- Round: 3 - Le Mans Grand Prix
- Circuit: LeMans
- Circuit Length: 4180
- Lap Record: 1' 34.088 (Max Biaggi, 2004)
- Fastest Lap Ever: 1' 34.088 (Max Biaggi, 2004)
- Date: 16 May 2004
- Crowd: 75560
- Temp: 24°C
- Last Year Winner: Sete Gibernau
Another precious podium for Max Biaggi, who took third place at the French Grand Prix this afternoon after a stunning race which saw the four-time World Champion set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap.
After losing a couple of positions in the opening exchanges of the race, Max set a strong rhythm and recovered to challenge for victory. A tough battle with Rossi, spectacular as always, made him lose ground on the front two. A last attempt from Max to wrest second from Checa, on the last lap, was prevented however by lapped riders getting in his way.
However, three podiums in three races and second in the overall standings are the signs of a superb start to the season for Max and his yellow RC211V. Makoto Tamada finished ninth which he is certain to build on in Mugello, a race he is bound to go particularly well in.
Sito Pons - Camel Honda (Team Principal):
"In the first few laps of the race Max took a bit of time to get into the perfect race rhythm, and then in the middle part he had to work hard to make up the gap. Max made an exciting burst up the field, and has shown strength, talent and determination. The great battle with Rossi meant he lost time on the two front riders, so he helped them a bit. Max kept trying to the end, making some exceptional times in the process, but this is good, an important podium. Our best races are still to come, and itīs only the start of the championship."
Max Biaggi - Camel Honda (Michelin Tyres) - 3rd - 44ī24.658: "It was a good race, hard fought and difficult. In the first few laps I lost a few seconds on my rivals because I made a different tyre choice to them. Taking a medium rear rather than a softer one. It wasnīt an error though because it was adapted to the compromises we made in the set-up to reduce the chatter problem. I had to open the throttle carefully trying to get the most power without getting a wheelie out of the front. I got into a good rhythm and closed up on Checa, even trying to pass him a few times, right until the end, when a group of lapped riders got between me and Carlos and I couldnīt do anything to take second place. Iīm satisfied nonetheless with my race, and weīll try for the win again in Mugello."
Gianluca Montiron - Camel Honda - (Makoto Tamada Team Manager):
"After the team had put in some good work during tests we certainly hoped to get a better result here, because we were conscious of having got a good balance on our RC211V. Ninth place in the end, we canīt be satisfied with this. This is just the second dry race and the results in terms of times arenīt that different from when we went at Welkom, as regards the distance by the end of the race. Itīs clear that there is still a way to go before reaching a competitive level. We also need to work hard together with Bridgestone to get tyres which perform more consistently around the various circuits, and which will then get Makoto in the best position to show what he is capable of, as he did towards
the end of last year."
Makoto Tamada - Camel Honda (Bridgestone tyres) - 9th - 44ī55.914:
"I still have to improve my starts because I lose ground straight away. Even so I am happy with the set-up of the bike that we found after Jerez and again here today. The track temperature was higher today than the rest of the weekend and I wasnīt able to get as good a grip as the other riders all the way to the end. I know we are making improvements and I canīt wait to get to Mugello."
The Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team suffered cruelly at the hands of Lady Luck at Le Mans this afternoon, with Alex Hofmann and Shinya Nakano both forced to retire from the French Grand Prix as a result of mechanical problems.
Alex Hofmann's race lasted just five laps before a sudden loss of power and a sliding rear end alerted the Fuchs Kawasaki rider to a problem with his Ninja ZX-RR. A glance down at the oil on his boot was enough to let the 23-year-old German rider know his race was run, and he immediately pulled off the track to avoid dropping oil on the racing line.
After a bad start, Shinya Nakano had worked his way through the field to 11th place when a fractured oil line deposited a film of oil over the rear tyre of his Ninja ZX-RR and, like his teammate before him, the 26-year-old Japanese rider was forced to retire from the race and start the long walk back to the paddock.
Although obviously disappointed with the bad luck that befell both his riders today, team boss Harald Eckl is confident the run of form that saw Nakano qualify twice on the second row of the grid, and claim the Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team's first top ten finish of the year at Jerez, would return for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello in two week's time.
