The high-speed sweeping Assen circuit proved challenging for most of the MotoGP line-up during the first day of the Dutch TT including the Fortuna Yamaha Team, which spent the opening qualifying session focusing its efforts on finding the ideal ...
The high-speed sweeping Assen circuit proved challenging for most of the MotoGP line-up during the first day of the Dutch TT including the Fortuna Yamaha Team, which spent the opening qualifying session focusing its efforts on finding the ideal chassis balance to deal with the unique circuit characteristics. Both Yamaha factory team riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri made significant improvements from their performances during this morning's free practice to post lap times of 2'01.812 and 2'01.984 respectively this afternoon.
Checa found a momentum throughout the hour-long session that should prove competitive on race day and the Spaniard is still confident that he and the team will find a suspension package that will allow for a more aggressive riding style, without sacrificing the sharp feel of the YZR-M1. Despite a less than ideal set-up Checa still set the sixth fastest time of the day - two tenths shy of the fifth-placed Colin Edwards (Aprilia, 2'01.608).
One rider unperturbed by the challenging 6027m Dutch venue was defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda). The Italian attacked the stopwatch from the outset and never relinquished his spot at the head of the timesheets - eventually posting 2'00.496 for provisional pole. He was closely followed by Max Biaggi (Honda, 2'00.677), the ever improving Loris Capirossi (Ducati, 2'00.698) and Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Alex Barros 2' 01.040, who completed the front row.
"If this was my starting position on the grid sixth would not be too bad, but I am still concerned about my pace and want to improve my times by at least one second," said Checa, who finished third here in last year's race. "It's not going to be easy to do that, I'm having a big problem at T1. That 's where I'm losing most of the time and I think we might be too soft with the rear spring. The front tyre is difficult to keep on the ground there as a result. We will adjust the set-up slightly before tomorrow and recheck how well it works. Generally not too bad a day."
Although Melandri, who won last year's 250cc Assen TT, made a significant improvement in this afternoon's session over his morning performance it wasn 't all plain sailing for the 20-year-old Italian. During this morning's free practice Melandri was showing great promise on the YZR-M1 when mud kicked up from the knee of Capirossi sprayed the front of the 250cc World Champion who was following him at the time, causing his M1 to lose traction on the slippery surface. The MotoGP rookie fell, damaging his number one bike. Although Melandri was able to rejoin the practice session his preferred machine was not so lucky, and he completed the remainder of the track time on his second bike.
"I'm quite happy about today and obviously I like this track," said Melandri. "I feel much better with the bike here than I did in Barcelona or Mugello. This track is different because it is smoother. I enjoyed the feeling more today, but obviously I lost a bit of time this morning after my small fall. I was following Capirossi when he touched the dirt with his knee. I had no time to react and came off.
"We are going to make a small change to our settings before tomorrow to see if I can get a better feeling in the fast corners. I would like to feel more comfortable with the rear weight, and hopefully we can adjust that for tomorrow."
"This circuit always treats the Yamahas well, and seems to have done so again today," commented Team Director Davide Brivio. "Marco had a tumble this morning but he is absolutely fine, and seems to be feeling a lot more comfortable with the bike than he has done at the last two races. I think that if he can do the same again tomorrow he will be in for a good race on Saturday. Carlos is having some problems, particularly at the first turn, and we need to concentrate tomorrow on resolving them. He is speaking with his team and engineers and has a clear idea of which direction to go in. I think both riders will be in a good position for the race if we can keep up this good work."
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 2'00.496
2. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 2'00.677
3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) DUCATI Marlboro Team 2'00.698
4. Alex Barros (BRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Team 2'01.040
6. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 2'01.812
9. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 2'01.984