Raceday Sunday July 27
Track temperature: 43 degrees
Ambient temperature: 31 degrees, bright sunshine
GIBERNAU ROBS ROSSI OF WIN IN LAST TURN LAST LAP THRILLER
Sensational Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) scored his fourth win of the season at a sun-kissed Sachsenring in eastern Germany in front of an appreciative 92,000 crowd. Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) had to settle for second after making a critical error on the final turn which Gibernau pounced on for his victory. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) was third.
Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) looked to be the dominant force here this weekend after setting a pole time for the second successive race. He also set the fastest lap of the race before crashing out while chasing down the leading duo of Gibernau and Rossi.
Biaggi wasted his pole position with a dreadful start that sunk him to tenth on the first lap. Rossi howled into turn one ahead of the Ducati duo of Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss with Gibernau in close pursuit. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) made good early running, going as high as second momentarily after a robust double overtaking move that disposed of Gibernau and Capirossi. But he couldn’t make it stick.
By lap five Rossi had pulled out a 2.5 second advantage over Gibernau who was now in a solid second place with Bayliss third. Biaggi was moving up the field with serious intent and by lap ten he was ready to put Bayliss behind him and work on the leaders. But Bayliss had other ideas and made it hard work for the Roman.
Biaggi and Bayliss swapped places three times on lap 11 as their private battle raged and a lap later the faster Max had finally put the determined Australian behind him. But on lap 14 Max lost the front of his RC211V at turn ten and with it his chance of a win, or at least a hefty points haul.
It was now down to Gibernau to take the challenge to Rossi and the Spaniard was more than up to it. At the halfway stage of the 30-lap race he had cut the deficit to 0.7 seconds and on lap 21 he made his move on the champ into the tight turn one at the end of the start/finish straight.
Rossi followed closely, seemingly getting the measure of his rival before making a decisive play for the lead at his leisure – but there was nothing at all leisurely about the way he had to ride to keep Gibernau within striking distance. Rossi left it until the last lap before he struck.
On the rapid downhill right approach to the penultimate turn, Rossi fired his RC211V around the outside of Gibernau and was then on the inside of the lefthand turn that followed – and ahead. There was only the final righthand corner to go and Rossi looked poised for victory.
But he overcooked his entry, and with his machine out of shape, Gibernau seized his chance and squared off the turn to shoot his bike up the inside of the floundering Rossi and broach the line six hundredths of a second ahead of the Italian.
“That was hard race,” said a delighted Gibernau. “Both mentally and physically. I had no plan for the last lap because when you have a plan and it doesn’t work, you’re in trouble. I used a bit of dirt-track experience in the last turn – if you want to pass someone on the way out – do the work on the way in.”
Rossi was honest about his error. “I made a big mistake,” he said. “I try to go away at the start but it was impossible. So I stay with Sete and wait for the last lap. I don’t know why I went so tight into the final turn because it’s difficult to pass there. But I went in too tight, lost the front and had to wait too long before I could get on the throttle.”
Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) rode a great race to fifth in his rookie year, just allowing Loris Capirossi to steal fourth from him, and the American was understandably delighted. “That was fun,” he said. “I really needed that race and I’ll take fifth. I was fourth at one point but on the last lap on the last couple of corners I rode a little too conservatively and Capirossi just snuck by. Hats off to my guys. They worked real hard for me all year.”
Things improved a little for Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) who was sixth. “The result is a bit below my expectations,” he said. “But not too bad. I had a bit of trouble in the early laps with my tyre spinning up and that was due to not quite getting the set-up right. But I’m improving step-by-step.”
Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) managed 13th. “I could never make a real attack,” he said. “It’s been like that all weekend – a bit demoralising. We tired a new front fork that gave me a bit more grip, but not quite enough to make a fierce attack. I’m looking forward to Brno now and the time we spent testing tyres there should give me an advantage.”
Rookie Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) had to content himslef with 18th. “I ran my own race and tried to pick up as much experience as possible,” he said. “I’ve found this track difficult, but we’ll see how things go at Brno. At least I know the track because we tested there last week.”
Rossi still lead thre overall points standings with 187 to Gibernau’s 158 with Biaggi in third with 130 points.
Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) won his first ever Grand Prix in fine style when he beat Fonsi Nieto (Aprilia) into second place with Randy de Puniet (Aprilia) finishing third. The Italian Honda rider came so close to winning here last year when the race was stopped because of rain just as he’d taken the lead (the race order from the previous lap counting as the result).
Rolfo headed the pack into the first turn at the lights and led from Sebastian Porto (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) in the early laps with Fonsi Nieto in close pursuit. But de Puniet was making ground and by lap 6 the Frenchman was up to second place and sizing up Rolfo for a pass.
He made it on lap 14 and Rolfo stayed close enough to harry the Aprilia rider for the next three laps before backmarker traffic began to take its toll on the leading group, Porto suffering enough to lose touch with the leaders. By this stage Nieto had dropped back after running off track but the Spaniard charged back into contention for the lead by the closing stages.
Rolfo then muscled his way back into the lead on lap 24 and held it to the finish despite a huge slide three laps from the finish. “That was really hard,” said the delighted Italian. “Everyone raced really hard right from the beginning and the fast rhythm made me concentrate to the absolute maximum to avoid any errors. I knew I would be fighting for the win and this victory is the best feeling.”
Porto was understandably less happy with fourth. “The front tyre was completely destroyed by the end of the race,” said the Argentine. “Yesterday we did a whole lot of laps on the same tyre and it was fine. There was nothing I could do even though I was going well.”
The World Championship points standings now show Manuel Poggiali, who crashed out of the race, leading with 129 points, Nieto second on 126 and Rolfo third on 122.
The 27-lap 125 race saw Stefano Perugini (Aprilia) win from pole position. The Italian survived frantic last lap assaults from Casey Stoner (Aprilia) and Alex de Angelis (Aprilia) who finished second and third respectively. Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS125R) finished fourth to collect valuable World Championship points.
The race was run in searing heat and the leading riders all suffered accelerated tyre wear in the conditions. The four-rider breakaway that disputed the podium positions in the closing laps did their utmost to gain advantages as the final lap began, but they eventually finished in the order in which they began the last lap.
“Towards the end of the race the engine started sounding different,” said Danny. “I didn’t know what it was so I just kept going, but with three laps to go I lost speed and just had to settle for fourth. I did what I needed to do in terms of the championship.”
Andrea Dovisioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) finished seventh after losing touch with the leading group at the halfway stage, Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) was ninth, Mika Kallio (Ajo Motorsports Honda RS125R) was tenth and Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) crashed out in the closing stages.
The World Championship points table now shows Pedrosa ahead on 137 points with Perugini on 117. Lucio Cecchinello (Aprilia) has 105 and Dovisioso is in close touch with 102.
Honda rider quotes Sachsenring Sunday.
Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 1st: “I had to fight through traffic at the start but got into third before the end of lap one. Then I concentrated on picking up the pace and trying to catch Valentino. The last lap was unbelievable, because in some places on the track I had a tenth of a second on Valentino – in some places he had the same advantage over me. I had no race plan or strategy before the race because sometimes your strategy doesn’t work and when it doesn’t you can find yourself in trouble. The last corner was incredible. Valentino ran a tight line into the last corner so I had to use a dirt track manoeuvre off the corner, square off the turn and run up the inside of him. I learned to do that at the Kenny Roberts ranch. Valentino ran wide and I gassed it up the inside. I wheelied off the corner, Valentino also, but I got to the line first. I just want to thank Telefonica, Honda and Team Gresini for all they have done for me this season. I have always belie
ved in myself, even when things w
ere going badly for me, and I have always had people around me who believed in me, I thank them all for their support.”
FAUSTO GRESINI Team Manager: Today is another special day for the team – we have won again! The victory came on the last lap but that takes nothing away from its value. Above all we have seen that Sete Gibernau is a superb rider. This year he has won four races and we are very happy and proud to have him in our team and to have contributed to his success in the elite category. I want to share this moment with all the team, with Honda and with the sponsors.
Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda Team: 2nd: “A little disappointed with the final result. I tried to go at the beginning of the race, but it was impossible. Sete come with me and we do maybe 10 laps together very close. It was a race in the last lap when I plan my attack. I made a good overtake. After I don’t understand why I need to go inside to close the line. I thought Sete may go inside. That was my mistake. I went to close the line and touched the brake and loose the momentum; I needed to wait too long to open the throttle. Sometimes this year I have been unlucky with the weather or the rules. Today I just made a mistake.”
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 5th: “That was fun. I really needed that race and I’ll take fifth. It was fourth at one point but on the last lap and on the last couple of corners I rode a little too conservative and Capirossi just snuck by. But it was still a really fun race. Definitely the best I’ve had all year and really something to build on. This morning, the warm up was good. I felt pretty comfortable running with Valentino and Max. Anytime I get behind these guys at these new circuits I pick up so much; it’s a big help. Hats off to my guys. They’ve worked real hard for me all year and I’m real happy to give them a good result. I’m also real happy for myself. I’ve had a few races that weren’t so much fun this year and it’s nice to get out there and just charge the whole way!”
Tohru Ukawa, Camel Pramac Pons: 6th “The start was not too bad for me and
the race was run at a pretty high pace right from the beginning. It was hard to follow the leading group because my bike was spinning up the rear tyre a little bit. In the
end that was because we ran out of time perfecting the set-up. Sixth is better than crashing and we’ll keep going step-by-step until we get the results we’re looking for. I’m off to Japan now for the Suzuka 8-hour race, and then I’ll relax until Brno.”
