Xaus sixth and Hodgson ninth in Magny-Cours Friday qualifying
Magny-Cours (France), 17 October 2003: Ducati Fila riders Ruben Xaus and Neil Hodgson could only manage sixth and ninth quickest times respectively in Magny-Cours first qualifying as Chris Walker (HM Plant Ducati) headed Regis Laconi (NCR Ducati) for the top slot.
Both the Spaniard and the British rider complained of lack of grip around the 4.411 km circuit but were confident they would improve in tomorrow's final session. Conditions were unusually cold throughout the day at Magny-Cours, with the weather forecast promising more of the same over the weekend.
"I didn't expect to be that far down on the grid" declared the new world champion, Neil Hodgson, "especially after we tested here last Friday. We've got a lot of work to do in all areas basically because the bike just doesn't feel the same as it did last week. In particular we're struggling with the gearing and with the tyre spinning coming out of the slow corners, but we'll make a few changes tomorrow and I'm sure you'll see me up at the front at the end of the day".
"I have a lot of problems with the rear at the corners, but not when I come out, it's when I go in" explained Ruben Xaus. "I can't stop the bike at the reference points I had last week, because I go really long. The conditions are different for sure, including the temperature, so maybe the rear doesn't grip as much and you tend to brake more at the front and that makes the rear lighter. When you go long in the corners, that ruins your exit. We know what we have to do, we've had a few Fridays like this before, Sunday is the race, that's the important thing".
TIMES: 1. Walker (HM Plant Ducati) 1'41.089; 2. Laconi (NCR Ducati) 1'41.452; 3. Lavilla (Suzuki) 1'41.523; 4. Toseland (HM Plant Ducati) 1'41.723; 5. Chili (PSG-1 Ducati) 1'41.759; 6. Xaus (Ducati Fila) 1'41.876; 7. Corser (Petronas) 1'42.089; 8. Martin (DFX Ducati) 1'42.107; 9. Hodgson (Ducati Fila) 1'42.427; 10. Gimbert (Suzuki) 1'42.796.
TV COVERAGE : Eurosport (Europe) - Sunday 19 October, 1200 Race 1 (live), 1830 Race 2 (delayed). RAI (Italy) - Saturday 18 October, 1730 Superpole (live); Monday 20 October, 0135 Race 1 & 2 (highlights).