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GP Week : Issue 10
M oto GP news >> SUZUKI and Kawasaki both start the European season playing catch- up after continuing downbeat results at Shanghai. In Suzuki’s case, the situation was made worse by transmission problems: Chris Vermuelen retiring early with a chain jumping the sprocket, and Loris Capirossi almost crashing twice on the last lap with gear selection difficulties. But for that, Loris was on for a possible top five, showing that without gremlins the Suzuki can give a fair account of itself, even if it is still a hybrid, marrying last year’s chassis to this year’s engine. “We are very close to the guys now, and the bike’s getting better at every event,” insisted Capirossi hopefully. Kawasaki had no excusing gremlins, but simply performed unexpectedly badly, with even Hopkins battling chatter and barely in the points. Asked what he needed to change things, he said: “It’s an overall package thing. I think we need to improve the horsepower in a few areas. Yamaha’s definitely stepped up their game from last year. They’re one of the best all-round packages out there in MotoGP right now.” The Kawasaki riders will have a new chassis, already tested, for Le Mans, but Hopkins did not expect this to be a transformation: “The handling of the bike is good. It’s not excellent, it’s not the best, but it’s good,” he said. Suzuki/Kawasaki play catch-up MOTOGP’s most disappointing factory rider, Marco Melandri, can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel, after a shift in basic weight distribution transformed his slow start to the season with fifth in China. It was the former 250 champion’s first time in the top 10 since joining the Ducati team alongside defending champion Casey Stoner. “It was really important to me. After a long winter, I’ve rediscovered the pleasure in riding,” said Melandri. For the first time, he had found himself able to battle back and forth, and ride aggressively, “because I felt good on the bike. “I still don’t feel as though I am going at 100 percent, but I finally feel I am getting somewhere with the Ducati,” he said. “It’s been like hitting against a brick wall, looking for the way to start to enjoy what should be a new adventure in my career, but without any joy. Now I’ve opened the door,” he said. Until now, Melandri’s performance had been in sharp contrast to that of team- mate Stoner, and far from that of a five-time GP winner. Many recalled how his MotoGP debut on a Yamaha had been similarly afflicted. It wasn’t until he switched to Honda that he started to win races. Melandri getting it together 15