Makoto Tamada, Pramac Honda Team: 13th: “Lack of feeling, lack of grip. A race in which I just didn’t find the wherewithal to make a real attack. And it was like that all weekend. A bit demoralising. We tried out a new setting for the front fork that gave me greater grip for the entire duration of the race, but it wasn’t enough to be really aggressive and give me what I needed to make a fierce attack. Now I’m looking forward to Brno and hope the days we spent testing the tyres will give me an objective advantage: I want to be more competitive and get up closer to the leading riders.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 18th: “I’m not very happy with my race today. I don’t really like this circuit, and I never felt comfortable in practice or the race. I have to congratulate Sete for his victory today, he must have had a really good race.”
Max Biaggi , Camel Pramac Pons: (crashed lap 14): “The start was not great for me. I found myself down in tenth place and I had to push to try and recover because I was in a lot of traffic. And that Proton was fast in the slower parts of the track and hard to get past. When I had a clear track I could make up time but then I lost the front at turn 10 where I hadn’t really felt comfortable all race. It’s sad what happened but I can’t do the race again so I’ll just look forward to Brno.”
Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda, 1st: “It is a great satisfaction to take this victory but it was very hard because all the riders raced hard from the very beginning without making any concessions to each other. The very fast rhythm of the race made me concentrate at maximum to avoid any errors that would condition my race, or penalise me at the end. I had to concentrate totally for the entire race distance racing in the group. It was very important not to make one single mistake, that’s why I overtook Randy de Puniet with five laps to go because I thought it best to defend my lead from the attacks of my rivals and so it proved to be at the end of the race. This is the first victory of the season but in reality we can say, myself and the team, this is the point where the championship truly starts.”
“The job the team has done this weekend, and in general, has been fantastic, a constant progression that has permitted us to get the results we’ve had, and this victory which has finally arrived. From the very start of practice I knew I would be fighting for the win. I also knew it would be very hard but the reward of this victory is the best feeling from a successful weekend in Germany.”
Dani Amatriain, Fortuna Honda Team Manager: “From my position I would like to thank Fortuna and Honda for their help and support for this project and, obviously, congratulate everybody in the team. But above all to Roberto who showed his true pedigree and professionalism with a spectacular victory, he has taken a big step forward in his ever improving career.”
Sebastian Porto, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 4th: “My front tyre is completely destroyed, I cannot believe it. Yesterday we ran a lot of laps on the same type of tyre, and I did 20 laps again this morning in the warm up. The weekend was not all bad, e took pole for the race and I was at the front in the race, so we did some good things. Now I’m going home to Argentina to rest and relax, I will be back at Brno and hope we can continue the improvement we have made recently.”
Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 4th: “Towards the end of the race, about 10 laps to go I heard a different noise from the engine, I didn’t know what it was. But I kept going, then with three to go I began to lose a little speed, so I decided to accept fourth place as something positive and take 13 points. Now I go on holiday and forget this weekend.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Racing Honda, 7th: “I’m not happy at all. I was always in a good position in the early laps but I started to have serious rear wheel slides. The engine was also running at over 60’ and that robbed me of a little power. Not a good day.”
Simone Corsi, Scot Racing Honda, 9th: “Sure I’m happy, that was my best GP result so far. I got a good start, and held my grid position in the race. The only small problems I had was that the rear end was sliding a lot during the race, particularly at the first corner. I also had a little front end chatter, nothing to worry about. I really enjoyed the race, and I was less than one second behind Andrea at the finish.”
Mika Kallio, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 10th: “”My start was OK, I think I was eighth at the end off the second lap, I had caught the lead group. Then at the last corner on lap three I got into a huge slide, almost high-sided me off the bike. I ran onto the gravel and lost ten places before I got back on the track. I’m just pleased I could fight my way back to 10th at the finish.”
Masao Azuma, Ajo Motorsports Honda, dnf: “This weekend we have had a lot of problems, particularly with the front end which has been very unstable. The tyre I chose to race on was too soft and I crashed under braking for the first corner on lap 15.”
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda, dnf: “I had big problems with the rear end sliding, I almost high-sided many times. With three laps to go I decided it was better to keep my position and finish. But the next lap I lost the rear end again, I caught it but then lost the front. I’m not very happy because this is a good place and the people here are very nice.”
Race Classification MotoGP : (30 laps = 110.13 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Sete GIBERNAU /SPA /Telefónica Movistar Honda /HONDA/42’41.180/154.798
2/Valentino ROSSI /ITA /Repsol Honda /HONDA/42’41.240/154.795
3/Troy BAYLISS /AUS /Ducati Marlboro Team /DUCATI/42’54.387/154.004
4/Loris CAPIROSSI /ITA /Ducati Marlboro Team /DUCATI/42’57.701/153.806
5/Nicky HAYDEN /USA /Repsol Honda /HONDA/42’57.743/153.804
6/Tohru UKAWA /JPN /Camel Pramac Pons /HONDA/42’59.923/153.674
7/Shinya NAKANO /JPN /d’Antín Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/43’00.065/153.665
8/Carlos CHECA /SPA /Fortuna Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/43’07.345/153.233
9/Olivier JACQUE /FRA /Gauloises Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/43’09.461/153.108
10/Norick ABE /JPN /Fortuna Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/43’10.339/153.056
11/Nobuatsu AOKI /JPN /Proton Team KR /PROTON KR/43’10.496/153.047
12/Jeremy McWILLIAMS /GBR /Proton Team KR /PROTON KR/43’11.607/152.981
13/Makoto TAMADA /JPN /Pramac Honda /HONDA/43’30.760/151.859
14/Colin EDWARDS /USA /Alice Aprilia Racing /APRILIA/43’34.624/151.634
15/Kenny ROBERTS /USA /Suzuki Grand Prix Team /SUZUKI/43’38.692/151.399
Fastest Lap: Max BIAGGI 1’24.630 156.157 Km/h Lap 8
World Championship Positions:
1 ROSSI 187,
2 GIBERNAU 158,
3 BIAGGI 130,
4 CAPIROSSI 97,
5 BAYLISS 80,
6 UKAWA 66,
7 CHECA 65,
8 NAKANO 63,
9 BARROS 62,
10 HAYDEN 57,
11 JACQUE 50,
12 EDWARDS 42,
13 TAMADA 40,
14 HAGA 30,
15 ABE 24.
Race Classification 250cc: (29 laps = 106.459 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Roberto ROLFO /ITA /Fortuna Honda /HONDA/42’06.199/151.711
2/Fonsi NIETO /SPA /Team Repsol Telefonica Movistar /APRILIA/42’06.349/151.702
3/Randy De Punet /FRA /Safilo Oxydo-LCR /APRILIA/42’06.486/151.693
4/Sebastian PORTO /ARG /Telefonica Movistar jnr Team /HONDA/42’11.504/151.393
5/Franco BATTAINI /ITA /Campetella Racing /APRILIA/42’19.296/150.928
6/Anthony WEST /AUS /Team Zoppini Abruzzo /APRILIA/42’24.488/150.620
7/Toni ELIAS /SPA /Team Repsol Telefonica Movistar /APRILIA/42’27.080/150.467
8/Manuel POGGIALI /RSM /MS Aprilia Team /APRILIA/42’27.126/150.464
9/Alex DEBON /SPA /Troll Honda BQR /HONDA/42’51.370/149.045
10/Alex BALDOLINI /ITA /Matteoni Racing /APRILIA/42’54.900/148.841
11/Dirk HEIDORF /GER /Aprilia Germany / APRILIA/43’03.277/148.359
12/Chaz DAVIES /GBR /Aprilia Germany /APRILIA/43’03.467/148.348
13/Jakub SMRZ /CZE /Elit Grand Prix /HONDA/43’03.658/148.337
14/Erwan NIGON /FRA /Equipe de France – Scrab GP /APRILIA/43’23.666/147.197
15/Max NEUKIRCHNER /GER /Neukirchner R.T. Adac Sachse /HONDA /43’35.338/146.540
Fastest Lap: Fonsi NIETO 1’26.469 152.836 Km/h Lap 16
World Championship Positions:
1 POGGIALI 129,
2 NIETO 126,
3 ROLFO 122,
4 ELIAS 106,
5 DE PUNIET 105,
6 WEST 104,
7 BATTAINI 98,
8 PORTO 87,
9 MATSUDO 60,
10 GUINTOLI 58,
11 DEBON 47,
12 OLIVE 27,
13 AOYAMA 20,
14 BALDOLINI 19,
15 GEMMEL 18.
Race Classification 125cc (27 laps = 99.117 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Stefano PERUGINI /ITA /Abruzzo Racing Team /APRILIA/40’11.124/147.989
2/Casey STONER /AUS /Safilo Oxydo-LCR /APRILIA/40’11.336/147.976
3/Alex De ANGELIS /RSM /Globet.com Racing /APRILIA/40’11.499/147.966
4/Daniel PEDROSA /SPA /Telefonica Movistar jnr Team /HONDA/40’11.898/147.942
5/Pablo NIETO /SPA /Master-MXOnda-Aspar Team /APRILIA/40’17.001/147.629
6/Gabor TALMACSI /HUN /Exalt Cycle Red Devil /APRILIA/40’22.915/147.269
7/Andrea DOVIZIOSO /ITA /Team Scot /HONDA/40’23.194/147.252
8/Lucio CECCHINELLO /ITA /Safilo Oxydo-LCR /APRILIA/40’23.336/147.243
9/Simone CORSI /ITA /Team Scot /HONDA/40’23.769/147.217
10/Mika KALLIO /FIN /Ajo Motorsports /HONDA/40’27.493/146.991
11/Mirko GIANSANTI /ITA /Matteoni Racing /APRILIA/40’27.494/146.991
12/Marco SIMONCELLI /ITA /Matteoni Racing /APRILIA/40’27.949/146.964
13/Gioele PELLINO /ITA /Sterilgarda Racing /APRILIA/40’32.746/146.674
14/Hector BARBERA /SPA /Master-MXOnda-Aspar Team /APRILIA/40’38.285/146.341
15/Fabrizio LAI /ITA /Semprucci Angaia Malaguti/40’52.152/145.513
Fastest Lap : Pablo NIETO 1’28.490 149.345 Km/h Lap 7
World Championship Positions:
1 PEDROSA 137,
2 PERUGINI 117,
3 CECCHINELLO 105,
4 DOVIZIOSO 102,
5 JENKNER 98,
6 DE ANGELIS 92,
7 NIETO 88,
8 BARBERA 67,
9 UI 64,
10 STONER 60,
11 GIANSANTI 51,
12 LUTHI 48,
13 KALLIO 46,
14 BORSOI 36,
15 TALMACSI 33.
MAX SETS FASTEST LAP OF RACE BUT CRASHES OUT ON LAP 14
Pole man Max Biaggi set the fastest lap of the race at a searing 1m 24.630s on his Camel Pramac Pons RC211V as he hunted down early leader Valentino Rossi (Honda). But just before the halfway stage of the 30-lap race the rapid Roman lost front-end grip at turn 10 and crashed out of the race. He was unhurt.
