FYT Catalunya GP Saturday notes

Fortuna Yamaha improve despite extreme Catalan temperatures With conditions getting even hotter for the second day of qualifying for the Catalunya Grand Prix today, very few riders were expected to improve on their provisional times. But as...

Fortuna Yamaha improve despite extreme Catalan temperatures

With conditions getting even hotter for the second day of qualifying for the Catalunya Grand Prix today, very few riders were expected to improve on their provisional times. But as the hour-long session came to a close both Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri were able to do just that, bettering their initial performances by 0.792 and 0.257seconds respectively.

Checa, who was pushing hard in the scorching conditions, gained ground not only in relation to the stopwatch but also on the starting grid for tomorrow 's 25-lap main event. The Spaniard, who won his first ever 500cc Grand Prix at this very venue, will now start the sixth round of the 2003 season from the second row. Although Checa only gained a four-place advantage over his Friday performance - up from 12th on the grid to eighth - the 30-year-old is feeling more confident after today's qualifying performance because of the progress made with the base chassis geometry by the team overnight.

Provisional polesitter Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1'43.927) was one of a few riders who were unable to improve on their provisional time, but still the defending MotoGP World Champion was able to retain his place at the head of the pack. The Italian will lead Loris Capirossi (Ducati, 1'44.333) and third fastest man Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Team, 1'44.358) off the line once the lights go green - the Frenchman finding over one second today to place the YZR-M1 on the front row.

"We changed the balance of the bike overnight and it seemed to work," explained local-boy Checa. "We saw yesterday that we hadn't gone in the right direction with the bike's balance so we made changes to the chassis. We lost a day but at least we've recovered a little today, and we're starting from the second row. We've done a good job and I'm happy to have found my confidence with the bike.

"There's no doubt that the race will be very tough. There are many competitive riders who can be up front and it's good to see all the Yamaha riders improving. The most important point will be after 15 laps when we'll see who can keep a good pace. I think Rossi seems to be OK, but I'm quite confident as well."

Like his Fortuna Yamaha Team-mate, Melandri was able to improve on his provisional qualifying time but despite all efforts made by the team the 20-year-old rookie couldn't advance any further up the grid - remaining 14th fastest on combined times. Although a little disappointed with the result Melandri is fully aware that the high temperatures have played a significant role in reducing drive he was able to get off the long turns.

"We're having a difficult time," admitted Melandri. "I just don't have grip through the turns and can't really open the gas. We've tried a lot of different things yesterday and today but nothing has really helped. Some things improve one area, but make another area worse. It's hard, but we'll be working tonight and looking to find something for tomorrow in the warm-up."

"I'm very happy to see our riders moving in the right direction," said Yamaha's YZR-M1 project leader Mr Ichiro Yoda. "We've changed the balance of the bike slightly and worked on some suspension settings. I think Michelin obviously have some good tyres here that seem to suit the Yamaha.

"The conditions are very hot and that will make it pretty tough for the riders and the tyres in the race. It's like an endurance race. This track is not an easy one, so I'm happy with where we are, which is more in the direction of what we expect. However, we are all still working hard to make sure we're up front all the time."

FRONT ROW
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 1'43.927
2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) DUCATI Marlboro Team 1'44.333
3. Olivier Jacque (FRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Team 1'44.358
4. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar HONDA 1'44.366

8. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'44.790
14. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'45.804

-fyt-

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