2004 MotoGP Welkom Results

April 19, 2004
Ken Hutchison
Ken Hutchison
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The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.

Rossi holds off Biaggi - Welkom
Gauloises Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi became the first rider in the history of Grand Prix to win back-to-back races on two different brands of motorcycle. He won the finale’ at Valencia in 2003 aboard the Honda RC211V and then the opening round of 2004 on the Yamaha M1 at Welkom.

Gauloises Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Camel Honda’s Max Biaggi were at it again at the Phakisa Freeway circuit. The Italian rivals battled for 28 laps but in the end it was Rossi who crossed the finish line first. Telefonica Movistar Honda’s Sete Gibernau was part of the lead group initially but lost sight of the leaders ten-laps into the race and ultimately finishing 7-seconds behind in third.

First American honors go to Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden for his fifth place finish followed a ways back by Colin Edwards in seventh and John Hopkins in thirteenth. Hopkins’ Suzuki teammate Kenny Roberts dropped out of the race on lap five with problems on his GSR-V.

Valentino Rossi: Gauloises Yamaha – Winner
“This is the best race of my career, it’s a real surprise for us, for everyone, and it’s difficult to explain the emotion. The weekend was perfect, starting with Friday. I rode well and I worked very well with the team. For me the race was perfect as well, starting from pole, I had a good rhythm and a good fight with Biaggi. I want to say a big thanks to my mechanics, especially Jeremy Burgess, and to Yamaha for all their efforts. At the end of the race I had a different emotion to normal; usually when I win I’m really happy but this time it was more and I had to stop for a moment with my bike to take it all in. The bike was quite good at full distance, although the tires did start to move a bit after seven or eight laps, but after that they stayed constant and the bike stayed with me. I was slower in some parts, faster in others but I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes if I wanted to win. Yamaha has made such a great effort and so much work to change their situation. Today’s race showed that the level of this sport has greatly increased since last year but winning a race like this is not a miracle, it’s down to all the hard work we’ve put in. It was fantastic! ”

Max Biaggi: Camel Honda – 2nd place
“This was a very important race for us. It’s a race we dedicate to the memory of Antonio. We all did everything we could, the team worked really hard on the bike, and I was going at 110%. Despite a slip at the start, on the dirtiest part of the line-up, I didn’t lose ground and I went forward to fight a duel for the head of the race. A contest at an incredible pace, and one that shows our potential, so I’d like to thank Honda for the new components we recently received. I’m also very satisfied with the performance of the tyres, for they gave top-level service right the way through to the end of the race. There won’t be any further tests until the Jerez race and during the practice for the next time round, I’m sure we’ll be able to understand the characteristics of the new components better so as to make best use of them.”

Sete Gibernau: Telefonica Movistar Honda – 3rd place
“All during qualifying I was trying to improve my rhythm working on the settings of the new chassis – but we couldn’t quite get there before the race. And we ran out of time to try anything else in the morning warm-up. But I’m aiming to be fighting for the podium at every race and I have to be happy enough with this result on a weekend that wasn’t perfect.”

Alex Barros: Repsol Honda – 4th place
“If you qualify eighth on the third row of the grid, it’s hard work. This track is difficult to overtake on and there’s not a lot of grip off the racing line. We had a small chatter problem today which wasn’t there before, but overall today’s not such a bad result for a first race with a new team.”

Nicky Hayden: Repsol Honda – 5th place
“I knew this race was going to be difficult. I got an OK start but it was really painful watching the guys up front disappear. The team has done a great job over the weekend – it just wasn’t an easy weekend. Let’s get on with the next race now.”

Loris Capirossi: Ducati Marlboro – 6th place
“I’m very happy with the result, I didn’t expect something as good as this after qualifying. I gave 110% all the way. We still have to do some work on this new bike but I really believe in Ducati. I think this race demonstrated that I’m very, very motivated for this season and ready to keep working at developing the bike into a winner.”

Colin Edwards: Telefonica Movistar – 7th place
“I had problems on the first lap. They were there a little bit on Friday and Saturday, but today it was just impossible to race for 28 laps. I can’t say it was a specific problem, but we’ll check the data and see what’s going on.”

Makoto Tamada: Camel Honda – 8th place
“All weekend we’ve been making changes, but the tires were good all race and I didn’t manage to get as much overtaking as I wanted because of a bad start. But this was more good experience for me and the team.”

Norick Abe: Yamaha – 9th Place
“I’m happy because compared to qualifying and all the pre-season tests this is a bit of a surprise. But I’m surprised and happy for Rossi too! He was an unbelievable 36 seconds ahead of me. This is my first time on this bike in a race and finally I got the set-up right. Racing is always different for me and usually faster than qualifying. Now I need to find a little more traction and that’s what we’ll be working on at Jerez.”

Alex Barros and Capirossi - Welkom.
Alex Barros (4) chases down Loris Capirossi (65) in South Africa as Melandri (33) and Kenny Roberts (10) try to keep pace.