Spaniard Sete Gibernau (Honda) won the epic race when he beat Rossi to the finish line after a pulsating duel with the reigning champion. Gibernau took the lead on lap 21 of the 30-lap thriller and Rossi shadowed him throughout the remaining laps until passing him on the final lap into the downhill penultimate turn.
But Rossi made a mistake into the final corner allowing Gibernau to steal an inside line and take the flag just six hundredths of a second ahead. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) was third. Camel Pramac Pons team rider Tohru Ukawa rode a steady race to sixth and this result now elevates the Japanese to sixth in the overall World Championship standings.
Max’s poor start from pole position gave him a hard workload in the telling early laps of the race, but his speed at this short, undulating track was never in doubt after his sizzling 1m 23.734s pole time. He used this speed advantage to great effect climbing from tenth on lap one to third by lap 13 after disposing of the awkward Australian Bayliss.
Then Max set about closing down the gap to the then second-placed Gibernau and it was then that the fastest man on the track and the fastest man of the weekend tumbled to earth. Max gamely inspected his smashed RC211V to see if there was any chance of continuing the race. But the damage was too severe.
Loris Capirossi (Ducati) finished fourth and Nicky Hayden (Honda) managed to get past Tohru for fifth. Max still lies third in the overall World Championship standings and with seven races still to go the Camel Pramac Pons contender is still very much in the hunt despite today’s result.
1. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 42m 41.180s
2. Valentino Rossi (Honda) 42m 41.240s
3. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 42m 54.387s
4. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 42m 57.701s
5. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 42m 57.743s
6. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 42m 59.923s
7. Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) 43m 00.065s
8. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 43m 07.345s
9. Olivier Jacque (Yamaha) 43m 09.461s
10. Norick Abe (Yamaha) 43m 10.339s
Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) crashed uninjured on lap 14
World Championship standings after nine of 16 rounds:
1. Valentino Rossi (Honda) 187 points
2. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 158 points
3. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) 130 points
4. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 97 points
5. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 80 points
6. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 66 points
7. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 65 points
8. Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) 63 points
9. Alex Barros (Yamaha) 62 points
10. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 57 points
Max Biaggi (crashed lap 14):
“The start was not great for me. I found myself down in tenth place and I had to push to try and recover because I was in a lot of traffic. And that Proton was fast in the slower parts of the track and hard to get past. When I had a clear track I could make up time but then I lost the front at turn 10 where I hadn’t really felt comfortable all race. It’s sad what happened but I can’t do the race again so I’ll just look forward to Brno.”
Tohru Ukawa (sixth):
“The start was not too bad for me and the race was run at a pretty high pace right from the beginning. It was hard to follow the leading group because my bike was spinning up the rear tyre a little bit. In the end that was because we ran out of time perfecting the set-up. Sixth is better than crashing and we’ll keep going step-by-step until we get the results we’re looking for. I’m off to Japan now for the Suzuka 8-hour race, and then I’ll relax until Brno.”
DUCATI MARLBORO MEN MAKE STUNNING ’RING DEBUT
The Ducati Marlboro Team made a breathtaking debut at the awkward Sachsenring circuit today, riders Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi finishing third and fourth in a sweltering, crash-strewn race. The results strengthen the pair’s World Championship positions: Capirossi still fourth despite a fiery crash this morning, Bayliss fifth as the MotoGP circus heads into its brief summer break before next month’s Czech GP.
“I’m too happy!” beamed Ducati Marlboro Team technical director Corrado Cecchinelli. “To score a podium result at a track which we’ve never been to before and which everyone said would be bad for our bike is fantastic. I hope all our ‘bad’ tracks will be this good in the future! Troy rode a fantastic race. He had a great battle with Max (Biaggi) which pushed Max into a mistake. Loris was incredible. He was bruised everywhere after this morning’s crash and had to use his second bike. On paper there’s no difference between his two machines but maybe there’s a tiny difference and a slight psychological issue in racing your second bike. Also, he wasn’t in great physical shape for the race.”
Conditions were ultra-tough around this twisting, physically demanding circuit with ambient temperatures exceeding 30 degrees and track temperature reaching 40 degrees.
BAYLISS SCORES THRILLING SECOND MotoGP PODIUM
Ducati Marlboro Team rider Troy Bayliss today scored a brilliant third-place finish in his first-ever race at the Sachsenring. The Aussie, riding with a shaved head, made a stunning start from the second row to muscle his way into third place. He protected that position from Max Biaggi with typical aggression, repassing the attacking Italian three times before Biaggi made the pass stick on lap 13, only to fall the very next lap. That left the Aussie in a safe third place, which he maintained to the chequered flag.
“It’s my first time here and my second MotoGP podium, so I’m very happy,” said a sweat-drenched Bayliss. “It’s been a very good weekend for us but it was a very difficult race around here. After Max went by and crashed I just tried to stay close to Sete (Gibernau) for as long as possible. I knew Max’s pace was really fast, so there wasn’t much I could do about him, then he crashed because he was pushing very hard. The last third of the race I was losing the back into turns off the throttle, so I just did my own thing and brought the bike home. I’m really happy for everyone in the team.”
CAPIROSSI FOURTH AFTER FIERY WARM-UP CRASH
Loris Capirossi finished a brave fourth place in Germany today, a remarkable result after a high-speed tumble in morning warm-up after which his Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici caught fire. The bike was badly damaged in the blaze, forcing the Italian to switch to his second machine for this afternoon’s race. Undaunted Capirossi rode superbly, battling long and hard with a bunch of rivals, eventually defeating Nicky Hayden for fourth place.
“I had to ride a defensive race because my second bike was a tiny bit different from the machine I crashed in warm-up,” said Capirossi who hurt his neck and suffered all-over bruising in the 200kmh crash. “I was quite bashed about in the accident, I’d say I was only feeling 80 per cent before the race. So, all things considered, I’m satisfied with the result, these points are very important for the championship. I’m very happy for Troy and I feel sorry for Marco(Melandri, who crashed late in the race while racing with Capirossi), he was riding really fast.”
SUNDAY OFFICIAL RACE TIMES SACHSENRING, GERMANY
1. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 42’41.180
2. Valentino Rossi (Honda) + 0.060
3. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) + 13.207
4. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) + 16.521
5. Nicky Haydan (Honda) + 16.563
6. Tohru Ukawa (Honda) + 18.743
7. Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) + 18.885
8. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) + 26.165
9. Olivier Jacque (Yamaha) + 28.281
10. Norick Abe (Yamaha) + 29.159
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS after 9th round of 16
1. Valentino Rossi 187
2. Sete Gibernau 158
3. Max Biaggi 130
4. Loris Capirossi 97
5. Troy Bayliss 80
6. Tohru Ukawa 66
7. Carlos Checa 65
8. Shinya Nakano 63
9. Alex Barros 62
10. Nicky Hayden 57
16. John Hopkins 22
23. Kenny Roberts 7
24. Yukio Kagayama 4
Team Suzuki Press Office Sunday July 27th 2003.
Team Suzuki rider Kenny Roberts Jr. finished 15th in today’s German GP, fighting back ahead of former GP winner Garry McCoy to secure the last championship point in his first race for seven weeks, after missing three rounds while recuperating from injury. Team-mate John Hopkins didn’t make the finish of the race, round 30 laps of the 3.671 km Sachsenring circuit, outside the city of Chemnitz (the former Karl Marx Stadt). The 20-year-old Anglo-American was two places behind Roberts with seven laps remaining when he was sidelined by a rare failure of the 990cc V4 Suzuki GSV-R engine. Both riders had a difficult weekend, with the very twisty track and tight corners not kind to the powerful Suzuki; but both were making the most of their chances, in a close race in front of a crowd of more than 90,000 ardent fans in the former East Germany. Rain would probably have suited them better, but forecast showers failed to materialise, and the race was run in blazing sunshine, with the temperature at 31 degrees. The race was won by Sete Gibernau, his third victory of the nine-race-old season; with defending champion Valentino Rossi second. The next race follows an abbreviated summer break in three weeks time, at the sweeping Brno circuit in the Czech Republic.
The new head of Suzuki’s racing department, Masahito Imada, was at the race. Imada-san brings a long and extensive racing experience: he was part of the original design team of the serially successful Suzuki RG500 of the Seventies and early Eighties, and headed up the Superbike racing project.
KENNY ROBERTS Jr. – 15th
The most fun I had this weekend was after the race, when Olivier Jacque stopped on the cool-down lap to do a rear tyre burn-out . and high-sided right in front of me! (The French rider was not injured.) The race was super disappointing. I can’t use any of my ability to ride the bike – the rider can’t make much difference, and the bike is at its limit at the moment. The easiest thing to say is that my team-mate from last year, who was competitive with me, won the race, so congratulations to Sete.
