Sachsenring turned up the heat for the opening day of the German Grand Prix today where the first qualifying times were ultimately close. With one second covering the top 13, an exploding bike the talk of the paddock, and perfect East German ...
Sachsenring turned up the heat for the opening day of the German Grand Prix today where the first qualifying times were ultimately close. With one second covering the top 13, an exploding bike the talk of the paddock, and perfect East German weather tanning the thousands of motorsport fans who turned out for the spectacle, the day's action didn't disappoint anyone. The conditions also proved favourable for the Fortuna Yamaha Team, with both factory Yamaha riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri regularly featuring in the top five during this afternoon's hour-long opening qualifier, before eventually finishing fourth and seventh respectively.
Checa felt instantly comfortable during this morning's opening free practice session and carried that momentum through to the afternoon first qualifying session, where he set the initial pace. The 30-year-old remained on top of the timesheets until mid-session, at which point he began to focus on a competitive race package and attempted to cement his position with a provisional pole time. After an initially successful attempt Checa found himself fourth, but looked set to retake pole on his final lap when his lap was disrupted by a backmarker. Nevertheless the Spaniard was reasonably happy with a personal best time of 1'24.735, to take fourth place and provisional front row.
"We worked fairly well today, and I don't think there are too many problems with the bike," said Checa, who finished last year's race here in fourth place. "We've kept the basic set-up from the last few races but have adjusted the suspension. I had a few problems with the first bike I used so I switched to my second, and it took a while to get used to it but I improved at the end. Yamaha have worked really hard here but it's still important that we get a slightly better time tomorrow and therefore better advantage for the race start. But I'm optimistic and it would be great for all the team to get a good result."
Melandri, unlike his Fortuna Yamaha Team-mate, wasn't completely settled today as minor front-end grip problems proved to be an issue. Yet still the 250cc World Champion rode like a veteran, despite this being the MotoGP rookie's first visit to the German venue aboard the YZR-M1 four-stroke. Fifth in this morning's free practice session led on to regularly featuring in the top three on the qualifying time sheets this afternoon. However in the final jostling for positions the 20-year-old Italian placed his #33 machine seventh on the grid with a time of 1'24.876, just 0.541 seconds off Valentino Rossi's (Honda, 1'24.335) provisional pole performance.
The defending MotoGP World Champion Rossi currently leads the front row ahead of Max Biaggi (Honda, 1'24.370), Jeremy McWilliams (Proton KR two-stroke, 1'24.412) and Checa. Meanwhile Colin Edwards (1'25.614) qualified 16th after being in the hot seat during practice when his factory Aprilia caught fire and the American was forced to jump ship at nearly 200kmh. The 2002 Superbike World Champion suffered no serious injuries.
Melandri, who scored his first 250cc victory at the German circuit, was sure that his small grip problems today will be solvable tomorrow. "We started with the Donington set-up today because it was such a positive weekend for us in terms of my feeling with the bike," he explained. "I've always done well at this track in the past and we did improve this afternoon from this morning but I'm hoping to do better. This morning I had a few problems with front-end feeling and grip but when we tried adjusting the front forks it didn't feel much better. We had a long think about it and decided to modify the rear slightly and it felt better immediately.
This afternoon I couldn't turn the bike too easily and on the last lap I lost some time as I ran wide on the uphill section. Now I will talk to my crew chief and engineers and we will decide whether to make any more changes before tomorrow. I'm not far off the front row, but more than anything else the most important thing for me is to find a good feeling, and with that will come a good time."
"That was a fairly strong start to the weekend," said Davide Brivio, Fortuna Yamaha Team Director. "This is another circuit which favours Yamaha and both of our riders had a good session. Our thanks to Michelin for their continuing support, which really helped us this afternoon. Carlos is pleased with his set-up, which he has kept from previous races where he has done well, so hopefully that will stand him in good stead for a front row start on Sunday. We're pleased with Marco's performance. He has made several changes to his suspension with his crew and hopefully that will improve his feeling more tomorrow. Overall quite a positive start."
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 1'24.335
2. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 1'24.370
3. Jeremy McWilliams (GBR) PROTON Team KR 1'24.412
4. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'24.735
7. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'24.876