Checa on Le Mans Front Row as Rossi Moves up to Fourth Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha rider Carlos Checa will start from the front row of the grid for the second race in succession tomorrow after finishing today's final French Grand Prix qualifying ...
Checa on Le Mans Front Row as Rossi Moves up to Fourth
Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha rider Carlos Checa will start from the front row of the grid for the second race in succession tomorrow after finishing today's final French Grand Prix qualifying session second fastest. World Champion Valentino Rossi will start from fourth, heading the second row less than one tenth of a second behind his team-mate. The first six riders were within half a second of each other today, promising a close fight for the French fans tomorrow.
After oil on the track suspended the session for fifteen minutes, action restarted with 50 minutes left on the clock. One of the first riders to improve on his time from yesterday, Checa remained in third until Biaggi moved up the rankings and pushed him down to fourth. With ten minutes to go Checa took pole, only to be overtaken by Honda riders Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi. In the closing stages he improved his time once more and finished the session in second with a final fastest time of 1'33.575. The Spaniard was just a fraction slower than Championship leader Gibernau, who took pole for the first time this year with a time of 1'33.425. Completing the front row is Max Biaggi, who posted a time of 1'33.579. Meanwhile Rossi put in some fast laps in the closing stages of the session, his best time of 1'33.668 good enough to see him head the second row tomorrow. He is joined by Colin Edwards (Honda -- 1'33.870) and Marco Melandri (1'33.920), the third Yamaha in the top six.
CARLOS CHECA (2nd -- 1'33.575)
"I am quite satisfied with today! The team has done a great job all weekend and we have been at the top in all the practices. I feel that we are ready now for the race tomorrow. Of course, I always want to improve more, but I have arrived with some good form and I am feeling happy. Now I need to have a good start tomorrow. Of course to stay at the front for the whole race will be very hard but I will try and I'll see what happens! I feel confident that we will be able to fight at the front. I really hope I can put on a good show and make people happy tomorrow."
VALENTINO ROSSI (4th -- 1'33.668)
"The situation has been better than yesterday but we are still behind. This morning we went quite well but we didn't make so much progress this afternoon. We are still having problems with the braking and it's difficult to control. We've tried many different things with the suspension and we've solved some problems but not all. I went quite well on the qualifying tyres and finally was fourth, but I think it will be quite different tomorrow with the race tyres. Biaggi, Gibernau, Checa and Edwards are all very strong and it will be difficult. For sure the level this year is higher and all the races are going to be hard. Carlos went well and was faster than me. I hope that in the warm-up tomorrow we can make some improvements before the race."
ANTONIO JIMENEZ -- CARLOS CHECA'S CREW CHIEF
"We kept pretty much the same base that we had yesterday and for this morning's practice and we are happy with the results. Today we've worked mostly on the tyres; keeping things simple and not making too many changes. We are now looking forward to tomorrow. There are more than two or three riders who can be there tomorrow so it will be a close race. Carlos already has an advantage starting from the front row and I think he can have a good start; he has a chance to do well. We'll see tomorrow; we don't know until the light is green but we are optimistic!"
1. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar Honda 1'33.425
2. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA 1'33.575
3. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Honda 1'33.579
4. VALENTINO ROSSI (ITA) GAULOISES FORTUNA YAMAHA 1'33.668