JOHN HOPKINS – Retired
My Michelins were working good, but soon after the start I started dropping back. I’ve been around 20th all weekend, so I knew it wasn’t going to stop today. But I felt comfortable, though Kenny and Garry McCoy started to get away from me a bit, because my bike wasn’t handling well. Then I got behind Alex Hofmann, and we both started to pick up the pace a bit. I didn’t think I’d be able to get into the points, but we were closing up some on Kenny and Garry, and I wanted to be ahead of Hofmann. Then suddenly the engine had a problem: the throttle seemed to stick open and there was smoke everywhere, and I had to stop. I’m looking forward to some improvements.
GARRY TAYLOR – TEAM MANAGER
It’s good to have Kenny back on the bike again, though one point is not a lot to show for all the therapy and training he’s gone through to get fit. John gave it everything he could, as always, but in the end it came to nothing. It always looked as though this was going to be a tough weekend. I wish we’d been able to get a better result for our new race department boss, Mr Imada.
MOTOGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2003
ROUND 9 – CINZANO MOTORRAD GRAND PRIX DEUTSCHLAND
27TH JULY 2003 – MOTOGP RACE RESULT
MCCOY JUST MISSES POINTS FOR FUCHS KAWASAKI IN GERMANY
Fuchs Kawasaki’s Australian slidemaster, Garry McCoy, overcame two scary off-track excursions to come within a whisker of scoring points in today’s fiercely contested German Grand Prix at Sachsenring.
Kawasaki’s trio of Ninja ZX-RR riders all finished the energy sapping race, with McCoy eventually crossing the line in 16th place, just two seconds adrift of former World Champion Kenny Roberts. Home race hero Alex Hofmann was 17th, while Andrew Pitt, who also had a high speed off-track excursion, finished in 19th place.
McCoy made a good start aboard the Ninja ZX-RR, but a scary moment while flat-out in fifth gear, as he attempted a pass on the Aprilia of Colin Edwards, and another off-track detour as he exited the final turn, cost him both time and positions. Comfortable with increased grip levels from Dunlop’s new rear slick, McCoy recovered to charge past both the factory Suzuki’s of John Hopkins and Roberts, moving into a points scoring position with six laps remaining. However, two laps later, fading grip levels meant the Australian could not respond to a late race challenge by the former World Champion
Baulked in the first corner, wild card rider Hofmann fought his way back to finish 17th in his home Grand Prix, after passing both the factory Suzuki of Hopkins and Kiyonari, team-mate of eventual race winner Sete Gibernau, in the last third of the race.
Starting from the sixth row of the grid meant Pitt faced a massive task if he was to fight his way through the field, especially on a circuit with very few overtaking places such as Sachsenring. Still suffering set-up problems after a qualifying crash robbed him of valuable testing time, Pitt’s troubles were compounded when he ran on at the first turn at mid race distance and had to traverse the gravel trap to return to the track.
Garry McCoy – 16th
“It was a bit scary early in the race; I was off the track twice in one lap! I ran onto the grass in fifth gear on the downhill back straight trying to pass Edwards, and then I was off again at the final corner. But the bike felt good and I got to 15th and really wanted to stay in the points, but when Kenny got past again his bike wasn’t sliding as much as mine and I just couldn’t go with him. Towards the end it was pretty greasy for me and I couldn’t carry enough corner speed; I had some big two wheel drifts going, even on corner entry. It was quite hairy really.”
Alex Hofmann – 17th
“The happiest I was all weekend was when I had my helmet on and the visor down. I never found a 100 per cent set-up like my earlier wild card races, mainly through losing time to problems and a crash in qualifying. So, doing more than this today was impossible.”
Andrew Pitt – 19th
“When I locked it up into turn one and ran off the track about halfway through it was just a matter of bringing it home. Since Friday I’ve had trouble pushing the front and while we improved the set-up a lot we never really dialled it out completely. I lost some side grip on the rear tyre towards the end, but overall the new Dunlops are a big step in the right direction.”
Harald Eckl – Team Manager
“Points would be nice, but I’m happy with this result because we have shown that we are still making progress with the bike, however small the steps may be. Today we were very close to our friends at Suzuki, who have a one year head start on us in MotoGP. With this in mind, we can now set some goals to motivate the team and riders for the rest of the season.”
The luckiest man at the Sachsenring was without doubt, World Superbike Champion Colin Edwards who escaped virtually unscathed from a frightening fireball in the Friday morning practice.
The Texan was braking for the left hand bend at the bottom of the hill, one of the fastest parts of the circuit, when his Aprilia exploded in a fireball. He managed to jump of the bike and was lucky to escape with a burn to the inside of his leg and wrist.
“I saw some drops on my visor and thought it must be raining or the bike in front was dropping water coolant,” recalled Edwards. “Then I felt something cold on my neck and after a few seconds big heat. That was fire and I was completely engulfed by the flames and decided to jump off quickly. I was really scared and I hope this was the only fire of my life.”
Edwards´ leathers and gloves were burnt in the incident but he was back in action in the first qualifying session during the afternoon. The cause of the fire was when fuel came out of the tank, perhaps through the fuel cap, when Edwards braked for the bend and ignited when it came in contact with the hot exhaust pipes.
In the same session World Champion Valentino Rossi suffered his first fall of the season. The Italian slid off his Honda at slow speed.
BIAGGI MOVES UP
Max Biaggi´s win at the British Grand Prix brought him his 40th Grand Prix victory and moved him into ninth place in the Grand Prix winners list. Leading the way is another Italian Giacomo Agostini who scored remarkable 122 wins on route to 15 world titles.
Biaggi´s win was the 95th time he´s stood on the podium which puts the Camel Pramac Pons star equal with five times World Champion Mick Doohan on podium finishes. They are joint sixth in the podium table with Agostini once again leading the way with 159 podium finishes.
Alex Barros missed the chance of his 158th consecutive Grand Prix race when he was brought down in the morning warm-up for the British Grand Prix at Donington. He broke a bone in his hand and also injured his shoulder.
NO REST FOR UKAWA
While many MotoGP riders made their way to the beach for a well deserved rest, others headed by Tohru Ukawa went on the plane to Japan to compete in the annual Suzuka 8 hour race next Sunday on August 3. Ukawa will partner Hitoyasu Izutsu on the SPW Honda while Nicky Hayden and Ryuichi Kiyonari will team-up on a similar machine. Former Grand Prix star Tadayuki Okada will return to the track to ride with Chozun Kameya, who is the cousin of the late Daijiro Kato. They will ride with the number 74 plate which was Kato´s number.
American Kenny Roberts returned to the scene of one of his most famous triumphs, the Sachsenring, after missing the last three races through injury. Roberts won the race in Germany in 1999, riding the two-stroke Suzuki.
The former World Champion damaged his chest and shoulder when he collided with team-mate John Hopkins during the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello.
One rider who missed the race at the Sachsenring was Chris Burns. The British rider made his MotoGP debut at the British Grand Prix on the ten years old 500cc two-stroke Yamaha for the WCM team. He crashed in the race and broke his collarbone and after one practice session at the Sachsenring decided the shoulder was not strong enough to race.
The WCM team hopes to have their new four-stroke machine ready for the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril at the beginning of September.
BIAGGI LEADS RIDERS TO VICTORY
Max Biaggi led the riders football team to victory in the annual Riders for Health football match at the Sachsenring on Thursday evening. They won 8-6 against the German celebrity X1 in front of a crowd of over 2000.
“Personally I love football so it´s always nice to forget about the pressures of the weekend with a game,” said Biaggi. “The crowd here were great and we were glad to entertain them. Thanks to everybody for coming and supporting Riders For Health.”
Alongside Biaggi in the riders team were Jeremy McWilliams, John Hopkins, Noriyuki Haga, Shinya Nakano, Nakano Tamada, Ryuichi Kiyonari, Sebastian Porto and Roberto Locatelli.
MotoGP took another step towards the space age with the introduction by Alpine Stars of the Advanced Safety Technology leathers. Suzuki rider John Hopkins used the leathers at the Sachsenring which featured impact sensors on both external and internal surfaces. A data processor in the hump of the suit can be downloaded immediately into a lap top giving information on G loads experienced, the rider´s pulse and the suit´s cooling performance.
At least computers can´t yet ride the bike – watch this space!
TWO-STROKE PROTON KR
The Proton KR team used the two-stroke 500cc machines on the Sachsenring while work continued on their new 990cc four-strokes. Both Jeremy McWilliams and Nobuatsu Aoki raced the two-strokes and McWilliams immediately was down to business, qualifying in third place in the Friday afternoon session. On Saturday it got even better and he was pipped for pole by two thousandths of a second by the Camel Pramac Pons Honda of Max Biaggi. It´s the closest ever pole position recorded in the MotoGP and 500cc class.
Final Qualifying Saturday July 26
BIAGGI GRABS SECOND CONSECUTIVE POLE POSITION
Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) snatched pole position from Jeremy McWilliams (Proton) with one of the most sensational laps ever turned at the tight 3.671km Sachsenring circuit in eastern Germany today. In bright sunshine, but with the ever-present threat of rain, the Roman powered his V5 Honda around the confines of this tortuous track with profound skill and utter commitment.
When McWilliams had already stunned the crowd with his 1m 23.736s lap, which many believed would be the fastest time of the day with eight minutes of the session remaining, few riders looked remotely capable of getting near it under the 1m 24s barrier – never mind beating it. It seemed like an inspired lap ridden on the very edge of adhesion – and it was.
But Biaggi, although he confessed to being in some doubt as to whether he could best McWilliams’ time, had the skills and the machine to beat the seemingly impossible marker by just two thousandths of a second. He did it with three minutes to go and when his time hit the screens, it almost seemed to sap the will of the rest of the field.
Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V), the only man who looked capable of getting near it, went out and did his best. But it became clear by the middle of his fastest attempt that things were not going to change and the front row reality was set to show Biaggi, McWilliams, Capirossi (Ducati) and Rossi in that order.
Capirossi had done his qualifying work early in the session and the 1m 24.058s time he set would be good enough to keep him on the front row. Only the almost miraculous efforts of the Ulsterman and the Roman would top his time. And the implication for tomorrow’s race is that if anyone can turn the screw and pull out an advantage, if and when required, it’s likely to be the demon duo at the front of the grid.
A front row start is a vital requirement here if a rider is to avoid getting stuck in heavy first turn traffic. And the riders on row two, headed by Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) in fifth, are at a disadvantage, although not quite so heavily handicapped as those on row three and beyond. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) qualified sixth and Carlos Checa (Yamaha) and Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) will form up tomorrow in seventh and eighth places respectively.
McWilliams worked his V3 two-stroke Proton to perfection at a track that favours agile, light machines. Olivier Jacque put his Yamaha V4 two-stroke on pole here last year and Biaggi’s performance on the four-stroke RC211V was one of a man who has really found a way to make it work for him in his first season aboard the V5 powerhouse.
“When I saw the lap time made by Jeremy, I didn’t think I could match it,” said Biaggi. “He was really great and I congratulate him. But my Michelin technicians brought me a fantastic tyre which allowed me to beat him. I used a soft tyre I had never used before and it worked perfectly. The race is going to be pretty close and I think it’s unlikely that somebody will get out alone in front.”
Rossi, who slid off his RC211V yesterday on a damp patch left over from a Thursday afternoon thunderstorm for the first time in more than a year was realistic about his front row start. “Not such a bad result,” he said. “We’re still not at 100% and we’ve got a few problems to fix tomorrow. We tried some soft tyres for a fast lap time at the end but we went too soft. Anyway, I’ll start from the front row and we’ll hope for a good day.”
Sete Gibernau in fifth was not too despondent. “Obviously I’d prefer row one,” he said. “But we’re doing okay here and in the warm-up tomorrow I’ll try and find a good rhythm and sort out some small details. The most important thing here is to get a good start.”
For Tohru Ukawa in eighth, things are slowly improving. “I was complaining yesterday,” he said. “And I’ve got less to complain about now. We made some changes to the rear spring and ride height and I found a lot more traction today. And I’ve got a few more things to try tomorrow too.”
Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) qualified fifteenth. “Not so happy really,” said the American rookie. “Qualifying is my weakest point right now. The last ten minutes is pretty intense and everyone really gets going fast. I have to put qualifying behind me now and look forward to the race.”
Things were not much better for Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) in 19th. “I have a confidence problem with the front end of the bike,” said the Japanese. “I don’t feel relaxed when it’s like this and can’t push the bike to its limits. I’ll be starting a long way back and I’ll have to fight my way through the ranks – but you can be sure I’ll give it all I’ve got.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) keeps plugging away in his rookie year and qualified in 23rd. “The balance of the bike is good,” he said. “But I don’t have a good feeling for the track yet. It’s really difficult to go fast and finding a good set-up is proving tough too.”
Honda riders Sebastian Porto (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) and Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) turned the tables on the Aprilia hordes here at the tight, twisty Sachsenring with a masterly display of inch-perfect riding exploiting the sweet, accurate handling of their RS250RWs.
Porto took the pole with a 1m 25.728s lap with Rolfo just 0.16 seconds shy of the Argentine’s time. The other two front row men Franco Battaini and Fonsi Nieto (both Aprilia), third and fourth respectively, were into the 1m 25s bracket with a 1m 25.944s and a 1m 25.963s lap to their credit.
“I’m happy with pole,” said Porto. “It was hard for us but now every race is a bit better. Yesterday was good, but this morning we changed the suspension and couldn’t go any faster. But this afternoon I tried really hard at the beginning of the session and got a good lap in. I really want to thank the mechanics and the team for this.”
Rolfo was equally happy with his day’s work. “I’m pleased because the Honda is working really well at this track. By the end of qualifying I had a really good feeling on the bike and the team did a great job. We should be okay for tomorrow and although it would have been good to be on pole I’m still in a position to get a good start in all the traffic.”
Stefano Perugini (Aprilia) qualified in pole position for the second consecutive time for tomorrow’s 125cc Grand Prix. He went pole with two minutes of the session to go and his 1m 27.717s time proved too quick for the rest of the field. The only man to dip in to the 1m 27s bracket was Alex de Angelis who qualified second with a 1m 27.771s time.
Hector Barbera and Lucio Cecchinello (both Aprilia) complete the front row while Casey Stoner (Aprilia) heads row two. Andrea Dovisioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) and Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS125R) qualified on row two in sixth and seventh respectively while Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) will start from tenth.
“I’m quite happy,” said Dovisioso. “Even though I don’t like this track so much. We made a big step forward today but there are still parts of the track where I’m getting into slides. Tight corners follow fast corners here and hard to find a workable set-up compromise.”
Danny was less enthusiastic about his position. “That wasn’t so easy out there today,” he said. “It’s very tight but my lap times came down each time I went out and so I’ve got to be happy with that. It will be a tight race again tomorrow with so many of us so close, but after Donington I have to take points from this race.”
Honda rider quotes – Sachsenring, Saturday July 25:
Max Biaggi, Camel Pramac Pons, 1st : “With five or six minutes to go I saw McWilliams’ time and I could hardly believe it. He must have been trying so hard on that bike. I thought I could get close but I wasn’t sure I could beat his time. But my special tyres worked really well and I was working the bike really hard too. I saw my way to a clear lap and the lap time just happened. The race will be run at a good pace and I just hope I have a good race. I’d like to thank the team for all their work and also to wish Antonio Cobas a speedy recovery. And a big thank you to all my fans here too.”
Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda, 4th: “For the practice we make a not so bad result. We worked very much on the bike – we are still not at 100% and we have a few problems so tomorrow we hope to fix. We hope for a dry race and will work hard to understand about the rear tyre in the warm up to make the best choice. We tried some soft tyres for the fast lap time at the end but we went too soft. The bike lost stability so we could not improve. Anyway – we start tomorrow from the first lane and my physical condition is getting better so we hope for a good day.”
Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 5th: “Obviously I would have preferred t be on the front row but we have worked very well here and in the warm up tomorrow I hope to find a good rhythm and work on some small details on the set up. The most important thing will be to make a great start. That is vital here, because it’s so difficult to pass on this track.”
Tohru Ukawa, Camel Pramac Pons, 8th: “Yesterday I had a bit to complain about – but things are much better now. We changed the rear ride height and spring and I got much more traction. There was more grip out there on track too, but the lap times are almost unbelievable. I think if the weather holds the race pace will be around 1m 24s or maybe 25. I still need to be a bit faster in the first section of the track and I’ll be looking to make improvements there tomorrow with a few more suspension changes.”
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 15th: “Not so happy really. Kinda’ didn’t play the session as smart as I probably should have. I should have come in earlier and maybe got a softer tyre. I stayed out there and gotta’ lot of laps in. I’ve definitely gotta’ work on my qualifying – it’s my weakest point right now. The last 10 minutes is pretty intense and everyone really gets going fast. Anyway, I’ve got to put qualifying behind me now and look forward to the race. I’ve been going well here but it’ll be tough tomorrow. It’s real difficult to overtake. I’ve gotta’ get a good start and go from there.”
Makoto Tamada, Pramac Honda Team: 19th: “I have a problem of confidence with the front of the bike – yesterday mainly in the fast section of the circuit where you need to keep the bike
leaning down, but today in other parts as well. I don’t feel relaxed when it ‘s like this so I can’t push the bike to its limits. I’ll be starting rather a long way back, so I’m going to have to try to fight my way up through the ranks and get a better position than I’m starting from. It won’t be easy, but you can be sure I’ll give it all I’ve got.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 23rd: “The balance of the bike is really good but I don’t have a good feeling with the track yet. It’s very difficult to learn quickly enough to go fast. We have some work to do tonight to get me more comfortable. To find a really good set up for this track is hard work.”
Sebastian Porto, MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 1st: “I’m very happy with qualifying, and the pole. This season has been tough for us but the bike gets better and better with every race. From the start of practice we were very lose on set up. We changed many small details on the bike for the final qualifying session, mainly on the suspension, but also fine tuning the engine performance, and this afternoon I tried hard from the start. I have to thank the team for all their work these last few weeks, this pole position is for them.”
Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda, 2nd: “I can be very satisfied with the way things have gone during practice here in Germany because all the modifications we have made have been adequate, and has made me ride with more confidence. I needed a little more confidence with the front end and I got it, it’s working perfectly now. That’s why all the work we did on the chassis has been done in an evolutionary way. Same with the engine, we have found the acceleration we need, and that has helped me a lot. I have a better feeling with the bike, and have squeezed all the potential from the bike. It’s a pity I could not cut a few tenths of a second from my best lap time with so much traffic, because I think I could have turned a 1m 25.5s lap. But anyway, I’m very satisfied and I think that tomorrow we can aspire to almost anything here at the German GP.
Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Racing Honda, 6th: “I’m quite happy, even if I don’t like this track so much. We made a big step forward today but there are still parts off the track where I’m getting into slides. Tight corners follow fast corners and it’s difficult to find a compromise set up.”
Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 7th: “”Not so easy out there today, its very, very tight. My lap times came down each time I went out so I’m happy with that. It will be a difficult race with so many of us so close but after what happened at Donington Park I have to take a lot of points out of this race. The engine is good and I will run a medium compound tyre tomorrow, if the conditions are the same as today.”
Simone Corsi, Scot Racing Honda, 10th: “Now I feel very good about the race tomorrow. I had many problems with grip yesterday but we changed the suspension settings, and used a harder tyre today, that’s why I got 10th.”
