Rossi Fourth And Checa Sixth At A Soaking Jerez - May 2nd 2004
Persistently wet conditions at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez upset the pre-race qualifying predictions and delivered a fourth and sixth place finish respectively for the Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha pairing of Valentino Rossi and Carlos Checa.
The 27-lap race was held in fully wet conditions throughout making most riders opt for medium compound wet tyres front and rear. The race was something of a battle against the elements for all riders, with only 15 of the 23 classified as finishers. Up until the closing stages Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 rider Marco Melandri showed some of his former brilliance by featuring in the top three before being claimed as one of the eight no finishers.
Rossi and Checa, both starting from the front row, filed into the first turn behind early leader and eventual race winner Sete Gibernau (Honda).Coming under pressure from the riders behind, Rossi chose discretion at the start, as first Checa and then second place finisher Max Biaggi (Honda) passed him. A fight for second place saw the position swapped between Checa and Biaggi twice, but ultimately Biaggi made a small break, finding himself behind leader Gibernau, whilst Melandri powered through to take third place on lap four. Checa and Rossi held fourth and fifth positions respectively until Rossi mounted a successful attack on lap nine and Alex Barros (Honda) passed Checa soon after.
Rossi survived a huge near-high-side at the exit of the first hairpin on lap 12 and Barros took the opportunity to glide past on the sodden track surface. With Melandri out on lap 19, after falling on the slippy track, Barros was promoted to third, Rossi fourth. After experiencing traction and vision concerns, Checa made a late attack on Colin Edwards (Honda) and duly passed him to finish in sixth place.
Meanwhile Melandri's Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 team-mate Norick Abe endured the tricky conditions to come home 11th. Although disappointed by immediate events, the Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 Team takes great encouragement from Melandri's showing - and with their 'home' race at Le Mans in France in two weeks time; the team will be looking to demonstrate its competitiveness again.
Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha), 4th "Finally I am happy and relieved because it was a miracle not to fall off. It's a great shame because I couldn't go so fast at the end. I didn't have much grip, mostly from the rear and we'll have to work on set-up to improve this. It's strange not be on the podium because the last time was in Brno in 2002, when I had a tyre problem. Each lap I was trying to be more aggressive and the front of the bike felt okay. I think we have quite a gap to make with Honda in wet weather, but in general we have had a good weekend, with another pole position. One thing is for sure, this is going to be a great championship! Like I have always said, Sete and Max are going to be my main competitors."
Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha), 6th "From the beginning I had some slides from the back. I also had a problem with some water getting into my visor but basically I lost some traction from the rear and that was all. Then I got some confidence again in the rear tyre and was able to fight with Edwards. Some areas held more water than others but it is always a delicate job in these conditions. The set-up was not so bad overall, just not enough side grip to go any faster."
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