Carlos Checa says confident about this weekend's opening round at Suzuka, despite a very up-and-down 2002 season and similar pre-season testing performance.

Despite one pole position, four podium finishes and being among the frontrunners in many races last year, Checa did not achieve his goal of a MotoGP victory.

However his season started in fine form at last year's Suzuka Grand Prix where he took fourth position on the starting grid and went on to take third place in the wet race - a result he's like to repeat come Sunday.

"My qualifying in Suzuka was good last year, and so was my race," said the Spaniard. "For me it is one of the best tracks. It is long, technical and fast, with slow turns. They have modified the last section of the track, which we were able to get used to during the two days of last weekend's test. I seem to get more problems at slower tracks, which this isn't, so I'm quite confident for Suzuka.

"I was disappointed with my performance at the Barcelona IRTA test a couple of weeks ago as I just couldn't stay on the pace. We spent winter testing setting up the fuel-injection system and adjusting the chassis and overall set-up. In Barcelona we tried to change the set-up again but we have now gone back to our original base set-up from the tests before then."

Checa thinks that Yamaha's YZR-M1 is well suited to the Japanese circuit, in both wet and dry conditions.

"Last year at Suzuka I was the fastest rider in the first turn, and on the longer sections of this track the M1 works really well," he explained. "You don't need to brake or accelerate too hard here, and this suits the M1. Also our top speed is now very good so I don't need to worry about that.

"I'm not sure what the weather will be like this weekend but wet or dry I think we can be competitive," revealed the Spaniard. "This year all the riders on the grid have the capacity to get good results, so you can expect anything from anyone. I will just stay quiet now until the race, keep the bike's base set-up, and take it from there."

Checa is expected to be battling with Alex Barros for the title of top Yamaha at Suzuka.



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