times. We’re still trying to find the right balance in terms of front to rear weight distribution, but we’ve some more directions to go in tomorrow to find
traction, which is really important here. Antonio Cobas is not here because he is ill and that is a bit of a setback for us.”

TITLE FIGHT SHAPING UP AS DONINGTON SHOWDOWN LOOMS


Donington marks the mid-point of the season and what Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda
RC211V) predicted would be a much harder fight for him for the World Championship this year is proving correct.

The reigning World Champion is a clear 38 points ahead of Sete Gibernau (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V), his nearest rival in the points standings. But the Spaniard has won as many races (three) as Rossi and would be even closer if hadn’t thrown away points by crashing while holding second place at his home Grand Prix at Jerez in May.

But it’s not only Gibernau who’s still in the hunt. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V), Rossi’s most intense rival, is right in touch on 105 points. And it’s the Roman rider’s sheer consistency (apart from a blip when he too crashed while disputing third place with Gibernau in Catalunya last month) that has kept him the hunt.

Rossi seems to lead a charmed life while riding Donington. Last year he fell heavily in Friday practice, but still managed to win the race on Sunday. He won his maiden 500cc race here in 2000 and was victorious again here in 2001 – some record.

But the form book, if it hasn’t quite been torn up and thrown away yet, is at least undergoing some light reappraisal. Gibernau hasn’t won a race yet this year on a dry European track. He won at Welkom, on a wet/dry Le Mans and a saturated Assen), but he is riding well enough to suggest that it’s only a matter of time before he vanquishes the points leader in a ‘fair’
fight.

Gibernau is proving an exceptionally adept wet weather rider, and if he can carry with him the momentum of his toweringly fluid and precise Assen win to Donington, then his title challenge could become much more of a reality than some observers imagined.

The grim determination of Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) to unseat his nemesis
from his position as reigning Champion, if not darling of the media, is never in doubt. Now he’s getting the best from his new team on a new machine he’ll be in full flow aiming for his first win of the season.

But his consistency so far in staying in the title hunt is a measure of just how fixed his mind is on in dethroning his rival. He’s won here twice on a 250 and had two-second places here in the big class before, last year and in 2001, so his form at this flowing, undulating track is not an issue.

Donington demands two almost diametrically opposed set-ups for machine behaviour: stability under braking and quick turn-in for the slow corners in the final section of the track on one hand, and good high-speed manners for the faster parts of the majority of the 4.023km course on the other.

Some riders opt for a good high-speed set-up for the main part of the circuit knowing that the major part of a good lap time (at least three-quarters of it) will be made there. Others go a different route and set the machine up to work best in the final chicane and two tight turns
onto the start/finish straight, on the assumption that passing other riders there is easier and can be crucial in the final dash for places.

Acceleration, as opposed to outright top speed is vital, so engine response and power in the low to mid rev range is paramount. The other key element to Donington is second-guessing its highly variable grip level. On cold days it’s a very inconsistent surface and even in hot, constant conditions the tarmac can still baffle the best tyre technicians.

Some believe this is due to the close proximity of East Midlands Airport and that jet fuel residues settle on the surface of the track and leech out under certain weather conditions. But most tracks can play tricks with the level of grip they offer under varying conditions and Sunday morning’s pre-race warm-up will be critical for final tyre choice on the day.

“It’s special for me,” said reigning Champ Rossi. “I won my very first 500 race there and then last year I had a big crash and still won on Sunday. The layout suits my style and it’s important to take advantage of that. Points and podium finishes are more important than ever this year and at the halfway point of the season and I don’t think it’s possible to win as many races as I did last season.”

Rival Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) feels his Championship challenge is gaining momentum after his second place at Assen. “I lapped fast enough there to keep Rossi behind me,” he said. “And those 20 points were very important. I go to Donington full of confidence and I’ll be looking to keep the pressure on.”

“First of all I want to dedicate my victory at Assen to the Telefonica MoviStar Honda Team,”
said Sete Gibernau. “Victories are always credited to the rider but my team has been very important in my success. I’m looking forward to England and the race and hope we can keep working in the same positive way. We have a very good set up for the rain – that was obvious at Assen. Now we are also getting close to finding the best possible machine settings in dry conditions.”

Biaggi’s team-mate Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) comes to Donington after a miserable Assen. “I’ve got nothing but bad memories of Donington,” he said. “There was my big crash there when I damaged my ribs and ankle, and I don’t know why, but Donington always trouble for me – crashes, jump start penalties, or something else. The track is okay, but I wouldn’t say it was a favourite of mine.”

