French Grand Prix Le Mans, France Friday 14th May Checa On Provisional French Front Row and Rossi Seventh Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha rider Carlos Checa took full advantage of a dry and sunny first qualifying session at the Le Mans circuit...
French Grand Prix
Le Mans, France
Friday 14th May
Checa On Provisional French Front Row and Rossi Seventh
Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha rider Carlos Checa took full advantage of a dry and sunny first qualifying session at the Le Mans circuit today, putting himself in provisional third position for Sunday's race after a string of consistently fast laps. Meanwhile, reigning World Champion and team-mate Valentino Rossi spent his first time on the M1 machine at the French circuit trying to overcome some minor set-up problems, finishing provisional seventh.
Checa, who was third fastest in this morning's free practice, took the lead on his tenth lap of the hour-long qualifying session. Moments later he relinquished the top spot to Honda rider Colin Edwards, before taking it back again with 20 minutes remaining when he posted his fastest lap of 1'34.207. Rossi moved up to third place with 14 minutes to go, before finishing the day in seventh with a time of 1'34.307. In the dying stages Checa was pushed down to third as Edwards took the lead once more with a new circuit best lap of 1'33.870 and then Nicky Hayden (Honda) jumped into second with a time of 1'33.966. Yamaha compatriot Marco Melandri (1'34.260), Sete Gibernau (Honda -- 1'34.288) and Makoto Tamada (Honda -- 1'34.303) finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
CARLOS CHECA (3rd -- 1'34.207)
"I feel quite good today; the bike felt quite different and had improved feeling. We've been changing a few settings and my lap times are already good, but I need more grip at the front. The new track surface is really nice; I appreciate what they've done. The only risky area is the chicanes, where I crashed three years ago. If someone crosses them or crashes you end up with gravel on the track -- like what happened with the 125's this morning. Anyway, hopefully we'll make the small changes I need for tomorrow and hopefully I can stay up at the top."
VALENTINO ROSSI (7th -- 1'34.307)
"I had some problems today and I couldn't ride the way I wanted to -- at 100%. I'm mainly having braking problems and the bike doesn't feel stable. We've made some changes to the front and some changes to the back but I still can't improve. Towards the end we made some positive steps, but not enough. The Yamaha corners well and is very agile, but we're still a way behind the others. The fact that Carlos and Marco are doing well gives me confidence and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
ANTONIO JIMENEZ -- CARLOS CHECA'S CREW CHIEF
"Carlos definitely likes this track -- he normally does well here, although he didn't finish some races here in the past due to unfortunate circumstances. We started with the same bike set-up here as in Jerez. Carlos did a few laps this morning and liked it immediately so the changes we made were very slight and this is definitely the solution. He needs a little bit more stability in the front tyre and, if we can find this tomorrow without making any big changes, then for sure he can fight again for the front row."
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Colin Edwards (USA) Telefonica Movistar Honda 1'33.870
2. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda Team 1'33.966
3. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA 1'34.207
7. VALENTINO ROSSI (ITA) GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA 1'34.307