Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa produced a brilliant performance aboard their Factory Yamaha YZR-M1s during the final qualifying session for the British Grand Prix today at the historical Donington Park circuit. Both ...
Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa produced a brilliant performance aboard their Factory Yamaha YZR-M1s during the final qualifying session for the British Grand Prix today at the historical Donington Park circuit. Both riders rode strongly during the hour-long session before finally fighting it out for a front row start with only minutes remaining.
As the competition made a last effort to secure their grid positions for tomorrow's 30-lap race, the talented Melandri produced a sensational flying-lap around the 4023m venue. The 20-year-old Italian, who won the 250cc race at Donington last year, placed himself on the front row for a second time today but this time it was a laptime of 1'30.926, which secured third place for the MotoGP rookie. The result came after the 250cc World Champion steadily improved the overall balance of his M1, increasing both drive off the turns and feel from the front-end, to close the day only 0.186 seconds shy of pole position.
In the final rush to the flag it was Max Biaggi (Honda) who claimed the number one slot with a 1'30.740, relegating Sete Gibernau (Honda) to second place - the Spaniard posting a 1'30.862 to be a mere 0.064 seconds ahead of Melandri. Provisional pole sitter and defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1'30.938) completed the front row, with Checa set to lead the second row charge in fifth position on the grid.
Melandri was delighted to take his second front row start of the season for tomorrow's race. "I'm really happy," beamed the young Italian. "When I saw my lap time I was quite surprised because the start of my final lap was quite slow as Sete was in front of me for a moment. My bike was so good today though; it felt much better than ever before - a big thanks to my team because they worked so well. They changed the set-up again slightly since yesterday and it really worked. It will be very difficult tomorrow but I'll do my best. Physically I feel in the best condition since my accident in Suzuka. My arms have ached a bit after the end of each qualifying session since then until now but they don't at all today. It's really good to feel normal at the end of the session, and now of course to be starting from the front row!"
Checa, who produced a 'text book' performance during today's session in an effort to defend the provisional front row start he achieved yesterday, was eventually dislodged from the top four despite repeatedly producing the times needed. The UK resident, who enjoys racing at the Donington circuit, eventually set a best time of 1'31.035 to head the second row of the Donington Grand Prix starting grid. Although Checa still needs to finalise his choice of race tyres, and despite the closeness of the qualifying times - one second covering the top 13 - the 30-year-old is confident about the main event.
"All the riders have been very close during this qualifying session, so I think the race tomorrow will be very good, but quite difficult because it is a 30 lap race" said the Catalan. "We have worked so hard all weekend and the results have been consistent. I feel confident for the race tomorrow and hopefully the weather will be OK again! We've been keeping a good pace during the day. The only thing we are not sure about is the tyres so we will decide about them for sure in the morning."
"This is a great way to start the race," said Fortuna Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio. "Both riders and their teams have been working incredibly hard and we have a lot to prove. Marco's second front row start of the season is just what he needs to increase his confidence as he has had some difficulties at the last few races, especially at the last race in Assen. He deserves to do well and now he's in a position to get a great start and hopefully keep the momentum during the whole race.
"Carlos has worked equally hard this weekend; he is showing the consistency that he has craved so much and says he feels good on the bike. He needs to check which tyres to use for the race and will use the morning warm-up tomorrow to do so. The usual suspects are up at the front and there is not much time between them, so I hope it's going to be a great race tomorrow, for everybody in the team."