Yamaha names 2004 team riders

Yamaha confirms final line-up ahead of first test of 2004. Yamaha will carry out its first test of the 2004 MotoGP season this weekend with a new-look line-up. Spaniard Carlos Checa and his new team-mate, MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi, ...

Yamaha names 2004 team riders

Yamaha confirms final line-up ahead of first test of 2004.

Yamaha will carry out its first test of the 2004 MotoGP season this weekend with a new-look line-up. Spaniard Carlos Checa and his new team-mate, MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi, will compete for the Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team, Yamaha's wholly-owned Factory Team. Norick Abe and Marco Melandri will ride for the Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 Team, the privately-owned French team.

Both teams will be running Factory Yamaha YZR-M1 motorcycles and will be running under the Altadis-Yamaha sponsorship program. Valentino Rossi will ride in the blue of Altadis' leading international Gauloises brand. Team-mate Checa's Yamaha YZR-M1, on the other hand, will sport the red and silver of Altadis' Fortuna, the market leading tobacco brand in Spain, and strongly developing internationally.

Similarly in the Tech 3 team Marco Melandri will ride in Fortuna colours with Norick Abe in Gauloises. The unusual move suits Altadis' marketing strategy with Rossi representing their leading international brand while Checa stays linked to Fortuna for a second year. The Fortuna brand is also present on the Italian market and hence Melandri's 2nd year in Fortuna colours while Norick Abe is important for Gauloises in the Japanese market where the brand was recently relaunched in autumn 2003.

The four Yamaha riders will start their 2004 testing programme with three days at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia from 24 to 26 January. The test will be Valentino Rossi's first on the Yamaha YZR-M1.

This announcement also confirms that Brazilian rider Alex Barros will leave the Altadis-Yamaha set-up despite being halfway through a two-year contract with the Franco-Spanish tobacco group. The breach of his contract with sponsor Altadis is currently being discussed by the parties concerned and a final agreement of terms has yet to be reached.

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