Rossi’s team-mate rookie Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) will start from scratch at a track he’s never seen before. “It’s another new track and I’ll have to get up to pace early,” he said. “I’m pretty confident after Assen where everything was real good until the race. The team has been a real help and I just want to pick up from here and get to riding the bike closer to its limits.”

Rookie Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) is ready for another new challenge. “I’ve
never seen Donington before but looking at the videos of races at the track I think it will be good for my riding style. On the downhill part you can see the corners, entry and the exit, which you can’t at Assen. The last part is hard braking and fast acceleration, which I like. When I arrive I will do a few laps on the scooter to check if I’m right.”

Another rookie Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) is slightly more sceptical. “The team had told me Assen was very technical and complicated, he said. “After competing in the race I agreed and I didn’t think anything could be as difficult as Mugello, but it was. I’ve never been to Donington Park but I’m getting more experience with each race, so
it will be another new one for me. I hope to leave England with some more points.”

The 250cc World Championship is still wide open. What looked initially like a first season cakewalk for 125 graduate and Aprilia rider Manuel Poggiali has stuttered. The San Marinese rider still has more wins this season than any of his rivals, but the staggeringly consistent Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) with none so far, is only 15 points behind in the
Championship.

The Aprilia’s sheer speed has been the major factor so far this season and at fast tracks with long straights like Mugello and Catalunya, the Italian factory’s riders have made that advantage tell. But Donington’s requirements are different. Acceleration out the turns is key and the
Hondas have been steadily improving in that area as the season goes on. And rapid Rolfo is well overdue a win.

“I like Donington a lot,” says Rolfo. “Last year we had set-up problems in the final part of the track but I love the first section – the downhill. We did the best we could at Assen (sixth), but Donington has similar fast changes of direction without quite the same emphasis on power and we should be able to even better there. You need confidence there and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Sebastian Porto (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS250RW) who lies eighth in the overall standings needs a good result here. “Last year was okay,” said the experienced Argentine. “Last year we took a long time to find a set-up but we know this bike a lot better now. Top speed is not a problem at Donington but power is, and we should have new parts to help us with that there.”

The World 125cc Championship leader Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS125R) arrives at Donington with three wins so far. But as the season has developed so have his rivals and the young Spaniard’s 26 point World Championship lead, as is so often the case in this hotly contested class, is under constant threat from many sides.
Daniel  said. “I quite like racing at Donington Park. Last year I finished second in a close race. I’m confident and the bike is running well, I just hope it doesn’t rain again.”

Steve Jenkner (Aprilia) who has twice this season come within inches of a maiden win finally nailed a rostrum top spot in Assen two weeks ago. And this German rider who is consistently among the leading groups in races could prove even more of a threat as the season goes on. He currently lies second in the standings.

Third man in the points table Lucio Cecchinello (Aprilia) suffered a dip at Assen with a 16th place and will be all out to rectify that here. Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) who lies fifth will want a victory points haul and new sixteen-year-old rookie sensation Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) who finished second to Pedrosa at Catalunya will be looking to spring more surprises.

Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R), still nursing an arm injury is up for the race. “My arm is not in the best condition but better than it was at Assen,” he said. “I like Donington Park, I finished ninth last season and hope for a good race this time. The bike is very good and if I’m in better condition I think I will have a good race.”

BRITISH GRAND PRIX – DONINGTON, JULY 13 – FACT FILE
————————————————————————

The famous Donington Park circuit was opened in 1931 and staged many big international motorcycle and car racing events before closing at the start of the second World War. It re-opened in 1977 with a completely new 3.15kms layout which was increased to 4.023kms by the inclusion of the Melbourne loop in 1985. That gave the circuit the required length to be homologated and it staged its first British Grand Prix in 1987. The British Grand Prix has been held there ever since after being run at Silverstone for the previous ten years. Before then the British round of the World Championship was staged at the TT races in the Isle of Man.

The track, which has a variety of fast and slow undulating bends and two short straights, has also staged just one Formula One Grand Prix in 1993. The track provides a special challenge for both team and riders and has been the venue for some superb races in the last 17 years.

The British Grand Prix was in the doldrums for a number of years but last year over 90,000 packed the famous old venue over the weekend and a record crowd is expected this year to watch the MotoGP stars.

Max Biaggi has finished second to Valentino Rossi in the last two races at Donington while winning the 250cc race on two occasions in 1995 and 1996. His Camel Pramac Pons team-mate Tohru Ukawa had a spectacular practice accident in the fast Craner Curves last year which caused him to miss the race. Typically he was back just a week later to finish third in the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring.