Alex Hofmann: Retired (lap 6)
"This is definitely one weekend I want to forget. My crew worked really hard to rebuild both bikes overnight and after setting my fastest lap of the weekend in morning warm up hopes were high for this afternoon's race. I didn't get such a good start, but I'd settled into a rhythm and started working my way up the field when the rear started sliding around and the engine suddenly lost power, leaving me with no other option but to retire. I'm so frustrated, not just for myself but also for my crew. The boys have worked real hard this weekend and they didn't deserve to be repaid with a mechanical failure in the race. Hopefully we can put this weekend behind us and concentrate on preparing for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello in two week's time."
Shinya Nakano: Retired (lap 16)
"It just wasn't our day today. I had a few problems with the clutch and struggled to get the bike off the line at the start, which dropped me back down the field. I managed to work my way back through the pack in the early stages of the race, and by the halfway point I was convinced that there was a realistic chance of a top ten finish. I knew I had a problem when the rear tyre started sliding badly, but it was only when my foot kept slipping off the footpeg that I realised there was oil on my boot. I didn't want to risk a crash, nor cause anyone else problems, so I pulled off the track. It's disappointing, but this is a new bike and we're competing at the very highest level, so the odd problem is to be expected. On a positive note, the bike matched up well against the opposition when I was coming through the field, so we're definitely moving in the right direction in terms of development."
Harald Eckl: Team Manager
"Without a doubt this has been a very disappointing weekend for us, and I just hope that we've had a whole season's worth of bad luck in one go and that the rest of the year will be easier. It looks like we're going to be very busy in the two weeks before the Italian Grand Prix, but I'm confident that we'll come back stronger than ever at Mugello."
This article was kindly provided by www.getyourrideon.com
Carlos Checa took a well-earned second in the French Grand Prix today after a close-fought race in Le Mans, France. While his Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi was unable to overcome the set-up problems which he battled with all weekend, but still the young Italian finished a strong fourth after a hard fought battle with third placed Max Biaggi (Honda).
Checa had a good start from second place on the grid, immediately taking the lead, with Rossi in third. Pole-sitter Sete Gibernau (Honda) gradually closed the gap from behind his fellow Spaniard and overtook Checa on lap 11, increasing his lead throughout the fight to take his second successive Grand Prix win. Biaggi overtook Rossi on the next lap and began to gain on Checa, who rode a hard race to fend him off, eventually crossing the line just three tenths of a second ahead. Rossi closed the gap between him and Biaggi considerably in the closing stages with some brave moves, passing him momentarily on lap 25, but was unable to stay ahead. After three races Rossi holds on to third place in the World Championship standings while Checa moves up to fifth.
The Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 team did not get the home result it had worked so hard for this weekend, although it was still a respectable weekend for the French team. Despite Norick Abe being taken out of contention in a three-rider crash on lap one young Italian Marco Melandri fought bravely to fly the team flag against Colin Edwards (Honda, 5th) throughout the race before eventually recording a sixth place finish.
Marco got a good start from the second row of the grid and by lap six he had overhauled Edwards for fifth place and had Max Biaggi and the leading group in his sights. But as the hard laps of the Le Mans circuit took their toll, his right arm stiffened up and he could no longer dispense the fine control needed in the closing stages of the race.
Norick's race was over almost as soon as it began when d'Antin Ducati rider Neil Hodgson lost control of his machine with Abe mere centimetres behind him in the frantic opening lap. Norick crashed in the ensuing chaos, as did Suzuki rider John Hopkins. The Japanese was unhurt - Hopkins sustained a broken left thumb, Hodgson two broken ribs.
Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha), 2nd
"I am so happy to be on the podium once more; it has been a long time. We knew that this year we had a chance to do well; we made some big improvements to the bike over the winter and I have started the year with a good feeling. Even in Jerez I felt good, although the weather changed everything on race day. I need to keep going like this; this result will help me, the team and Yamaha. It gives me confidence and the season has only just started so I aim to continue improving - I hope that next I can fight to win a race. My start was very good and I tried to keep the gap but I couldn't get away from Sete. When he passed me I tried to stay with him but he was faster. Near the end I had to pass some people at the back and I don't think they'd seen the blue flags - it was quite scary with Max so close behind me! Valentino had some problems during the weekend and wasn't able to ride to his full potential, but he has made a big difference pre-season and I am sure that at the next race he will be there. Now I am really looking forward to Mugello."
Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha), 4th
"That was a really difficult race. The bike just didn't feel right all weekend, especially with the braking. I had a different feeling at the start of the warm-up lap with the new electronic system and the bike stopped. When everything goes well with this bike then it is very easy to ride, but here set-up difficulties have made it trickier. We've spent two days trying to fix the problems but unfortunately it has not been possible for this race; we need some more time to work it out. We have organised a one-day test tomorrow so I hope that we will be able to fix the problem then. Carlos was very strong today and he has more experience than me with this bike. We are not too far behind and Mugello is going to be a brilliant fight."
Antonio Jimenez (Checa's crew chief)
"What can I say? I am so happy because our expectation was to be on the podium and it worked. We were leading for many laps but second is still a good result. It is great to start the early part of the season like this. The tracks we go to next, Mugello and Barcelona, are very good circuits for Carlos and he is feeling very positive. We need more races like this and our target now is victory."
Marco Melandri (Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3), 6th
"I'm disappointed. Today everything looked okay; the bike, tyres, suspension were all good and I started well from the grid too. But I made a mistake on lap one and I knew the opening laps would be hard. I thought I could catch Max in the early stages and follow him, but then my right arm started getting stiff and I couldn't feel the throttle or the front brake so well. The bike is better but we are going to need more power for Mugello."
Norick Abe (Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3), DNF
"Very disappointing, but not much I could do about it. Neil Hodgson lost the back-end in front of me and I was really close - like about 50cm away - and there was nothing I could do to avoid a crash. These things happen in racing sometimes, but they are still hard to take."
Hervé Poncharal (Team Director)
"I think this is maybe about the best we could have hoped for. Marco's right arm caused him some bother and maybe he could have stayed in front of Edwards if it hadn't given him trouble. But it was important to finish the race. Our lap times were good and we're starting to see the potential now. Marco especially really understood a lot of things today and I'm sorry Norick couldn't have stayed the course because we could have had two good finishes."
- 1) S. Gibernau (Honda) ESP: 44' 22.750
- 2) C. Checa (Yamaha) ESP; +1.671
- 3) M. Biaggi (Honda) ITA; +1.908
- 4) V. Rossi (Yamaha) ITA; +4.272
- 5) C. Edwards (Honda) USA; +15.755
- 6) M. Melandri (Yamaha) ITA; +18.225
- 7) A. Barros (Honda) BRA; +27.656
- 8) T. Bayliss (Ducati) AUS; +31.530
- 9) M. Tamada (Honda) JPN; +33.164
- 10) L. Capirossi (Ducati) ITA; +39.512
- 11) N. Hayden (Honda) USA; +47.625
- 12) K. Roberts (Suzuki) USA; +1' 12.140
- 13) J. McWilliams (Aprilia) GBR; +1' 23.391
- 14) R. Xaus (Ducati) ESP; +1 lap(s)
- 15) K. Roberts (Proton KR) USA; +1 lap(s)
- Norick Abe DNF, Shakey Byrne, DNS
Fastest Lap (this race)
- 1) M. Biaggi (Honda) ITA; 1' 34.088
- 1) Sete Gibernau (Honda) ESP; 66
- 2) Max Biaggi (Honda) ITA; 56
- 3) Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) ITA; 51
- 4) Alex Barros (Honda) BRA; 38
- 5) Carlos Checa (Yamaha) ESP; 36
- 6) Colin Edwards (Honda) USA; 29
- 7) Nicky Hayden (Honda) USA; 27
- 8) Loris Capirossi (Ducati) ITA ; 20
- 9) Marco Melandri (Yamaha) ITA; 15
- 10) Makato Tamada (Honda) JPN; 15
- 11) Norick Abe (Yamaha) JPN; 12
- 12) Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) USA; 12
- 13) Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) JPN; 11
- 14) Troy Bayliss (Ducati) AUS; 10
- 15) Michel Fabrizio (Harris WCM) ITA; 6
This article was kindly provided by www.yamaha-racing.com