Four-stroke fan Carlos Checa had a superb start to the new MotoGP series at Suzuka, running close to the leaders and finishing a superb third. And the Marlboro Yamaha Team man is convinced he could've done better if the weather hadn't conspired against him.

Although he had used his new, faster-steering YZR-M1 chassis to battle for pole position on Saturday, Checa actually raced his 'old' chassis. Faced with unpredictable weather conditions on the morning of the race, his crew prepared his latest-spec bike for the dry and the other for the rain.

"Third was a good start for us but I know we can do better," says Checa. "The best thing for me at Suzuka was qualifying because I was very close to pole position, which proves that our bike is already at a very high level and ready to win. I'm looking forward to Welkom because it should be dry, it's a special track, very tough on tyres and very exciting. I got a good result there in 2000, though I missed last year's race because I got injured in a training accident. The surface at Welkom is quite slippery but I don't mind that because I like to slide the bike. Also, the track has one of the best corners in GPs - the fast right at the end of the back straight is unbelievable!

"We are working hard with the bike and we need to work on the front end some more. I get less front push than I used to get from the 500 but I still have a few problems in slow corners. We made some good improvements in Japan and we should be able to make quicker progress at Welkom now we have two of the new chassis."

Antonio Jimenez, Carlos Checa's chief engineer was pleased with how things went for the Spaniard. "Suzuka went well for us, Carlos pushed so hard on Saturday and Sunday, so we think Welkom will also be good for us," says Jimenez. "He has worked very well over the past few months. Even when we had some problems in preseason tests he stayed positive. His pace is very good now and we'll be looking to improve even more at the next few races.

"With the new four-strokes you can't do so much work on the engine at the races, so you focus on suspension and chassis set-up. Carlos' problem was in slow turns, he couldn't go in with the brake on, so we worked to find a solution through geometry and suspension. The work we did at Suzuka with Yamaha and Ohlins really helped his lap times, because when we improve his corner entry speed, his corner exit speed is also better."

Marlboro Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio was delighted with Checa's Suzuka performance and expects another strong showing in South Africa. "Carlos rode an excellent race in difficult conditions and I think we are beginning to see his real potential," says Brivio. "He likes Welkom and will have two bikes to work with this weekend, so I think we can expect him to fight for the podium again, and, who knows, maybe even for the win. The team is working very hard at the moment, we're totally committed to the M1 project and I think Suzuka was a very deserved reward for all of us. Things can only get better from here."

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