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2003 MotoGP race summary

  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Round: Five
  • Circuit: Catalunya, Spain
  • Track length: 4727 m
  • Opened: 1991
  • Fastest Lap Ever: 1' 43.927 (Valentino Rossi, 2003)
  • MotoGP lap record: 1' 45.472 (Valentino Rossi, 2003)
  • Last year MotoGP winner: Loris Capirossi
  • Circuit tel: +34 93 5719700
  • Carlos Checa gave the Factory Yamaha Team a solid result in what was, at that point, one of the most thrilling MotoGP races since the introduction of the four-stroke championship, held at the Spanish Catalunya circuit in 2003. After a 25-lap race of paint-swapping action the local hero completed the Catalan Grand Prix in fourth - 0.068 seconds ahead of fellow Yamaha rider Shinya Nakano.

    After a solid start, which placed Checa eighth on the opening lap, the Spaniard began a charge that saw him challenging the lead group within half a dozen laps - before finishing only 0.5 seconds off the podium. Nakano wasn't the only Yamaha rider Checa had to contend with at his home Grand Prix with Yamaha Teammates Alex Barros and Olivier Jacque also featuring well in the top five during the early stages.

    The Brazilian eventually finished eighth, after suffering from a lack of rear traction, while front row starter Jacque ended his most promising weekend performance in the gravel trap, on lap 13, after a similar problem.

    The intensity of the race began from the outset with an opening lap incident claiming Jeremy McWilliams (Proton KR) and Kawasaki riders Akira Yanagawa and Andrew Pitt. It then continued throughout the race with further off-track excursions, yet at half race distance the top five podium candidates were still only separated by a mere 2.5 seconds. At the chequered it was less than five seconds covering the same number, before an unexpected conclusion.

    After a determined ride Italian Loris Capirossi gave the V-four Ducati its first race victory in the premier class when defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda) faltered under the intense pressure of the leading pack. On lap 16 Rossi out-braked himself into turn four, running off the circuit as a result and out of contention for the race win. The Italian rejoined in sixth, however, before riding like a man possessed - carving through the field to finish the sixth round of the year second, ahead of Sete Gibernau (Honda) and a rather happy Checa. Set-up report YZR-M1

    As a MotoGP circuit Barcelona offers a main straight capable of encouraging speeds exceeding 335kmh, and is completed by a sequence of long radius, medium/high speed sweepers and two tight left-hand hairpins. In some regards Barcelona resembles Jerez (Spain); with bumps an issue for riders on the entry to the braking areas - although less intense. But the combination of long radius corners riddled with a variety of cambers makes it more demanding on chassis balance. For this reason the 4727m circuit is always a feature on the preseason IRTA test calendar, and is often considered to be the true indicator of a bikes full potential.

    It was during the 2004 pre-season IRTA test when all the competition came head to head for the first time and Rossi made his intentions clear for 2004. The flamboyant Italian set the fastest time of the three-day test aboard his Yamaha, a feat he then went on to repeat in the Jerez IRTA tests. Due to the long-radius sweepers front-end feel is a key concern for every rider, but it must be found without sacrificing the overall balance of the machine, as too much time is spent feathering the power though the sides of the tyres before punching the bike out onto the next straight.

    This was an area Rossi felt comfortable with the M1. Considered a strength the Yamaha engineers will make little modification to the base geometry, when compared with what is used in Mugello. And of this minimal modification, the geometry will be fettled for a little extra front-end bias. Most of this will be achieved, however, not through chassis modifications, but rather straightforward suspension preload and damping adjustments.

    With the time spent at full lean, and the negative effect this has on suspension performance, slightly lighter spring weights will be used, when compared with Mugello. This will ensure the Íhlins forks are still able to absorb the bumps effectively in the turns, while the preload will be wound on to compensate for any resulting G-force, or the effects caused by the heavy braking at the end of the main straight. The damping will then support this set-up - slightly softer on the compression and rebound - the rear spring preload, however, will be very similar to that used in the previous round. This will prevent the bike from squatting, and then running wide under power - especially at the long right-hand run onto the front straight, which determines the eventual top speed and slipstream potential.

    The nature of the circuit ensures tyre life often comes up in many pit box discussions between riders and crew chiefs, and this will only be amplified if the Spanish weather provides its anticipated high temperatures. Meanwhile engine performance will be an area of high importance, and though the M1 has made progress in this area since 2003 the high speeds expected at the end of the long straight will still prove challenging. To help keep the M1s competitive on top speed the focus will be on midrange and top-end, with throttle connection and linearity factored into the fuel-injection mapping to ensure confidence in powering on early.