Carlos Checa completed a season to forget for Yamaha with a solid fifth place in the season ending Valencia Grand Prix, the Spaniard finishing top M1 rider after electing to test the team's new chassis.

Checa started well from fifth on the grid and raced with the leading group throughout the opening laps. However, before the second half of the 30-laps were complete, the front-runners had spread out and Carlos rode a lonely race home.

"I only had two hours on the new chassis this weekend, and not quite enough time to perfect the set-up before the race," explained Checa, now likely to partner Valentino Rossi in the factory team next season. "I can make more progress with the new chassis in our team test this coming week, and try some things we didn't try this weekend. There is still quite a way to go but I'm optimistic for next year."

Temporary team-mate Norick Abe, drafted in as a replacement for injured Italian Marco Melandri, put in a creditable performance to bring his YZR-M1 home in ninth place after also having a lonely GP.

"I'm not especially happy because I made a bad start and my position at the beginning was not good," said the Japanese. "By mid-race my tyres were sliding, and I've never ridden under these conditions before. I tried a lot of different riding styles during the race and changes in my work with the throttle. Eventually I found a slightly better way to ride and I managed to stay in the same position. I really want to say a big thank you to my staff because they did a lot of work in not much time and all worked really hard this weekend."

"(Sunday) was a solid result for both riders," stated team director Davide Brivio. "At the beginning of the race Carlos was able to stay with the top group and kept a good pace, and Norick was also very consistent with his times. We took advantage of the last race of the year by using the latest chassis development that we tried for the first time yesterday. However, without any real pressure it was good to be able to use it for the race and so get plenty of data to feedback to our engineers. It seems to have some positive points.

"Although this was the last race of the season we'll still be here working hard until Wednesday," he added. "(On Monday) we have a number of lucky journalists who will get the chance to try the YZR-M1 and then we have a two-day test to work further on new developments for our winter test programme and for 2004.

"This season has been difficult and there have been tough times for everyone," he added, referring to the team failing to take a single podium in 2003, after winning two races with Max Biaggi last year. "However, I would like to thank each person in the team, and Yamaha and its engineers, for their constant hard work and professionalism."



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