Carlos Checa is now arguably the number one Spaniard in the Moto GP class after 1999 500cc world champion Alex Criville moved to the d'Antin Yamaha team, then failed to appear at all in 2002.

Criville's absence follows health problems stemming from early 2000, when he started experiencing periods of fainting that doctors are still trying to diagnose. After announcing these problems to the world in February, Criville may never ride in a grand prix again - but who knows?

Fellow Catalan Checa caught up with Crash.Net's Toby Moody in South Africa at the weekend to discuss the situation.

''I think it is a hard moment for him,'' Checa said, ''I think he wants to continue racing, but the atmosphere and the bike or the team, I don't know - the combination of Alex, Yamaha and d'Antin he knew, with his situation, was not right. For sure, we will not see him ride this year.

''I think he was not ready to say stop and, maybe, that is very hard for him to do, but he'll be okay if he has some time, and he will know after a while what he wants to do. For sure, when you know, like Alex, that you cannot be in front winning races or the championship, there is no sense to continue crashing and getting bad results. You are destroying your instinct, whereas his instinct was fighting and racing and winning. Yet, now, for him to continue means he is destroying himself.

''It is always a shame, like when Doohan stopped and also when Michael Jordan stopped in basketball. He stopped at the top level, but after a while he came back and I don't know his level, but I can't imagine it is the same as when he stopped at the top, so he will finish when his body and his mind say finish.''

It is expected that Criville will appear at the Spanish Grand Prix at the recent updated Jerez track over the weekend of 3-5 May, although it is doubtful that he will be on a bike. However, anything can change so maybe seeing the former 125 and 500 champion doing some laps at the track where he won the Spanish GP in 1997, 1998 and 1999 would send the 150,000 spectators wild on race day.

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