Mike Kallio, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 12th: “My time today is about half a second faster than first qualifying, so there was some improvement. I chose too soft a rear tyre and I was sliding everywhere. My fastest lap was set with a worn tyre so I can be optimistic. I just got on the third row so I will need a fast start tomorrow.”
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda, 15th: “It’s OK now, I had some bad slides early in the practice but I came into the pit to change the suspension settings and fit a different compound tyre. When I went out again I was always in the wrong place to get a slipstream. I set my time alone. It could have been faster but on the last corner I had to dive underneath Alzamora and I was slow off the corner. But the big problem for me was no grip. I hope we can find a little more overnight.”
Masao Azuma, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 33rd: “Now I have a real problem, I just didn’t have any feel from the bike out there today. I felt I was on the limit and didn’t want to crash like yesterday. We have to have a big rethink tonight and see what we can do.”
BIAGGI SNATCHES SECOND CONSECUTIVE POLE POSITION
Camel Pramac Pons rider Max Biaggi continued his searing run of form with a second consecutive pole position of the season, knocking Jeremy McWilliams (Proton) into the second
grid slot with Loris Capirossi (Ducati) third and title rival Valentino Rossi (Honda) in fourth. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) improved to eighth and will start tomorrow’s race from the second row.
The hour-long session began in bright sunshine with the track temperature at 27 degrees. Loris Capirossi quickly hoisted himself to fourth and while the field experimented with race set-up and testing potential race tyres for endurance Max improved to a 1m 24.359s time. But as is the usual pattern in final qualifying, the last ten minutes were saved for the flying laps.
Ulsterman Jeremy McWilliams stunned the crowd with a 1m 23.736s time on his two-stroke Proton machine and it looked as if it might be enough for his second career pole. No one
looked as if they could get close to it and even Max wasn’t sure he could beat it as he fired his RC211V down the start/finish straight in his bid for pole.
But the Roman put everything he had into the fastest ever lap of this rollercoaster of a circuit. His fluid style gave little indication of the strenuous efforts he was making, but his lines devoured every centimetre of tarmac and his yellow Camel Pramac Pons machine flashed across the line just two thousandths of a second faster than McWilliams managed.
Tohru worked steadily at shaving valuable tenths of a second off his times and the diligent Japanese soon had something to show for his work, dipping into the 1m 24s bracket and then working his time down to 1m 24.492s from there. He’s also sure he can work his time down even further in tomorrow morning’s warm-up session.
Sete Gibernau (Honda) heads the second row of the grid in fifth spot with Troy Bayliss (Ducati) alongside him in sixth place. Carlos Checa again qualified as first Yamaha in seventh, while Proton pilot Nobuatsu Aoki qualified ninth with Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) in tenth.
A good grid position is vital here as the pack pours into a tight turn one form the start – and Max is looking good in extremely good shape for a race at a track where he has tasted success before. In 2001 Max got pole here and won the race.
BIAGGI GOES SECOND WHILE UKAWA SITS JUST OUTSIDE TOP TEN
Camel Pramac Pons rider Max Biaggi got straight down to business here at a sunny Sachsenring with a strong first qualifying performance for provisional second place. The Roman snatched pole with five minutes of the hour-long session to go with a blistering 1m 24.370s lap. But Valentino Rossi (Honda) squeezed in a 1m 24.335s lap in the dying seconds to reclaim provisional pole from his great rival.
Max took the fight to the title contenders right from the start of the session and looked comfortable slinging his Honda RC211V around the tight twists of the shortest track in the MotoGP calendar. And the track is now 33m shorter than last year at 3.671km after work on the Omega horseshoe.
Max had already turned a 1m 25.219s lap in the morning free training session and he took up where he left off circulating in the 1m 25s bracket while finding a preliminary set-up for the circuit. After methodically working up to 1m 24s times just after the halfway point, Max turned it on in the final stages to show what a force he will be as the weekend progresses.
Tohru took things steady as he adjusted to a track that is not among his favourites and the gritty Japanese showed little effect of the injuries he sustained when he was taken out of the British Grand Prix two weeks ago on the first corner of the first lap.
The Japanese star is happy enough with the first day’s work and there is undoubtedly more to come as he settles into more of a rhythm tomorrow. One of the surprises of the day was Proton rider Jeremy McWilliams who took his three-cylinder two-stroke machine to provisional third. The agile machine is well-suited to this tight track, but it was still a towering effort from the Ulsterman.
Carlos Checa continues to put in strong performances for Yamaha and he ended the day fourth on the provisional front row. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) out-qualified his team-mate Loris Capirossi with a fifth place despite running off track early in the session. Capirossi ended the day ninth.
Sete Gibernau (Honda) lies sixth provisionally with Marco Melandri putting in a solid first day’s qualifying on his Yamaha. Wild card entry Norick Abe sits eighth with Shinya Nakano completing the top ten (both Yamaha).
1. Valentino Rossi (Honda) 1m 24.335s
2. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 24.370s
3. Jeremy McWilliams (Proton) 1m 24.412s
4. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 1m 24.735s
5. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 1m 24.742s
6. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 1m 24.864s
7. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) 1m 24.876s
8. Norick Abe (Yamaha) 1m 24.981s
9. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1m 25.019s
10. Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) 1m 25.122s
12. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 25.234s
Max Biaggi (second): “That was okay for now. I’m really close to the pole time and so tomorrow we can have the real battle for the pole. Today I was working mainly on race set-up which is the most important thing, then I tried to go for a good time and that went pretty well because the
settings proved good enough. I like this track, things feel good here and if we can keep this up, then I’m optimistic about race day.”
Tohru Ukawa (12th): “My current position isn’t that good, but the main thing is I’ve got very little pain from my elbow and back. The bike is gradually getting better too. We made some suspension changes and we’ve got some more work to do there and also with the gearbox ratios. Grip was better on track this afternoon and if the weather stays like this then I should be able to make a big improvement tomorrow.”
YELLOW DÉJÀ VU
Sympathy is certainly not a word used frequently when Max Biaggi ever discusses the fortunes of his bitter rival Valentino Rossi. However, sympathy was on Max´s agenda after the events at Donington last weekend. For the Camel Pramac Pons star is was a case of yellow déjà vu when Rossi was relegated from first place to third by the Race Direction, after passing Loris Capirossi under waved yellow flags on the second lap. The ruling which came two hours after the race, handed Biaggi his first victory of the season. Instead of rubbing salt into Rossi´s already painful wound, Biaggi´s memory was jolted back five years when a similar ruling not only cost the Italian a Grand Prix victory but also a real chance of a World Championship victory against the best rider in the World.
“I can feel what Rossi is probably feeling at the moment because it happened to me in 1998 at Catalunya,” said Biaggi, after learning of his unexpected victory at Donington. “For me it was worse because the decision meant I lost the chance to fight for the World Championship.”
Five years ago on a scorching hot Sunday afternoon in Barcelona the stage was set for a World Championship showdown. There were just three rounds of the Championship remaining and it could not have been closer at the top. Four times World 250cc Champion Biaggi had made a massive impact in his first year in the 500cc class. After winning his very first 500cc Grand Prix in Japan, he arrived for the Catalunya Grand Prix with a slender five point lead over the legendary Mick Doohan, who was chasing his fifth consecutive World 500cc title. Local hero Alex Criville was also lurking just three points behind his Honda team-mate Doohan. It was a pivotal race in the Championship battle. Nobody could have guessed just what a bearing it would have on the outcome when the lights started the 25 lap battle round on the 4.727 kms Circuit De Catalunya.
As they raced down the long straight to the first corner, Suzuki rookie Katsuaki Fujiwara got into the first corner too fast and took down Frenchman Jean-Michel Bayle who crashed into pole setter Criville. All three ended up in the gravel trap on the first bend of the first lap. Sounds familiar – Biaggi´s team-mate Tohru Ukawa did exactly the same at Donington and the sequence of events that followed had more than a hint of déjà vu.
Biaggi arrived at the scene a lap later when the yellow flags were still being waved as the debris was still being cleared away. At over 300 kph and in the slipstream of Alex Barros he out braked the Brazilian, both unaware and unsighted of the waved yellow flags. Just like Rossi out braking Capirossi at Donington five years later.
For 15 laps the race continued with the riders unaware that anything was amiss. Suddenly out of the blue, both Biaggi and Barros were ordered back to the pits for a ten second stop go penalty. It was the first time the penalty had been given for the offence. By this time Max was furious and did not return to the pits, ignored the black flag and crossed the line first, only to be disqualified and fined 5000 Swiss Francs. Both Max´s and Barros´s teams protested to no avail and the rest in history.
Doohan took over the lead in the Championship. The Brazilian Grand Prix was cancelled leaving just the Australian and Argentine Grands Prix for Max to close the points gap. He failed by 52 points and Doohan went on to win his fifth consecutive World title.
Max Biaggi has never forgotten that day and the events at Donington certainly brought back painful memories although this time round it was to his advantage. The decision of the Race Direction at Donington may not change the outcome of the 2003 MotoGP World Championship but it has certainly made the title chase a lot more interesting.
Biaggi actually clawed back 14 precious points from Rossi and now trails him by 37 at the half way stage of the season. Sete Gibernau is still second but only three points in front of Biaggi.
Perhaps even more important the outcome has given Biaggi his first Grand Prix victory with the Camel Pramac Pons team. The confidence those 25 points spread around the rider and the team was never more evident this week when they tested for two days at Brno in the Czech Republic. Biaggi was in brilliant form both days and decimated his own pole setting lap from last year by almost one second.
There are still eight Grands Prix left this season with a maximum of 150 points up for grabs. By the time we reach Valencia in November, Biaggi´s memories of waved yellow flags will be a lot happier than they were five years ago.
