The Rio Grand Prix proved one of the most difficult rounds of the 2003 season for Yamaha, with the YZR-M1 contingent struggling to finish with a solid top ten result.

Despite their nest efforts, little could be done to overcome the difficulties encountered on the slick and bumpy Nelson Piquet circuit during qualifying, leaving Shinya Nakano and Carlos Checa to finish eighth and ninth respectively.

After qualifying sixth on the grid for the 24-lap race, Nakano was looking forward to a good result on a circuit he likes very much. But a poor start and a lack of rear traction saw the Japanese rider remain ninth until an opportunity presented itself on the penultimate lap.

The likeable Japanese pounced on the chance, provided by Ducati rider Troy Bayliss, to claim eighth place at the flag - thus keeping his 100% points finishing record alive in 2003.

"In the beginning it was good, I was okay and very confident," said Nakano. "But at mid-race I couldn't feel the limit when I pushed a bit harder to follow the leading group, I think we should work on the chassis settings. At the end I caught Baylissagain and after a nice fight I overtook him with two laps remaining. My shoulder was okay during the race, but I'll be full recovered for Motegi."

"We expected some more in this race, but we have to resign being the best Yamaha of the race," stated team manger Luis D'Antin.

Spaniard Checa would prove the D'Antin teams nearest M1 competition, Carlos also making a late pass on Bayliss - but couldn't reach Nakano.

"Obviously we didn't do as well as we had hoped this weekend, but we did make gradual improvements during the three days," claimed the Fortuna Yamaha rider. "My main problem this weekend was balance and the set-up of the chassis.

"I stuck behind the Ducati of Bayliss and at the end I increased my pace and was able to pass him, but I still need to be able to do more regarding turning the bike, and that's one of my main problems. I really want to improve this handling issue as soon as I can. I'm going back to Europe now for a bit of relaxation before I head to Japan for the next round," he added.

Checa's rookie team-mate Marco Melandri could afford to be a little more satisfied having made up five places from his grid spot to finish 11th, but it was hard work with a bike that just didn't offer its rider any confidence.

"I started the race quite badly and after a few laps I lost grip on the rear," said Marco. "It's strange because normally that happens when I on the power, but this time it happened in the middle of the corners. The feeling of the bike was much better than yesterday in general. After seven or eight laps I lost grip on the front, and then on the last five or six laps I was taking too many risks and I lost my confidence. By the end I had lost a lot of time and my lap times were slow."

Alex Barros was the only Gauloises Yamaha rider to finish, in twelfth.

 

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