A disappointing third row start for Fortuna Yamaha Team
After a strong start to the second day of the Spanish Grand Prix, held in Jerez, southern Spain - where Carlos Checa set the fifth fastest time during morning free practice - the Fortuna Yamaha Team rider completed the final qualifier for his home MotoGP race in a disappointing tenth place. Ironically the time set, a 1'42.711, was a significant improvement over his provisional qualifying performance and was in fact only 0.728 seconds off pole position, but it was not enough to keep Checa on the second row for tomorrow's race.
Checa initially approached the afternoon session with renewed enthusiasm, after making significant improvements to the chassis balance of his YZR-M1 during the morning session, and was the first rider to better his Friday qualifying time. But with the increasing track temperatures the Spaniard was unable to find the grip needed to take his charge any further up the grid.
In a surprise result Ducati placed both its V-four four-strokes on the front row in only its third MotoGP event, with riders Loris Capirossi (1'41.983) and Troy Bayliss (1'41.993) securing first and second respectively. The pair were the only two to dip into the 41s, with Capirossi claiming a new circuit best lap in the process - 0.937 seconds below Valentino Rossi's 2002 lap record - while Max Biaggi (Honda, 1'42.124) and Tohru Ukawa (Honda, 1' 42.258) completed the front row. Championship points leader Rossi (Honda, 1' 42.276) qualified fifth overall.
"I was trying hard but the lap times just didn't come," explained Spaniard Carlos Checa. "This morning things went quite well but the change in temperature did seem to have quite a big effect. We had quite a bit of movement from the rear, that we tried to fix during the session. When I put on new tyres and pushed I expected to be faster. Unfortunately on my fastest lap I did have some traffic, otherwise I could have easily moved up a row. When you are not totally comfortable you have to really push and get a perfect lap to get a good time. When things are going well it comes much easier.
"So far we've done quite a good job this weekend but we've reached a level and it is proving hard to get to the next step. I am confidant that I can keep a good pace for the race but it is hard to think about winning. But it' s a long, hard race here and always very special because of the fans, so you never know what will happen."
Although still far from racing at his full potential Marco Melandri (Fortuna Yamaha Team) made a solid improvement today to finish day two of the Spanish MotoGP 16th, with a 1'43.020. Although still suffering from a little discomfort - the result of the injuries suffered in his Suzuka crash - Melandri managed to qualify within one second off pole.
"I was not too bad on the bike today," said Melandri. "It's still not perfect and there are certain areas where I can't push as hard as I would like because of my back and ankle. However, the important things for me this weekend are to start my season and to make sure I finish the race. I'm starting from quite a way back on the grid but the distance is not too bad - it's incredible this year how close the qualifying is. I have been using the new fairing but, for the time being, I have switched to the old seat as it is a little lower and suits me better.
"I'm optimistic for the race. I know it will be tough from half distance but I think I can take some good points. But now I shall head to the Clinica Mobile and just relax and have some more treatment."
Fortuna Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio has taken some positives from the day: "Carlos was in a pretty good position before all the hot-laps started in the last fifteen minutes. Unfortunately he wasn't able to get in his very last run and I know he would have been in a much better position. The race is very different to qualifying and, if he can get a good start from 10th he should be able to run with the leaders.
"It's surprising to see Marco set such a quick time given the physical difficulties he has. We know that he is a tough guy and he'll do his maximum in the race. We're looking forward to seeing him race for us for the first time. The experience will be important for all of us."
1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) DUCATI Marlboro Team 1'41.983
2. Troy Bayliss (AUS) DUCATI Marlboro Team 1'41.993
3. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 1'42.124
4. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 1'42.258
10. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'42.711
16. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'43.020