Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri and their MotoGP competitors, battled against brutally windy conditions and each other in today's final qualifying session of the Portuguese Grand Prix. The offshore winds, which gusted...
Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri and their MotoGP competitors, battled against brutally windy conditions and each other in today's final qualifying session of the Portuguese Grand Prix. The offshore winds, which gusted up to
28kmh, prevented any significant improvement from yesterday's first qualifying times until the final ten minutes of today's session. It was at this stage that the leader board became rather active, and Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Checa and Melandri both improved on their times from yesterday, eventually finishing the session seventh and eleventh fastest respectively.
Checa produced a lap time of 1'39.225 during the qualifier to feature on the front row but unfortunately that result did not stick, and he was relegated back to seventh as the chequered flag brought the session to a close. He entered the session confident that he could improve on his provisional qualifying time and did just that, by 0.680 seconds. Unfortunately it was not enough to hold onto his provisional sixth place on the grid, despite being only 0.813 seconds off pole.
The Spaniard felt that although progress had been made with the base set-up of his Yamaha YZR-M1 machine, he was still losing time in stages of the twisty circuit. "I've been trying as hard as I can but I couldn't get past the same limitations that we had yesterday," said the thirty-year-old. "We tried new tyres this afternoon, which offered some improvement, but I still need more side grip in some areas, especially on the front. I was feeling quite slow in all parts of the circuit today, but especially the last part. It's most difficult in the areas where the bike is on its side for a long time. Anyway seventh is not the worse qualifying position - hopefully I can get a good start. I will discuss it again with my crew and see if there are any more changes we can make to solve my difficulties."
Marco Melandri had a similar story to that of his team-mate Checa in today's session. After an impressive and consistent run this afternoon where he featured well in the top ten throughout, the young Italian posted the third fastest time with only three minutes remaining. However in the final moments of the session he was pushed back to the third row of the starting grid, ending the session in eleventh position with a time of 1'39.557.
The twenty-one-year-old is still confident that he will be able to put in a competitive performance in tomorrow's race. "This morning was not so bad," said the current 250cc World Champion. "Then we had some problems this afternoon with the tyres that we're considering for the race. It was windier this afternoon than this morning as well, and the tyres felt a bit too hard for me in these conditions. In the end I was quite fast in the first three sections of the track but slow in the last section - I think it was the same for the other Yamahas. On the last corner I couldn't get on the power well enough and I don't know why. Anyway I felt better than yesterday and better than in Brno. The qualifying is so fast and tight now, it's unbelievable. Hopefully I will be able to follow some of the faster riders and then stay with them!"
Setting the benchmark in today's session was Ducati rider Loris Capirossi, who bettered Checa's 2002 pole position time by 1.381 seconds. He secured the number one slot with a time of 1'38.412 ahead of Max Biaggi (Honda, 1' 38.718), Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1'38.774) and Sete Gibernau (Honda, 1' 38.920). Leading the second row was Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Team, 1 '39.042) - the Frenchman was unable to hold onto his provisional number two grid position after a small mistake on his flying lap.
Fortuna Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio said, "Despite not finding the perfect set-up I think Carlos can run at a good pace, and his starting position is okay. I hope to see him stay in the top group again. At the end of the session Marco improved a lot but he has difficulty in the last part of the track, so we need to work to see if we can solve that. Normally he is a good starter so he could do well. He went out just for one fast lap and didn't really have the chance to improve further, so I think he's got more to give. It was very windy out there, so I hope for everyone's sake that it calms down a bit by tomorrow."
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) DUCATI Marlboro Team 1'38.412
2. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 1'38.718
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 1'38.744
4. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'38.920
7. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'39.225
11. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'40.836