Carlos Checa: Fortuna Yamaha – 10th Place
“We’ve been struggling all weekend to find a good setting and to get a better feeling, but we have not found the way. I didn’t have enough grip on the side of the tyre when the bike was at an angle and this is something we are playing with constantly to try to improve. When I’m not confident of the grip my exit from a corner is too slow and it’s difficult to pass on the brakes. I pushed hard when I caught up with Abe, but I just didn’t have enough confidence. However, this is just the first race and we can still catch up; that is our mission. We have to analyse why this happened and work out how to improve the feeling. We’ll see what happens in Jerez and I will look forward to racing there.”

Marco Melandri: Fortuna Yamaha – 11th Place
“I had chatter problems and I just couldn’t control the bike in the race. This is so disappointing after all the work we did in qualifying. I’m not happy because we could have achieved a much better result.”

Shinya Nakano: Fuchs Kawasaki – 12th Place
“The bike was creeping a little on the line, which meant I missed the start as I tried to hold it back. Once I got away I couldn’t stay with the guys at the front as the rear of the bike felt a little nervous. The bike settled itself down towards the middle of the race and from that point onwards I was able to match my lap times from practice. I had a good fight with Abe, Melandri and Checa from the halfway point of the race, but while I was able to pass Marco into the last turn on the final lap, I couldn’t quite hold him off to the line. After qualifying sixth on the grid it was a little disappointing not to have finished out of the top ten here today. On the other hand, after my first race aboard the Kawasaki I now know that we are capable of beating factory bikes and battling for position with the latest factory Yamaha. Overall, although I would have liked to finish in the top ten, I’m relatively happy with the today’s result.”

John Hopkins: Suzuki – 13th place
“That’s not exactly where we wanted to finish, but all round it was not an excellent race for me. I got a pretty decent jump off the start, then I got caught up in a mess out of Turn One, and that kind of threw my head a bit, because now I was so far back in the pack. Maybe I got a bit hot headed then I was running wide into turns, then I was really having to get on it hard to make up the ground I’d lost and catch the riders in front of me. Then I got in a group with Checa, Nakano and Abe. I think I’d used up the tire quite a bit in the beginning. I was getting a bit of a vibration in the rear when it was sliding and it was kind of freaking me out going into the fast right-handers and having it step out. So towards the end, I was just trying to survive. We were in the points and I was pushing but there was nothing else I could do. I wanted to keep my place and stay ahead of Bayliss and go to the next one with high hopes.”

Troy Bayliss: Ducati Marlboro – 14th place
“We made some improvements overnight but I guess you could say that this year started for me on Friday. The bike has got better every day since we’ve been here, but we’ve still got more than a couple of points to work on. The result wasn’t for lack of trying on anyone’s part – everyone in the team has given their best over the weekend. It was good to finally get a race under my belt, we got a couple of points, which was all we could do today.”

Kenny Roberts Jr: Suzuki – DNF
“I got a decent start, got into turn one eighth or so and got up to seventh at the end of the first lap. Things were looking quite okay, as in the warm up. The bike felt pretty well balanced. I was being gentle with the rear because I didn’t want to hurt the tire too much, so I was taking it pretty easy. Also, at the beginning, Melandri’s bike had smoke coming off it so I backed off a bit in case his motor blew, though I think it was a tire rubbing on something. When Loris (Capirossi) came past me I think he felt the same he got up behind Melandri then noticed the smoke and backed away too. Then Barros got me down the back straight. I was following those guys, feeling smooth and comfortable and everything felt okay when it stopped. But it was basically a good weekend overall. The improvements over the winter have shown Suzuki can get to a better position. We have some exciting stuff coming for Jerez. I think this was the worst-prepared were going to be all year and everything from here just looks up. Sometimes you don’t get finishes, and today was one of those days. On a grand scale, I think we can be pretty happy with the way the weekend went.”

MotoGP Results:
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2. Max Biaggi (Honda)
3. Sete Gibernau (Honda)
4. Alex Barros (Honda)
5. Nicky Hayden (Honda)
6. Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
7. Colin Edwards (Honda)
8. Makoto Tamada (Honda)
9. Norick Abe (Yamaha)
10. Carlos Checa (Yamaha)
11. Marco Melandri (Yamaha)
12. Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki)
13. John Hopkins (Suzuki)
14. Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
15. Shane Byrne (Aprilia)

250 MotoGP Results:
1. Daniel Pedrosa (Honda)
2.Randy DePuniet (Aprilia)
3. Sebastien Porto (Aprilia)
4. Manuel Poggiali (Aprilia)
5. Alex De Angelis (Aprilia)
6. Alex Debon (Honda)
7. Fonsi Nieto (Aprilia)
8. Toni Elias (Honda)
9. Roberto Rolfo (Honda)
10. Franco Battaini (Aprilia)