Checa Storms to Pole Position
Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha) rode a stunning final qualifying session this afternoon to take the pole position for tomorrow's inaugural Qatar Grand Prix. The 31-year-old Spaniard moved to the top of the time sheets with eight minutes remaining. Despite a lot of movement in the positions behind him, Checa's time stuck until he bettered it himself with another stunning and final lap. Checa's team-mate Valentino Rossi had been in the number one slot when Checa went fastest. The five-time World Champion and current series leader eventually slipped to an unfamiliar third row start with the eighth fastest time after a succession of riders put in flying laps in the final minute of the hour-long session.
Alex Barros (Honda) saved his best to the very last to promote himself to second on the grid with Rossi's main Championship rival Sete Gibernau (Honda) completing the front row. Checa's time was over two seconds faster than yesterday's fastest as the grip continued to improve at the new track.
The race starts at 3pm local time (2pm CET) tomorrow (Saturday) at the all-new Losail Circuit. The impressive new facility is situated 20kms north of Doha and features a 5.4km track made up of 16 varied turns.
CARLOS CHECA (POLE POSITION, 1'58.988s)
"We have done a great job to arrive here and get pole. I didn't really expect it but just rode the bike with full confidence. Michelin has done a good job but I am especially pleased with the work of my team. We went back to a setting that we used a few races ago and it worked well. It's going to be a tough race in these temperatures, especially for the tyres. But I believe we have the right choice and a tyre that will go the distance.
"The important thing tomorrow will be to get a good start and that is why this pole is so important. A good line has developed on the track now, but off that line it is very slippery and it will be hard to overtake. We'll see what happens, but I am confident I can have a good race tomorrow. At least we know it's not going to rain!"
VALENTINO ROSSI (8th, 1'59.494s)
"I'm happy because we set the bike up well today and we had a good rhythm with the race tyre. Unfortunately I finished eighth because I had a problem to use the qualifying tyre. I also went straight on in the last corner towards the end of the session and so lost about five minutes as I had to go back to the garage. It's a shame because starting from the third row will make life difficult tomorrow as it will be hard to overtake. We have about one-and-a-half metres where there is a clean line and outside that there is no grip because of the sand. We're probably going to make some small modifications tomorrow morning, but it is going to be a difficult race for us."
DAVIDE BRIVIO -- GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR
"Congratulations to Carlos and his crew who have done a great job. He used his tyres very well today. His race pace is pretty good too so I am expecting a good race from him. It's important that he gets away well. "For Valentino a good start is probably even more important. Despite the fact that he was the fastest rider out there on race tyres he ended up on the third row in the final melee. Tomorrow he'll need all his ability to get a good result. It will be a hard race because of the hot conditions but also because of the nature of the track where it's easy to make mistakes. The result is very unpredictable but with Valentino we need to think of the Championship and try to score as many points as possible."