————————————————————————
BRITISH GRAND PRIX – DONINGTON, JULY 13 – TRACK FACTS
————————————————————————

Length: 4.023kms
Width: 10m
Pole position: Left
Right corners: Seven
Left corners: Four
Longest Straight: 564m
Constructed: 1931
Modified: 1985

Lap record:
Valentino Rossi (Honda) 1m32.247s – 157.000 km/h (14/07/02)

Pole Position 2003:
Valentino Rossi ( Honda) 1m31.563s – 158.173 kp/h

2003 MotoGP winner:
Valentino Rossi (Honda) 46m32.888s – 155.568 kph

Max Biaggi 2002: Second
Tohru Ukawa 2002: Did not race after practice crash

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

Donington is a really good track for a rider with such a variety of bends both fast and slow but technically it provides a great challenge for the team. It’s certainly one of the most complicated tracks we race on all season but we always look forward to going there.

We are concerned about racing the four-strokes there for the first time. You need a very short first gear because of the two tight corners followed by straights, one which is uphill and the other downhill. It does cause problems getting the settings correct to stop the bike from lifting that front wheel with a wheelie. You can prevent this with electronic aids but the rider does not like it because it means cutting down in other areas that are necessary at this track. Donington is one of the slowest circuits we race on and you need that really short gear to get out of those two particularly slow bends.

The track has plenty of bumps and the grip is not that good. However, I don’t believe the theory about fuel dropping from aircraft landing a the nearby airport making the track slippery. We have to use a duel compound tyre because there are almost double the number of right hand corners compared to lefts. Most of the those right handers come in the early part of the lap and so it’s so important to get the combination of rubber, left and right, correct for the riders. I think it’s the most difficult track we race on to get the rubber combination absolutely correct. You need a very soft compound on the left side because they are also some of the fastest corners on the track.

It’s never an easy race for the team or the riders at such a complicated track but there is a very special traditional atmosphere surrounding the circuit. It’s an old style track which provides us all with a great challenge.

The facilities and especially the small garages have not changed since we’ve been going there but apart from that there is something special about the place. Max has finished second  there in the last two years and has won the 250cc race twice. Tohru had a big crash in practice last year and missed the race.

It’s one of our biggest challenges of the year to provide them both with machinery capable of winning the race at such a complicated track

Can you imagine either Max Biaggi or Tohru Ukawa competing in two British Grands Prix in the space of seven short days. The idea of the Camel Pramac Pons pair racing at Donington
on two wheels this Sunday and on four wheels just a week later at Silverstone in the British Formula One Grand Prix, would be laughed at in the 21st century- 40 years ago it was not.

In 1960 a rider (John Surtees) who’d dominated the World 350 and 500cc World titles was getting a little bored and decided he would combine his efforts in retaining those titles with a spot of car racing. Not only did he retain those titles for the Italian MV Agusta team but he also proved to be just as quick on four wheels.

Fours year later John Surtees proved himself as the supreme master of both two and four wheels by writing himself into the history books. He is still the only man to have won both 500cc and Formula One World titles and it’s a record never likely to be equalled by the modern day stars.

“I was pretty busy at the time riding for MV Agusta in both 350 and 500cc Grands prix and for Lotus in Formula One races that did not clash with the motorcycle Grands Prix,” admitted 68-year-old Surtees, who’s going to be inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame at Donington on Thursday afternoon. “I don’t think I’d totally peaked as a motor cycle racer and I wanted to ride in the 250cc class as well but MV said no. They also told me I could not drive in any non championship car races and so Lotus gave me a car to drive in the Grand Prix.”

Sadly for Motorcycle racing, Surtees gave up his two wheel career at the end of 1960 after winning his seventh World title, to concentrate of his car racing. Certainly the switch from two to four wheels seemed to hold no fears for the British rider who changed from taking on the likes of Geoff Duke and Mike Hailwood to mixing it with Graham Hill and Jim Clark.

“In just my fourth car race I drove the Lotus in Monaco and in my sixth race at Oporto in Portugal I started in pole and also set the fastest lap of the race,” he recalled. “I’d already finished second in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone which  was sandwiched between winning both the Belgium and West German 500cc Grands Prix.”

Surtees had to wait until 1963 before winning his first Formula One Grand Prix at the magnificent old Nurburgring circuit. By this time he’d switched to Ferrari and a year later won again at the Nurburgring and  Monza to clinch the World title for the Italian team after a battle royal with his old adversity Graham Hill.

Two years later he joined Honda and had much to do with the development of the Japanese giants into a Championship winning team on four wheels. Today Surtees is a great fan of
MotoGP although he would like to see the engine capacity reduced because he feels the circuits will have to be changed to adapt to their awesome power.

