Carlos Checa was the star of the show at last year's Marlboro Valencia Grand Prix, but aims to go a little better this time around as the MotoGP season draws to a close in front of his home crowd.

The Marlboro Yamaha Team rider bounced back after a sighting-lap crash which forced him to start the 2001 race from the pit-lane as the rest of the pack was already streaming into turn one. Indeed, the first vehicle Checa had to pass was the circuit safety car!

However, once safely past the BMW, he set off in pursuit of the 20 or so riders ahead of him, carving through the pack at a phenomenal rate despite the tricky wet 'n' dry conditions. He finished a remarkable fourth. This weekend, though, Checa wants to do even better than that - nothing less than a top-three finish will satisfy him.

"We all want to win, that's why we race, and that will be my aim as always on Sunday," said the Spaniard, who has already proved his class-leading speed aboard Yamaha's mighty M1 by qualifying on pole at Estoril in September.

"I'm aiming for anywhere on the podium, although I hope and wish to do my best, because I want to finish the year well - and because Valencia is another home-country race, so there'll be a lot of Spanish fans wanting me to do well. I want to give them a good result."

Valencia is the second-slowest circuit in GP racing, with an average lap speed of just 150kph - marginally faster than Estoril. Most of the track's corners are slow, in-and-out turns, grouped closely together, this unusual layout affording spectators a mostly unobstructed view of the entire circuit - a real rarity in the world of motorsport. It's an immensely physical circuit with riders afforded little rest between bouts of heavy acceleration, braking and cornering. The relatively short straight requires machines to run low gearing, which makes a 220 horsepower MotoGP bike particularly difficult to control, with riders battling wheelies and wheelspin every time they get on the gas.

"Valencia is quite an unusual track, as there are a lot of corners in a very tight layout, so you are always working the bike hard, turning from side to side and trying to get through the short little corners as quickly as possible," Checa explained, "It's hard work, but it's quite fun too, especially if the bike is working well. You need very light handling and a user-friendly engine for this track, so I'll spend Friday and Saturday working with [crew chief and long-time friend] Antonio [Jimenez], my Yamaha engineers and my Michelin technician Daniel [Croispine] to get the right engine/chassis set-up and the best tyre choice. The front is really important here, because you need good turn-in, but we will be focusing on the bike's on-gas steering."

"We'll start from zero," Jimenez admitted, "The settings we used at the pre-season Valencia tests don't really apply to the bike because it's improved so much since then. We may start the weekend with one machine running the new chassis, with the other using the older chassis. It's a very tight track with only one straight, and the character is all twists and turns, with riders constantly going from left to right, then right to left. Carlos will need as much grip as he can get at maximum lean angle, so he can open the throttle early in the corners, so that's what we'll focus on. Braking and turn-in isn't such a concern for us at the moment, it's mid-corner and corner exits that concern us."



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