The Fortuna Yamaha Team made a significant improvement during the Dutch TT final qualifying session in Assen today, with both Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri featuring well on the provisional front row during the closing stages of the hour-long ...
The Fortuna Yamaha Team made a significant improvement during the Dutch TT final qualifying session in Assen today, with both Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri featuring well on the provisional front row during the closing stages of the hour-long session. As the final five-minute jostle for positions began, a front row start was open to all. Among the contenders, MotoGP rookie Melandri made a charge for pole, setting the fastest time to T3 before crossing the line with the third fastest time - until a flurry of YZR-M1s relegated the 20-year-old Italian to eighth.
Checa also jumped in on the last minute rush for the ultimate lap to eventually close the day as the fastest Yamaha rider - producing a time of 2 '00.169 to complete the front row in fourth. The Spaniard made a significant improvement over his provisional qualifying time by 1.643 seconds, the result of a further improvement that his team made to the M1's overall chassis balance since yesterday.
Valentino Rossi's (Honda) provisional pole looked set to remain at the top of the time sheets during the early stages, with very few able to dislodge the defending MotoGP World Champion. That was until the possessed performance of Loris Capirossi (Ducati), who made history as the first MotoGP rider to break the Assen two-minute barrier with a time of 1'59.770. His performance secured a pole position start for the Italian, with Max Biaggi (Honda, 1'59.941) and Rossi (1'59.964) rounding out the top three, and Fortuna Yamaha's Checa in fourth.
"Last year I started the TT from sixth place so it's great to be on the front row here," said a very happy Checa. "To say that I'm confident to fight for the victory is not an easy statement because the competition is so tough, but we're getting close. I'm certainly up with the top riders here, and the team have worked so hard for me to be in this position. We have made some minor changes to the bike's balance since yesterday, and once you get the bike dialled in as you want it here you can push harder. I just hope we can fight for the podium tomorrow."
Like his Fortuna Yamaha team-mate, the majority of Melandri's 1.431 seconds over his provisional qualifying performance was the result of a better base geometry set-up. But part of the progress was also influenced by the 250cc World Champion's increased understanding of how to get the maximum out of the 220 horsepower plus machine. Although the young Italian will start the 19-lap race from eighth on the grid, his performance today was in fact the seventh fastest combined lap-time - his time of 2'00.553 is identical to that of seventh place starter Sete Gibernau (Honda).
"I'm happy today," said Melandri. "I made a small mistake on my best lap at the last chicane and ran off the track, which was annoying as I was fighting for pole position. But my feeling for the bike is improving all the time and it was better today than it has been for a while. When I tried a soft tyre I tried to push again at the last exit but I had a big slide and couldn 't improve my lap-time. For sure I will have a better race here than I had in Barcelona. I hope that I can be close to my team-mate Carlos. I think I can!"
Team Manager Geoff Crust was very pleased with the improvement in the performance of both riders, "It's nice to see Carlos back on the front row because it's been quite a long time since he was last there for the start of a race, in fact since Motegi last year," he explained. "He's become more and more confident and comfortable with the bike at the last few races and now he is where we expect him to be. Also for Marco to challenge for pole position is great. He was maybe a little bit too aggressive and lost time on that last chicane but he's going for it, which is nice to see, especially since his difficult start to the year. Both the bikes are working well, both riders are working well, and the team is working well. We're ready to race!"
1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) DUCATI Marlboro Team 1'59.770
2. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 1'59.941
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 1'59.964
4. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 2'00.169
8. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 2'00.553