Rossi Tops the Time Sheets on Final Day at Barcelona IRTA Tests
Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi recorded the fastest lap of the weekend as an intense fight saw the top 13 MotoGP riders, including Rossi's team-mate Carlos Checa, finish the Barcelona IRTA Test with times inside one minute of each other. Today's MotoGP riding agenda entailed three sessions, and with a prize of a BMW Z4 up for grabs during the 45-minute afternoon official practice, Italian Rossi prevailed at the last minute with a time good enough to keep him at the top of the combined standings throughout the final free practice later on. After an early fall along with five other riders due to oil on the track, Carlos Checa finally finished the test ninth fastest at his home circuit, pleased with his progress and feeling positive for Jerez next week. The incident interrupted the first half of the early afternoon session, as the red flags were put out whilst track officials cleaned up the oil.
The leader board was dominated in the early afternoon by American Colin Edwards, who put in a string of consistently fast laps on his Honda machine. With seven minutes left on the clock, Rossi took the lead with a flying lap, only to relinquish it again to Edwards a few minutes later. Returning to the pits for a brief tyre change, Rossi took the lead again on his last lap with a time of 1'44.571. This was enough for him to claim the BMW prize, despite last minute charges from Edwards again (1'44.653) and fellow Honda rider Sete Gibernau (1'44.669.) Checa, slightly shaken up from his earlier brush with the tarmac, was happy to post the eighth fastest time of 1' 45.171.
Rossi stayed on top for the rest of the day but the final leader board altered slightly during the last session of the test, when Honda team-mates Alex Barros and Nicky Hayden put in hot laps of 1'44.631 and 1'44.634 respectively to take them second and third fastest of the test. Checa had another unfortunate fall at the same corner as earlier, caught off-guard by tyres which were slightly too hard. However he was not hurt and continued to work on the set-up of Yamaha's latest engine spec, which he first tested on Friday.
Valentino Rossi (1'44.571)
"This is really satisfying! I am really sincerely very happy to win this car, to have got this time and to have put in more than one fast lap. The whole day has been a brilliant surprise and we're all very happy. I think this year will be great for the Championship as a whole because it's going to be very competitive. Everyone has put in so much hard work - the team and the Yamaha engineers - and we've done a great job so far. There is still a lot of work to do and a long way to go, but we've made a good performance. This year is going to be a great challenge; let's see if we can continue as we have started today."
Carlos Checa (1'45.171)
"The moment I went out on the track for the qualifying session I felt there was some oil on the track, and before I could do anything about it there were six bikes on the ground. The new engine spec I'm trying works quite well with this chassis but we need to alter the set-up a bit more; I still have a long way to go. Valentino did a great job today and it's very motivating to have him as a team-mate; it's a great challenge for me to see how close I can get.
Davide Brivio, Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team Director
"We didn't win a race and we didn't get any points but it's nice to win this first prize. I'm very happy that we can offer today's results to everyone involved in the project. We are having a very busy winter and it's very satisfying for everyone on days like today. This will give us more motivation to continue working hard with the target to be competitive in a race situation as soon as possible."
The next MotoGP Official IRTA Tests take place in Jerez, Spain on Wednesday 31 March and Thursday 1 April.
<pre> Sunday Times:
1. VALENTINO ROSSI (ITA) GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA 1'44.571 2. Alex Barros (BRA) Repsol Honda 1'44.631 3. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda 1'44.634 4. Colin Edwards (USA) Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot 1'44.653 5. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot 1'44.669 6. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati Marlboro Team 1'44.871 7. Kenny Roberts (USA) Team Suzuki MotoGP 1'45.046 8. Ruben Xaus (SPA) D'Antin MotoGP 1'45.073 9. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA 1'45.171 10. Marco Melandri (ITA) Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 1'45.196