“I think that MotoGP has a tremendous future but I’d like to see their capacity reduced to 650cc  because at the moment the 990cc machines are producing near 300bhp through the
rear wheel compared to the 900bhp produced through four wheels by a three litre Formula One car. It’s producing problems for the circuits and for the riders who are having to adapt their riding style.”

Surtees certainly had to adjust his style 40 years ago. He won 38 motorcycle Grands Prix in 250, 350 and 500cc World Championships before the famous switch to four wheels, where he was victorious six times.

He will never forget those halcyon days on two wheels and deep down feels he left with business unfinished.

“I was still getting better on two wheels and would have probably stayed on them if MV Agusta had allowed me to compete in the 250cc Championship in addition to the 350 and 500,” he explained. “My relationship with a motorcycle was very special, taking it to and beyond the limit. You’d be hard pressed to gain that sort of experience and it was very important to me when I switched to car racing.”

Surtees’ entry in those history books will surely never be replaced.

British Grand Prix, Donington Park
July 11/12/13 2003
 

DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM REACHES 2003 HALFWAY HOUSE
The remarkable Ducati Marlboro Team MotoGP project completes its first half season at Donington Park this weekend, already well established as one of the World Championship’s front runners.
 
Although many people already seem rather accustomed to the up-front performances of riders Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss, it’s worth noting exactly what the factory has achieved with its first prototype Grand Prix machine in more than three decades. Of the seven GPs so far, the team has led six races, scored one victory, four podiums, two pole positions and seven front-row starts – an incredible record from a brand-new machine.
 
Capirossi and Bayliss will be therefore be expected to be in the hunt once again at Donington, even though they’ve never been to the Midlands venue with the 220-plus horsepower Desmosedici. Donington is round eight of this year’s 16-race MotoGP World Championship, which concludes with the Marlboro Valencia Grand Prix on November 2.
 

CONFIDENCE IS THE KEY FOR DUCATI MARLBORO MEN
The Ducati Marlboro Team comes to Donington this weekend fresh from two events that underline the Desmosedici’s awesome performance – Loris Capirossi scored the bike’s historic first victory at Catalunya a month ago and its second pole position at Assen a fortnight back.
 
Considering that the Desmosedici is still so new, it’s perhaps surprising that the bike isn’t being upgraded with new parts at every race, but all this really proves is that Ducati made a great job of creating a good motorcycle from the very beginning. Indeed it’s factory policy to leave bikes as unchanged as possible from one race to the next, because this allows riders to gain an intimate knowledge of how their machines behave on the limit, which in turn gives them greater confidence to push to the limit.
 
“More confidence is better than more new parts,” says Ducati Marlboro Team director Livio Suppo. “And at this stage we want our riders to focus on set-up for each race, rather than testing new parts. But maybe we can try some different things when we test at Brno on the Wednesday and Thursday after Donington.”
 
Despite the team’s superb recent results, Capirossi and Bayliss had a tough race day at Assen two weeks ago, the pair coming home sixth and ninth in treacherous rain-lashed conditions. “That’s the highs and lows of racing,” adds Suppo. “But overall I think Assen was a good weekend for us – taking pole position is never easy, especially when your bike has never been to the track before. It’s difficult to say how we’ll go at Donington; the bike seems to be pretty good wherever we race, and both the riders love the track, which is a good start.”
 
Donington’s overriding characteristic is its two contrasting sections – one fast and flowing, the other slow and tight. The Ducati Marlboro Team will therefore be working hard to give its riders very balanced machinery.
 
“You need to make some real set-up compromises at Donington,” says Ducati Marlboro Team technical director Corrado Cecchinelli. “The track is very hard on brakes, so maybe we’ll run bigger brake discs there. You also have to run a stiffer front-end, so the forks don’t bottom out during braking, which means working with springs, preload and hydraulic damping settings.”
 
Capirossi and Bayliss have a choice of three different diameter Brembo front brake discs – 290mm, 305mm and 320mm – depending on circuit characteristics. At Assen, where there’s little heavy braking, Capirossi preferred the 290mm discs while Bayliss liked the 305mm rotors. At Donington they may both use 320mm brakes.
 
“I think it’s an interesting track,” adds Cecchinelli. “Maybe it doesn’t have a long straight, but otherwise it’s got a little of everything – heavy braking, fast corners and tight hairpins. I like British racetracks like Donington and Brands Hatch because they have some soul. There’s always a few corners that are interesting, that you remember, like Craner, which is a big challenge for riders and engineers. Just like Assen, we’ve had plenty of Superbike experience at Donington, but all this gives us is an idea of what to expect. At Assen we knew we’d have to work on manoeuvrability through the high-speed direction changes, at Donington we know we’ll have to focus on braking performance.”
 

