It was a promising start to the Pacific Grand Prix for the Fortuna Yamaha Team at the Motegi circuit today. Team-mates Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri both featured well in the top ten during the first qualifying session at the Japanese track....
It was a promising start to the Pacific Grand Prix for the Fortuna Yamaha Team at the Motegi circuit today. Team-mates Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri both featured well in the top ten during the first qualifying session at the Japanese track. The factory team's opening performance even included a significant stint at the head of the time sheets, as Spaniard Checa held the top spot for several laps. Recent advancements to the base chassis and suspension set-up have improved the YZR-M1's stability and rideability, even on the 'stop and go' Motegi layout.
After setting the fourth fastest time in this morning's free practice, Checa continued to show significant improvement throughout the day. The Spaniard took provisional pole with 20 minutes of this afternoon's first qualifying session remaining and looked set to stay there when, in the final few minutes, a flurry of riders began to leapfrog one another for the number one slot. Checa was relegated back to seventh with a personal best time of 1' 49.604.
"I feel more comfortable on the bike, I don't know if it's the track or the changes to our chassis set-up," explained Checa. "I've been quite competitive during the whole session. At the end I tried a soft qualifying tyre but it didn't make so much of a difference and the competition was high. I think we need even more front feeling, and that's what I'm hoping to find tomorrow. Yamaha have been working very hard on the engine and it's good to see our top speed higher. Now we need to work more on the set-up, and hopefully this weekend will be a success."
Fortuna Yamaha rider Marco Melandri was back to his customary competitive form today, after a disappointing Rio Grand Prix two weeks ago. The young Italian even featured in the top three during this afternoon's hour-long session, before concluding proceedings in ninth place. The 21-year-old focused his efforts on fine-tuning the new M1 chassis set-up, rather than chasing a one off fastest lap.
"The asphalt here is flat and better than Rio," said a contented Melandri. "The bike is working quite well now. We tried many things today and lost about 30 minutes this morning because the engine had a slight problem. This afternoon we tried three different tyres, of which I need to choose one for the race. I lost some time at the end of the session when I made a mistake about half way through the lap. I'm quite confident for tomorrow. Our speed is better but we also need to improve our acceleration as the straight here is not so long. Tomorrow we will work on perfecting my overall setting."
Team Director Davide Brivio said, "We're working to find the benefits of a new set-up. We received new engine specs and have changed some suspension setting based on our ongoing analysis. We're working to get everything set up and it seems our riders are quite happy with it. Carlos was top for most of the session but in the last few minutes was pushed to seventh. We will continue to develop our race set-up tomorrow but we have already made improvements today."
Sete Gibernau (Honda) eventually took provisional pole with a best lap time of 1'48.707, ahead of Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1'48.891) and the ever improving Makoto Tamada (Honda, 1'48.910). These top three were the only riders to break into the sub-'49 barrier. Max Biaggi (Honda, 1'49.123) completed the front row.
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar HONDA 1'48.707
2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 1'48.891
3. Makoto Tamada (JPN) Pramac HONDA 1'48.910
4. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 1'49.123
7. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'49.604
9. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'49.858