Carlos Checa experienced perhaps the most dramatic race of his career in last year's Rio Grand Prix (pictured): The then MarlboroYamaha rider qualified fifth in the dry, but on a wet race day he was left in neutral when the lights went out...

Despite being the last rider away, the Spaniard fought back at an amazing speed, regularly lapping over one second faster than the leaders, and as high as 2.5 seconds quicker at one stage.
That pace paid off when he eventually caught up with - and overtook - race leader Rossi seven laps from the chequered flag, but frustratingly slid off a few corners later. Checa had raced from last, to first, to DNF in under one hour!

"Last year I had probably the best race of my life but with the worst ever finish," said a philosophical Checa. "I had some fun in the race but then ended up with a bad finish and no points. I did really enjoy that race though, even though it was wet, but I had a good weekend for qualifying in the dry as well.

"Our bike went pretty well there but as always maybe I could do with a bit more front feeling," he added. "Anyway we can hopefully have quite a good race there again this year. I like Rio; the place and the track, it's one of the best for us. There is talk of taking it off the MotoGP calendar but I think that would be a real shame and I would prefer to keep it."

Checa's 2003 season with the now Fortuna Yamaha outfit has been testing; his high moments have so far included a fourth place at his home Catalunya Grand Prix, another fourth in Assen, sixth in Donington and another fourth at the Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno over a month ago.

He was not so fortunate at the Portuguese Grand Prix two weeks ago, when despite putting in fast qualifying laps all weekend, some problems when braking in the early stages of the race meant the Spaniard could only ride to eighth place. He has however retained his sixth place in the championship standings, and is desperate to move up the points ladder during the remainder of the season.

"There aren't many races until the season is over," he acknowledged, "so every point will count now to decide where everyone finishes in the championship. I really would like to get at least one podium, if not more, and earn some more valuable points to finish better than sixth, which is where I finished last year. I'm going to put in every effort with my team to do so."

"Carlos' result in Estoril was not what we were expecting but we have looked into the problems he experienced there and understand where we need to improve certain aspects of his set-up," said team director Davide Brivio. "We have high hopes for him in Rio, where he had such an amazing fight last year in the rain, and the year before in the dry. I think he could have the chance to go for a podium finish as it's a track he feels comfortable with. Carlos has enough years of experience to be able to make a comeback, and I hope Rio is just the start."



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