Rossi On Provisional Phillip Island Pole
After a morning of extreme weather conditions at Phillip Island, including torrential rain and a short hailstorm, Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi made the most of the warm and dry afternoon to take provisional pole in this afternoon's first qualifying session in Australia. His time of 1'30.222s was just shy of his own qualifying record, and came after only one dry hour of track time. Carlos Checa, his team-mate, took 11th fastest time after being held up during what could have been his quickest lap. Checa had been as high as third earlier in the session, before resorting to qualifying tyres.
In the top spot for the majority of the session, Rossi was deposed by Colin Edwards (Honda) at one stage before powering to provisional pole with 12 minutes left. Rossi extended his advantage on his final lap, with only himself and his remaining championship rival Sete Gibernau (Honda) eventually in the 1:30s bracket.
Checa, today celebrating his 32nd birthday, was up with the leading group on race tyres, but after being balked on his potential fastest lap, with qualifying rubber fitted to his Yamaha YZR-M1, he slipped down the order to finish 11th, 1.707 seconds from Rossi.
Rossi is going for his eighth race win of a remarkable 2004 season, and any result in the top three on Sunday would be his 100th career podium, having scored an incredible 99 podium finishes in 138 starts in all classes of GP competition. He has already secured five previous victories at Phillip Island, two in the 250cc class and the last three in MotoGP.
VALENTINO ROSSI (1st, 1'30.222s)
"I made a very good lap today, in the 1:30s, so I'm pleased to have that under my belt already. This morning was important because we also went very well in the wet. Also, in the dry the bike feels good. This afternoon we did well with the qualifying tyres but we still have to improve our settings on the race tyres, especially in the longer corners. There is a lot of pressure this weekend. I need to transform that into positive energy. A lot of my pit crew are from Australia, so this is a significant race for them as well. We all need maximum concentration."
CARLOS CHECA (11th, 1'31.929s)
"We had a good pace on race tyres but at the end of the session I met a lot of riders in the first section and lost too much time. I could not get a good lap time because of that and when I tried again on the next lap the tyre was already past its best and I lost time at the final corner. It is also difficult for me on a qualifying rear tyre because it pushes the front more. But I know I can improve my time tomorrow and we have more time to work for qualifying to improve my starting position."
DAVIDE BRIVIO, TEAM DIRECTOR
"A good start to the weekend for Valentino and he managed to stay in front of everybody. We still have some work to do on the bike because since we came here we changed the base setting and now it has to be adjusted to suit the track. There is room for improvement but already we are very close to the best ever time. The track was wet this morning so it is unusual that it has improved that much. The track should not be this quick. In normal race pace not so many riders have been as fast as Valentino.The weather should be better and better and we were fast in the wet this morning anyway. Carlos was good, in the top for a long time, but he lost the chance to use his qualifying tyre. It was his birthday today so I'm sure he wanted better. On Sunday he will try to make a nice gift to himself on the track."