Italian heat makes for a difficult final qualifier for Fortuna Yamaha The final qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix today at the picturesque Mugello circuit proved to be a difficult time for both Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Carlos...
Italian heat makes for a difficult final qualifier for Fortuna Yamaha
The final qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix today at the picturesque Mugello circuit proved to be a difficult time for both Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri, with neither able to improve their provisional times from yesterday in the sweltering conditions. It was a similar story for much of the 23-bike MotoGP field, with the first improvements in laptimes only making an appearance midway through the hour-long session, and only half that number making any progress through the time sheets.
Despite all efforts made at bettering his Friday time, once a competitive race day set-up had been archived, Checa could not defend his fifth place on the grid and will start tomorrow's 23-lap race from seventh. The only consolation is that it will still be a second row start for the 30-year old, who finished fourth in the Mugello main event last year.
Even provisional polesitter Loris Capirossi (Ducati, 1'51.954) was unable to do any better. This left the window of opportunity open for a rather determined Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1'51.921), who took the prime position by a mere 0.033 seconds. D'Antin Yamaha Team rider Shinya Nakano produced a 1' 51.986 to finish third for tomorrow's starting grid, making it three manufacturers in the '51s, with Max Biaggi (Honda, 1'52.021) completing the front row.
Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa's qualifying time, a 1'52.290, fell short of the 1'51.900 he produced during the private Fortuna Yamaha Team test held here in May, which he mostly attributed to today's high track temperatures;
"I couldn't improve on yesterday's time today, I just couldn't get a good feeling," said Checa. "It might be that the track condition has changed, the asphalt condition or something. I tried different tyres, both front and rear, but I still didn't feel as confident as I would have liked. Towards the end of the session the engine was not running normally as well so I couldn't finish the session and aim for a faster lap time. My target was to get a good pace, not just to get a good grid position and I wasn't able to do that. I'm not bothered about the starting position, I just want to make a good race and I hope that I'll be able to do that tomorrow."
It was a similar story for his team-mate Marco Melandri, who lost the front of his M1 with 20 minutes remaining after pushing a little too hard and hitting a bump. Despite this the local 250cc World Champion has continually shown steady progress since his first competitive MotoGP ride in Jerez, only two rounds ago, and is clearly coming to terms with the characteristics of the YZR-M1 machine and the competitiveness of the premier class of the World Championship. Since he was unable to improve on the 1'52.687, set during Friday qualifying, the 20-year-old Italian will start his home MotoGP race from 12th on the grid - only 0.766 seconds off pole.
"I was pushing hard with the rear and it felt so good, then there were lots of bumps in the corner and I crashed," said Melandri. "I was maybe a bit too fast, but the feeling had been really good until then, it felt better than yesterday. I was able to get a good rhythm and was focussing on how it would feel in the race. After I fell I took my number one bike, I had been using bike number two until then, and even though the bike was set up exactly the same, it didn't feel quite as good. My fan club is here and have come from many places in Italy, so I want to perform well for them tomorrow."
Fortuna Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio is hoping that both riders will be able to regain a 'good feeling' for tomorrow, "Today neither rider could improve on yesterday's grid lap times, unfortunately Carlos couldn't try for a hot lap at the end of the session. We have found out that due to some problems with the fuel pump he was forced to pull in and wasn't able to complete the session. Marco had to use his other bike after he slid off, and he just couldn't find the same feeling again so it was a difficult session for him. But before he fell he had found a good race pace. Let's hope for a good race tomorrow - it's such a competitive group out there, again, so it will be difficult."
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 1'51.927
2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) DUCATI Marlboro Team 1'51.954
3. Shinya Nakano (JPN) D'Antin YAMAHA Team 1'51.986
4. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 1'52.021
7. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'52.290
12. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'52.687