Rossi Takes Provisional Pole in South Africa Opener The long-awaited season-opening Africa's Grand Prix commenced in brilliant sunshine today with an exhilarating first MotoGP qualifying session on the bumpy Welkom circuit. Gauloises Fortuna ...
Rossi Takes Provisional Pole in South Africa Opener
The long-awaited season-opening Africa's Grand Prix commenced in brilliant sunshine today with an exhilarating first MotoGP qualifying session on the bumpy Welkom circuit. Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha rider and reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi, who was fastest in this morning's free practice session, took provisional pole position whilst his team-mate Carlos Checa finished in tenth place.
Twenty-five-year-old Rossi took the lead on his M1 machine after just ten minutes on the clock and managed to hold on to it for most of the session, despite plenty of fast-lap challenges from the rest of the MotoGP pack. With just seven minutes to go Loris Capirossi stole the lead on his Ducati, however Rossi answered back just moments later with a fastest lap of 1'33.353, bettering the lap record he set during last year's Welkom race by just over five-tenths of a second (1'33.851). Finishing the session just behind him was last year's race winner and Honda rider Sete Gibernau (1'33.378), followed by Ducati's Loris Capirossi (1'33.709) and Max Biaggi (Honda, 1'33.730). Checa, who is starting his sixth season with Yamaha, posted a time of 1'34.540, still needing a little more work to do to find the correct set-up.
VALENTINO ROSSI (1'33.353)
"I'm very happy and very surprised; I sincerely didn't expect this on the first day. We have done a lot of fast work in a very short time here and at the moment we're on top. The bike felt good with qualifying tyres but I'm having some problems with the race tyres, because I don't have enough grip. We still have a lot of work to do in order to be in a position to fight for the win on Sunday. We need to put in a lot more kilometres tomorrow to fix the minor problems. MotoGP qualifying is more important now than ever, because the top ten riders are generally within one second of each other, so I hope to start from the front!"
CARLOS CHECA (1'34.540)
"This morning I felt quite comfortable but it's clear from this afternoon that there is something that we still need to find to improve. I'm particularly having problems in turns three and four where I'm finding it difficult to keep the bike on the line, but this is just the first day. Obviously seeing Valentino's results, the bike has potential, but I can't find it right now. We also made some small changes to the suspension between this morning and this afternoon and we've probably gone a little bit in the wrong direction."
DAVIDE BRIVIO, GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR
"It's nice to be at the front on the first day, it's a good start and everyone involved in the project is really pleased. Carlos had quite a good morning session but couldn't find the right balance this afternoon, he will try to find a better setting tomorrow. The forecast is rain for tomorrow, but I hope that's not the case because both riders still have a lot of work to do to prepare their race bikes."