25/26/27 July 2003
Champion Rossi Leads MotoGP Series at Halfway Mark
The second half of the 2003 MotoGP season gets underway at the Sachsenring in eastern Germany with the ninth of 16 races this year. At the British Grand Prix at Donington Park two weeks ago Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) looked to have wrapped up his fourth win of the season. But that was before he had a ten second penalty slapped on him for overtaking under a yellow flag. That bounced the reigning Champion down to third place while his great rival Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) inherited the win having finished second on the track.
Tensions are therefore running higher than usual as the MotoGP circus pitches up in the rolling heartlands of German motorcycle sport in tiny Hohenstein-Ernstthal (the famous old MZ factory is five miles south at Zschopau) and The Sachsenring has regularly hosted crowds of more than 250,000 in its heyday.
The title protagonists will care little for history or venue as they take to the 3.429km track for Friday free practice, and the tight, twisting nature of the circuit will favour agility and acceleration over outright speed. Rossi still leads the overall points standings with 167, with Sete Gibernau (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) second on 133 points.
Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) is third with 130. Biaggi is now 46 points ahead of Loris Capirossi (Ducati) who looks slightly out of title contention at the moment. Capirossi has already won a Grand Prix for the Italian factory in its debut season and the former 125 and 250 World Champion is more than likely to figure strongly in races – and thus perhaps have an indirect bearing on the course of the World Championship.
Rossi’s consistency has put him at the top of the table and of the three main title contenders only Rossi and Biaggi have scored points at each of the eight rounds so far. Gibernau fell at his home Grand Prix at Jerez and none of the three main contenders can afford any slip-ups now that the title race is intensifying.
Gibernau has won three races, so has Rossi. Biaggi has a Donington race win to his credit, but the Roman has yet to beat Rossi ‘on track’ this year. And this weekend would be perfect chance for the Camel Pramac Pons rider to hammer home his title challenge.
Rossi is under no illusions about the difficulties facing him in retaining his MotoGP title for the second year and holding it for a third successive year. “I said all along that this season would be a battle,” he said. “We arrive at the beginning of the year in good shape and now the competition is harder and the battle is even better. We have a great team working very hard so we can stay ahead in the Championship. The Sachsenring has never been my favourite track but it’s important to do well here and go into the season break in a good position.”
Biaggi accepted his lucky break at Donington, having experienced the same thing going against him when he was penalised at Barcelona in 1998. “It’s a verdict and it has to be accepted by everyone. Now I’m thinking of the Sachsenring and how to strengthen my title challenge as the season goes on. We are making progress and we have to keep the pressure on.”
Sete Gibernau is confident after testing in the Czech Republic. “The Brno test was good for us,” he said. “It gave us time to try many things on the general set up of the machine in dry conditions. We are getting closer to the optimum baseline settings we need to work from. At Brno I felt really comfortable on the bike, and got good feedback for the mechanics, that shows in the lap times. Sachsenring is a difficult track, hard work on a four-stroke, and it’s hard to make a pass there.”
Rookie Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) is ready to ride at another unknown track but his confidence is growing. “I’m really enjoying things right now,” said the American. “I’d like to be a bit higher in the Championship but I’m confident on the bike and know I have the potential of finishing with the top guys. We tested at Brno, which was good, and now things are going in the right direction. I’ve still got the Suzuka 8-hour race to come and then I’ll be riding at some of the tracks I’ve been to before for the last few races of the season which will be good.”
Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) is looking to have a better second half of the season and will be using this weekend as a springboard for better things. “It’s a bit of a Mickey Mouse track, but none of that matters,” said the Japanese. “I was a bit broken up for the race last year after my big Donington crash and I only got third place because Jacque and Barros crashed. But I’m ready for this and want to change the shape of my season.”
Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) is looking forward to racing. “After Donington we spent two days testing at Brno,” he said. “I had help with the Bridgestone tyre testing from Shinichi Itoh and between us we sorted out some good combinations. A coupe of front tyres were particularly impressive and we will run these at Sachsenring in first practice. The team tell me the track is tight, a bit like Sugo. I hope so, I really like Sugo. I will play for the MotoGP football team at Sachsenring, against the German All Stars. Now that will be interesting!”
Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) said, “We tested at Brno for two days and I did a lot of laps learning the track, testing tyres but most of all the test gave us a chance to try out things we don’t have time or at a Grand Prix. In general I now have a better understanding, and good feeling with the RCV now. I had a crash at Brno but I’m OK – no problem to race.”
The 250-title challenge is tighter than it should be despite the form of the Aprilias at the faster tracks so far. The relatively tight and tricky Sachsenring levels the playing field. Manuel Poggiali heads the points standings with 121, while Fonsi Nieto lies on 106 with Toni Elias (all Aprilia) on 97. Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) is tied in third with Nieto on 97.
Super-consistent Rolfo is the only rider to have scored points at every round so far and it is this remarkable consistency and the precise handling of his Honda that has kept him in the title hunt. “We just keep working hard and riding hard,” said Rolfo. “I finished second here last year, so maybe this is the year I can win here and close the gap on the title leader.”
The tight, twisty track should reduce the speed advantage of the Aprilias and another rider hoping for better things is Sebastian Porto (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS250RW). “I really like the Sachsenring,” said the Argentine. “The track is short and tight and I think we’ll measure up well with the Aprilias there. Or bike is good and our handling will be an advantage here. We’ll still need a little more acceleration although our engine is lot better.” Porto lies eighth in the Championship on 74 points.
The 125cc World Championship is just as tight as the 250cc category with one rider holding a small advantage over a ravenous chasing pack. Pack leader Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS125R) has 124 points while second-placed Steve Jenkner (Aprilia) has 98 as the German arrives at his home race (Jenkner was born in earshot of the track).
Pedrosa will have to make he keeps well clear of trouble at Sachsenring if he is to regain the momentum that carried him to the series lead. Brought down in a last lap clash with Stefano Perugini in the last round, in England, Pedrosa is determined to emerge from Sunday’s race with his series lead intact.
“The Sachsenring race will be hard work and several riders can run in the lead group.” Said the young Spaniard. “I just have to make sure I’m in a good position in the closing laps, keep maximum concentration. I cannot afford another incident like the Donington disaster.”
Finn Mika Kallio (Ajo Motorsports Honda RS125R) will be looking for another strong finish here. “Sachsenring is a difficult track, not so fast but with all kinds of corners, uphills and downhills. We’ve sorted out our Donington handling problems and I’m confident. I really like it and I want to do better than the ninth place of last year.”
The 16-year-old Swiss Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) is another rider going all-out for a result here. “I like the track and my bike is very good now. With one year’s experience I’m now looking forward to a really good race.”
FACT FILE – GERMAN GRAND PRIX – 27/07/03 SACHSENRING
The very mention of the Sachsenring conjures up memories of vast crowds cramming every vantage point around the eight kilometres road circuit watching the East German Grand Prix at the track which was situated between the famous towns of Leipzig and Dresden. The last grand prix staged on the old circuit was won by Giacomo Agostini riding the MV Agusta in 1971.
Many thought that was the end of Grand Prix motorcycle racing at the old venue but with the demise of communism plus an undaunted enthusiasm by the local people for the sport, a very different Sachsenring returned to the Grand Prix calendar in 1998.
Incorporating parts of the old road circuit the new 3.508 kms road circuit was built and World Champion Mick Doohan won the first race on the tight twisty track in 1998. The German Grand Prix has been held there ever since with the track being gradually extended and a new pit complex constructed. This year the track has been slightly shortened to 3.671 kms.
The track is the third slowest on the MotoGP calendar behind Estoril in Portugal and Valencia in Spain. Last year Frenchman Olivier Jacque put the two-stroke 500cc Yamaha on pole. There was a tremendous battle for the lead between Jacques and the Honda Pons two-stroke of Alex Barros. The chances of the only two-stroke win of the season ended when the pair collided at the first bend.
The Camel Pramac Pons team and both their riders Max Biaggi and Tohru Ukawa have good records at the famous venue. The team provided Brazilian Alex Barros the winning machine
three years ago while Biaggi won the race in 2001 and finished second last year. Ukawa was second in the 250cc race three years and last year was third in the MotoGP race.
Around 100,000 tickets have already been sold and there promises to be a massive crowd to continue the motorsport tradition in this part of the world that staged it’s first Grand Prix in 1961.
TRACK FACTS – GERMAN GRAND PRIX – 27/07/03 SACHSENRING
Pole Position: Left
Right corners: Four
Left corners: 10
Longest Straight: 780m
Circuit shortened this year by 33 metres
Pole setting time:
Circuit shortened this year by 33 metres
2002 MotoGP race winner:
Valentino Rossi (Honda) 43m32.783s – 153.106 km/h
Max Biaggi 2002: second
Tohru Ukawa 2002: third
COBAS INSIGHT – Antonio Cobas, the Technical Director of Camel Pramac Pons
Another difficult track because of its length and because of the number of tight corners. It will again be a new circuit for us with the four-strokes but we are confident because we have a good record at the track. It´s not an ideal circuit for the big four-strokes and last year a two-stroke was on pole and could have easily won the race until the collision between Alex Barros and Olivier Jacque at the first corner while leading.
Together with Estoril and Valencia, the average speed for the race is one of the slowest in the Championship with so many tight corners and so little straights. Also because the track is so short the races are also shorter than normal.
Finding the ideal bike set-up is difficult because of the combination of those slow bends with the faster sections that were introduced last year. You have to find a compromise set-up that makes the bike agile though those early slow twisty bends but also stable through the faster corners that come later in the lap.
The correct tyre combination is also vital. They must be specially prepared on the right side for the fast right-hand corner which comes just before the new steep downhill section. It comes after seven consecutive left-hand corners which means the right side is often cold and can, as we saw last year in the final qualifying session, lead to plenty of crashes.