CAPIROSSI AND HIS V4 ARE ON A ROLL
Loris Capirossi and his Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici are on a roll – the Italian has already scored six successive front row starts, including two pole positions, and one victory so far this season. At Donington Park he’ll be working hard to achieve more success, but he knows that the track’s complex nature won’t make things easy.
 
“Donington is one of my favourite tracks,” says Capirossi who won his very first GP success at Donington in August 1990, aged just 17. “But I’m not so sure that it’ll be great for the Ducati, especially the last section where it’s all slow, tight corners with hard braking and low-gear acceleration. But you have to race at every track and make the best of what you’ve got. I don’t think the hard braking will be a real problem, but low-gear acceleration isn’t easy when you have so much horsepower.
 
“For sure we have a powerful engine with very good top speed, but we need to work on the overall balance of the machine. It’s already very good but not yet perfect – I’d say we’re now at 85 per cent, maybe a little more. Sure, we’ve won a race, but our work is far from over, in fact it gets harder and harder as you try to find more and more performance.”
 
Capirossi has a remarkable record at Donington – he won the British 125 GP in 1990 and ’91, and the British 250 GP in ’94 and ’98.
 

BAYLISS – TAKING THE GOOD WITH THE BAD
The British GP is a little like coming home for Ducati Marlboro Team rider Troy Bayliss – the Aussie used to live between Coventry and Birmingham when he contested the British Superbike championship back in 1998 and 1999. Those were Bayliss’ first seasons with Ducati, and ultimately they paved the way to his 2001 World Superbike title and recent graduation to MotoGP.
 
It didn’t take Bayliss long to establish himself as a MotoGP front-runner – he scored a front-row start and podium finish in just his third race on the Desmosedici at May’s Spanish GP. Since then he’s been fighting to get the bike working according to his wishes, though that hasn’t diminished his fighting spirit – both his most recent top-ten results, at Assen and Catalunya, were achieved after off-track excursions.
 
“We started off better than anyone expected, and everything’s still going in the right direction but I’ve had a couple of so-so runs recently,” says straight-talking Bayliss. “That’s racing though, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. The bike’s quite close, it’s just a matter of getting the little things right on the day, and when you’ve not been to a lot of the tracks, you can sometimes miss that last little bit.
 
“I know Donington from my Superbike days. You need good front-end feel there, and a bike that changes direction at speed on the gas through Craner – you’ll destroy yourself heaving the bike from one side to the other there if it’s not working well. It’s quite hard to get a balanced set-up at Donington.”
 

THE TRACK
Donington Park is a real rider’s track, dominated by fast, sweeping corners that crucially inter-link with each other. Through these sections a fluid riding style and high corner speed are much more important than brute horsepower. But just to complicate matters, the ‘new’ Melbourne loop section (added in 1986) features three dead-stop turns where last-gasp braking and vicious acceleration are all important. Getting a MotoGP machine to work through these two contrasting segments is a great challenge for both riders and engineers.
 
Donington has been hosting GPs since 1987, taking over from Silverstone. The venue’s history as a racetrack goes back to 1931 when the owners of the nearby Donington mansion allowed the estate roads to be used for racing. The circuit was shut down during the war and only re-opened in 1977 after extensive redevelopment by local businessman Tom Wheatcroft.
 
Donington Park: 4.023km/2.500 miles
Lap record: Valentino Rossi (Honda), 1m 32.247s, 157.000kmh/97.555mph (2002)
Pole position 2002: Valentino Rossi (Honda), 1m 31.563s
 

DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM DATA LOGS

 
TROY BAYLISS

Age: 34
Lives: Monaco
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici
First GP: Australia, 1997 (250)
GP starts: 8 (7xMotoGP, 1×250)
World Superbike victories: 22
World Championships: 1 (Superbike: 2001)
Donington 2002 results: DNS
 
 
 

LORIS CAPIROSSI

Age: 30
Lives: Monaco
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici
GP victories: 23 (1xMotoGP, 2×500, 12×250, 8×125)
First GP victory: Britain, 1990 (125)
First GP: Japan, 1990 (125)
GP starts: 191 (21xMotoGP, 59×500, 84×250, 27×125)
Pole positions: 35 (2xMotoGP, 5×500, 23×250, 5×125)
First pole: Australia, 1991 (125)
World Championships: 3 (125: 1990, 1991, 250: 1998)
Donington 2002 results : DNS