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Yamaha riders go the distance on final day at Phillip Island

Yamaha riders go the distance on final day at Phillip Island

Yamaha riders go the distance on final day at Phillip Island

A two month intercontinental adventure for the factory Yamaha MotoGP teams came to an end in Australia on Thursday after a gruelling final day of endurance testing at the Phillip Island circuit. It was World Champion Valentino Rossi's last chance to put any finishing touches to the YZR-M1 before coming face to face with his MotoGP rivals at the official tests at Catalunya and Jerez at the end of the month, and the Italian made the most of the bright and breezy conditions to run up 85 laps – over three times race distance.

"Overall once again I'm quite satisfied with this test," commented Rossi, who ended the day with a best lap of 1'30.80, compared to his 1'30.72 from yesterday. "Today was a bit of a struggle against the strong winds, making it harder than last time we were here. But we've made some good progress with tyres and I was comfortable with the race simulation this afternoon. It wasn't as warm as we would have liked, about 20 degrees outside temperature, but we have found quite a good level and are ready to see what happens when we move to a different circuit.

"The official tests are going to be interesting for this reason, as we've only tested with this set-up and engine spec at two circuits, and Barcelona and Jerez are difficult because of their hard braking. But we will see!"

Rossi's factory team-mates Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri also completed successful race simulations, with Melandri making the most notable progress. "That was much better," commented the Italian youngster, who has struggled to find form on the 990cc four-stroke since crashing at this circuit in the penultimate race of the 2003 season. "I'm quite happy with how things went today – I felt much more comfortable on the bike. We consistently made an improvement every time we went out, which is just how I needed to finish this test. Every run was a step in the right direction.

"Since we seemed to have lost our way a little yesterday the team and I sat down last night and looked at everything - how we had the bike set up during the GP here last year and how things were for the last test we had in February. We then modified the geometry this morning and things instantly improved. I also did a full race simulation and the result was quite positive."

Checa completed a century of laps for the second successive day, concentrating once more on squeezing every ounce of performance out of the M1 chassis as he awaits delivery of the new engine. "We're still a bit behind where we should be but we've reduced the gap quite a bit during this test and we've improved since yesterday," commented the Spaniard. "I think we will have quite a good level for the start of the championship. I'm looking forward to going to Barcelona and seeing where we are now against our competitors. We've mostly focused on the chassis this winter and will concentrate more on the engine in the near future. But we are conscious not to change too much with the bike."

Meanwhile, after making significant progress yesterday, Norick Abe once again found himself in trouble as he mysteriously lost seven tenths of a second from his best time. "Today it went a little wrong," admitted Abe. "I thought I was doing quite well, I felt very comfortable everywhere, but then I followed Checa and saw that in most places I was doing OK, except the slower corners. Here I'm losing quite a bit more than I expected. I guess we still have some more work to do."

The Yamaha Factory Racing teams will continue their preseason testing programme at the MotoGP Official Tests, which start on Friday 26 March at Catalunya.

Unofficial lap times

Valentino Rossi - 1'30.80 (85 laps)
Carlos Checa - 1'31.30
Marco Melandri - 1'31.92 (99 laps)
Norick Abe - 1'33.69 (96 laps).

MotoGP, 2004

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