Fortuna Yamaha riders improve times but still have a way to go.
In a brighter and warmer day than yesterday at the Montmelo circuit in Catalunya, Spain, Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa improved on the times they set during yesterday's test. Both riders had small falls during the session but got back out on track quickly so as not to lose much time. This was the last day of testing on European soil for the MotoGP riders before they head east for the final group IRTA test in Japan on 30th and 31st March at the Suzuka circuit. Then battle will commence at the first Grand Prix there on 6th April.
The Fortuna Yamaha Team toiled all weekend to make small adjustments to Carlos Checa's YZR-M1 machine to try to give him an improved feeling with the bike. The Spaniard completed 52 laps at his home circuit today and although he improved on his time from yesterday (1'45.733), to a new time of 1'44.992 he still did not manage to achieve the lap time he was hoping for and finished eleventh fastest overall.
"I'm really quite disappointed with the way things have gone this weekend", admitted Checa. "Firstly, the tumble I had on Thursday during our private test didn't help. We have made quite a lot of changes during that test and during this IRTA test which haven't necessarily benefitted us overall. The team are working really well, and so is the bike, as Barros proved. Last month when we tested at this circuit we got some good lap times, so we need to go back to that set-up again.
"I am looking forward to the Suzuka GP and am trying to think positively. It will be good to have some testing time there before we race."
Checa's 20 year old team-mate Marco Melandri rode consistenly during the weekend despite a couple of minor falls. This was the first time that the Fortuna Yamaha Team rider had both bikes set up the same with Yamaha's fuel-injection system. Melandri completed 67 laps with a best time of 1' 44.922, 0.7 seconds faster than his time from yesterday's session.
"I'm feeling better physically, for sure better than yesterday" commented Melandri. "This morning I crashed on the straight, I braked a bit too far beyond the turn. The bike highsided, the steering locked when I had almost stopped. It was my mistake, maybe because I was a little bit nervous. I felt that this was the first official test, and therefore the first competition of sorts. So I didn't ride really well - strangely I rode better when I wasn't trying to go as fast, or checking the lap times."
The highlight of the day took place when the normal testing schedule was broken for a simulated 55-minute qualifying session for the 27 MotoGP riders present. There was some extra motivation for the riders, as the fastest lap time setter had the chance to win a brand new BMW 330CD. The IRTA test became more like a genuine Grand Prix frenzy as the riders competed. The eventual winner was Italian Loris Capirossi, who set a time of 1'43.634.
Of the qualifying simulation, Melandri commented, "Going as fast as you can for two laps only is not so important for me. Capirossi has always been the best at this kind of thing - he deserves the BMW!
Team Director Davide Brivio commented about the weekend, "We are happy about Marco's performance here. If this had been a real final qualifying session, he would have started from second row, which would be a great achievement. Now we are going to Suzuka for the first race and we hope that Marco can continue to improve from there on. I am disappointed for Carlos' performance because as a rider and with the bike he can do more. I hope that he will do better in Suzuka."
1. Loris Capirossi, Ducati Marlboro Team 1'43.634
2. Tohru Ukawa, Camel Pramac Pons 1'43.832
3. Alex Barros, Gauloises Yamaha Team 1'43.878
4. Sete Gibernau, Telefonica Movistar Honda 1'44.071
5. Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda 1'44.111
6. Daijiro Kato, Telefonica Movistar Honda 1'44.290
7. Max Biaggi, Camel Pramac Pons 1'44.326
8. Shinya Nakano, Yamaha Team d'Antin 1'44.803
9. Troy Bayliss, Ducati Marlboro Team 1'44.893
10. MARCO MELANDRI, FORTUNA YAMAHA TEAM 1'44.922
11. CARLOS CHECA, FORTUNA YAMAHA TEAM 1'44.992