Although it’s the first at the Sachsenring with the four-strokes, we know what we have to do. Both Max and Tohru have good record at the track with Max winning a couple of years ago and finishing second last year. We arrive full of confidence after his victory at Donington and the test at Brno. As Max showed two years ago there is no better way to go into that short summer break than with a victory and that’s what we will all be working to achieve although it
will not be easy.
MOTOGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2003
ROUND 9 – CINZANO MOTORRAD GRAND PRIX DEUTSCHLAND
21ST JULY 2003 – EVENT PREVIEW
Hofmann returns for Home Grand Prix
The Fuchs Kawasaki Team will field a full strength, three-rider squad for the German Grand Prix, with home hero Alex Hofmann once again joining regular MotoGP racers Garry McCoy and Andrew Pitt.
This will be Hofmann’s fourth wild card appearance of the season and one that he is hoping to convert into another strong race result following his recent tenth place finish in a rain-drenched Dutch TT at Assen. The 23-year-old German certainly has the form at Sachsenring, having finished tenth in last year’s race aboard a 500cc two-stroke, against a host of new generation 990cc, four-stroke MotoGP prototypes.
The ninth round of the MotoGP championship takes on added significance for the factory Kawasaki squad, whose European technical base is in Germany and managed by former GP rider former and now team boss, Harald Eckl. The team are hoping to capitalise on the lessons learned from last week’s two-day Brno test, which evaluated chassis modifications, a revised crankshaft and further tyre developments. A new profile rear Dunlop tyre was positively received, especially by Australian ace McCoy who ran consistent laps at Brno.
Pitt is positive that the revised crankshaft and confidence-inspiring front-end tyre and chassis settings from the Brno test will assist him to be competitive in his first race appearance at the Sachsenring; his only experience of the track to date has been a brief familiarisation visit on a Kawasaki 600 road bike.
The 3.6km Sachsenring is the shortest on the GP calendar and noted for its dramatic elevation changes and convoluted layout, which makes overtaking difficult and places a premium on acceleration and traction out of a series of tight chicanes. Located in what was once East Germany, the Sachsenring event has grown to be one of the most popular in the World Championship and another sell-out crowd is predicted for the German Grand Prix.
“Racing at home is always special and I will have a lot of friends and fans cheering me on this weekend. My main focus will be on achieving a good result, but I’ll also be working with the team to continue the progress we’ve made recently with the test programme, especially with the new Dunlop tyres. It was good to get back on the bike at Brno last week and it’s definitely put me in the right frame of mind to build on the results I had at Mugello and Assen this weekend. Finishing in the top ten again at my home GP would be perfect, but I know it’s not going to be easy.”
“The new profile rear Dunlops we tested at Brno definitely gave me more rear grip and consistency, which is exactly what I’ve been looking for from the tyres and chassis. Hopefully I’ll get the same feeling from the bike at Sachsenring, where you’re on the side of the tyre for a long time through some of the uphill turns; although the circuit also has some tight corners where you need to change direction quickly and this hasn’t been our strong point recently. I didn’t do that many laps on the revised chassis at Brno, so I expect we’ll be running a very similar chassis set-up to that we ran at Donington Park this weekend.”
“So far I’ve only managed a handful of laps around Sachsenring, and they were on in the pouring rain, on a Kawasaki road bike fitted with dry tyres! But at least I know which way the track goes now, although I’ll still have some learning to do this weekend, as I’m sure the circuit will look completely different from the seat of the Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP bike. The revised crankshaft we tested allowed me to stop and turn the bike better at Brno and I’m hoping the same will be true at Sachsenring. The new Dunlop front and rear tyres we tested last week should also come into their own this weekend as well.”
ROBERTS RETURNS TO SACHSENRING
Team Suzuki Press Office Monday July 21st 2003.
Team Suzuki rider Kenny Roberts Junior will make his racing return at next weekend’s German GP, at the short, slow and exciting Sachsenring – a track where the 2000 World Champion has twice qualified on pole position, as well as taken one of his most impressive race wins. Kenny has missed the last three races due to a troublesome chest and shoulder injury sustained at the Italian GP, but has now been passed fit to race by his Californian medical team. He will rejoin team-mate John Hopkins, making his four-stroke debut at the Sachsenring.
Both riders are going to the circuit with open minds. The small and highly concentrated German circuit has a challenge all of its own, and offers opportunities in the same way. A step in machine responses taken at the last race might help the Suzuki riders make the most of them.
The year so far has been a mixture of promise and frustration. Suzuki’s radical prototype racer, the 990cc V4 GSV-R, is an awe-inspiring specialist tool. So far, however, niggling problems with the machine’s highly advanced integrated systems have kept the full potential tantalisingly out of reach.
However the team recorded a clear step in the right direction at the last round at Donington Park in England, where engine and chassis revisions improved the crucial “feel” of the machine’s throttle and handling responses, and 20-year-old fast rookie Hopkins achieved his second-best result of the year.
The Sachsenring has one thing in common with Donington Park: the riders spend almost all the time on only part throttle. The short and hectic 2.218-mile lap is crammed with corners, and makes a highly technical challenge. Machine handling and responses count for more than sheer horsepower, as was shown last year when the obsolescent but lighter 500cc two-strokes qualified on pole position and came within a few laps of claiming their sole win of the year. (Only a collision between the two leading contenders prevented it.)
The German race is the last round of the first part of the season, followed by two weekends off for the short summer break. The gap is a chance for the hard-working Suzuki factory racing department to consolidate the data acquired in the first part of the year, and to refocus the continuing programme of developmental changes to Suzuki’s fastest ever racing motorcycle. The clear aim is to make the GSV-R as successful as the GSX-R1000 production machine, which is dominant in almost every racing series in which it takes part.
“It will be good to have Kenny back, fit and ready to rejoin the team,” said Garry Taylor. “And it will be interesting to see what he makes of the changes to the machine since he rode it last in Italy. They’re not big, but they do seem to have made a difference in the right direction.” Taylor spoke of the important contribution by John Hopkins, who shouldered the burden of Suzuki’s GP racing alone in Catalunya, and with factory tester and full-time Suzuki GSX-R1000 racer Yukio Kagayama at the next two rounds. “John continues to impress the team with his dedication and commitment, as well as his thoughtful approach to racing. It’s amazing that this is only his first year on the four-stroke,” said Taylor. “Every time he goes out, he works on making the most of the machine and his chances. I hope that in Germany his talent and positive approach will be rewarded with another top ten finish, as further proof of the team’s progress,” said Taylor.
KEVIN SCHWANTZ MAKES ANOTHER GP RETURN
American racing hero Kevin Schwantz, who capped a distinguished racing career with the Suzuki team when he won the 500cc World Championship in 1993, will be making a second GP visit of the year to the Sachsenring, adding his unique brand of know-how and authority to the drive to get the Suzuki riders back to a winning position.
Schwantz, who retired in 1995 as one of racing’s all-time greats, has already visited the Catalunyan GP, where his trackside observations were an important contribution to the technical assessment of the machine – and also in helping to reinforce the morale and determination of the team.
Schwantz observed in Catalunya his confidence that GSV-R already has the ingredients to make it competitive, but that another step forward, particularly in the chassis, was required before they all work together to best effect. “Obviously my old team is having some problems at the moment, and if there’s anything I can do to help, I will,” said Schwantz, who fills a similar role as on-track consultant, adviser and patron to the successful AMA championship Suzuki team at home in the USA.
Schwantz, who won 25 GPs in a glittering career on the two-stroke 500cc Suzuki RGV Gamma, is in Germany to run one of his popular Suzuki racing schools, already well established in the USA.
JOHN HOPKINS – “A FUNNY OLD TRACK”
This is a funny old track, and it’s hard to know what to expect. We found some improvement at Donington Park that makes the bike somewhat easier to ride, so hopefully that will carry over to the Sachsenring. There are so many slow corners there that you need all the help you can get to push a big MotoGP bike round them. I had bad luck there last year, falling in practice and injuring my wrist. I hope my second race at the track will go better, and we’ll do the best we can, as always.
KENNY ROBERTS – BACK IN THE SADDLE
After four weeks of not being able to do anything very much while I’ve been rebuilding my strength, I’m looking forward to getting going again. It was good that Suzuki gave me the opportunity to take recovery at the right speed, to build up my strength and work through the pain at a reasonable level, without having to go at a pace that might aggravate the injuries. The GSV-R is very physical at the moment, because of how hard we have to ride it, and physically the Sachsenring is one of the harder tracks. I’ve been back in the gym since the week before the British GP, and for the most part I’m back to 100 percent.
ABOUT THIS TRACK
The modern Sachsenring circuit came into being by stealth – local enthusiasts pressing ahead in spite of being denied official backing. The makeshift circuit centred on a driving training centre and an industrial estate. Temporary tents and marquees served as pits and other paddock facilities for the first round in 1998. Huge crowds and successful GPs has changed its status, and last year’s third circuit revision finally abandons the last stretch of the old public-roads circuit, adding a spectacular downhill swoop in its place. At the same time, a new pit lane and permanent circuit buildings were installed. This year, another small change has lopped a few metres off what was already the shortest track on the calendar, although no longer the slowest. Each hectic lap begins with a difficult bottleneck downhill right, leading via a hairpin to a section with seven successive left-hand corners, posing technical problems as one side of the tyre overheats and the other cools down. With almost the whole lap taken at part throttle and at high lean angles on low overall gearing, good engine response and delicate throttle control are paramount; and overtaking is particularly difficult.
ABOUT THIS RACE
The East German GP ran from 1961 until 1972, attracting vast crowds to the long public-roads Sachsenring track, while the West German GP had an even longer history. After unification, however, the older race ran into difficulties, with spectators deserting the event at the Hockenheim, and failing to return when it was moved to the Nurburgring. In 1998, enthusiastic new promoters took over the event at the purpose-built new circuit, on the site of the old East German race. The crowds responded in vast numbers, with tickets sold out months in advance.