For twenty-one-year-old Marco Melandri, going back to Japan will no doubt evoke some poignant memories: The Ravenna-born rider had a bad fall on his MotoGP debut at Suzuka, breaking his leg.

Fortunately, the 250cc world champion bounced back from his injuries in an amazingly short time and has gone on to shine on his underperforming factory Fortuna Yamaha.

"My last race in Japan with the M1 earlier this year ended badly when I crashed out on the first day and had to miss that race and the following race," said Marco, before revealing that his difficult season so far could turn out to be beneficial: "In a way that first stage of the season made me stronger because it made me realise how difficult this class can be, and it gave me time to focus on my training programme. I'm sure that next year I will look back on this year and be grateful for a difficult first season in MotoGP.

"Obviously Japan will be a very important race for me again as I would really like to do well in front of my Yamaha bosses," he added. "Many Yamaha staff have only had one chance to see me ride in Japan before my accident on the Friday in Suzuka at the start of the year. Hopefully I can get a result that will make them proud."

"Carlos (Checa) had a good race in Brno, and Marco did in Estoril, and both are capable of having a good end of season," said team director Davide Brivio. "We will work as hard as we can to improve their feeling with their bikes. We have recently improved our engine performance and now the focus needs to be on the chassis and set-up."

Brivio also approves of the decision to take Suzuka off the 2004 calendar, partially as a result of Melandri's accident.

"Next year Motegi is going to be the only race in Japan further to the decision of the riders, FIM and the promoter. I think everyone respects that decision to take Suzuka off the calendar as it's the safety of the riders at stake," he said.



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