An electrifying pace was set in today's first qualifying session of the Malaysian Grand Prix and it was an incident-filled day for Fortuna Yamaha riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri. Track temperatures as high as 46 degrees and a slick surface...
An electrifying pace was set in today's first qualifying session of the Malaysian Grand Prix and it was an incident-filled day for Fortuna Yamaha riders Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri. Track temperatures as high as 46 degrees and a slick surface claimed a fair share of fall victims today including both Melandri and team-mate Checa. The former highsided his factory YZR-M1 in the opening stages of this afternoon's session, which caught on fire as it lay in the gravel trap. Spaniard Checa also took a tumble but with just fifteen minutes of qualifying time left. Despite their setbacks both riders returned to the fray to post some respectable times and eventually finished with eighth and 14th place respectively.
After producing the third fastest time this afternoon Checa looked set for a front row performance. The Fortuna Yamaha rider improved further still in the closing stages with a time of 2'04.825, before lowsiding his M1 entering the tight right-hand turn one. Unable to continue with the damaged machine Checa was forced back to the pits to mount his number two bike, but lacked the time to defend his provisional front row start. The 30-year-old currently sits eighth on the grid after the qualifying tyre reshuffle.
"It's a shame that I fell off towards the end of the session because I was going really well," said the regretful Checa. "It was my own fault. We lost a lot of time this morning because of the rain and we only had about 20 minutes of real testing but I had a good rhythm in those 20 minutes. We have been using my basic set-up from Motegi but have made some small alterations. I'm so annoyed with myself for falling because I knew that my second bike wasn't totally ready in the same set-up, and it just didn't feel as good as my first bike. I'm confident that I can find a good rhythm for tomorrow and should improve my time by quite a lot."
Marco Melandri's first qualifying session began with an unexpected off track excursion, which put the 21-year-old's preferred machine out of action. This left the 250cc World Champion with only one bike for the remainder of the hour-long session, limiting the amount he could achieve in such a short time. As a result Melandri completed only 15 laps this afternoon, finishing with the 14th quickest time of 2'05.807.
"I lost the rear of the bike and highsided on turn seven," said Melandri, who fell off his M1 in the opening part of this afternoon's session. "It was very strange because it seemed like the rear was just going to slide out a bit and then I could carry on, which also happened in this morning's practice. But I lost it a bit, and then completely. Anyway I took my second bike out, but it didn't have the same feeling, I don't know why. I also nearly fell off again on the last corner as Jacque came very close, which was quite scary. This morning everything felt okay with our Motegi base set-up. We made some modifications since then but lost time this afternoon. I think we can improve tomorrow."
Team Director Davide Brivio said, "Both riders started this morning in the wet with their Motegi set-ups. As the track dried out we found that this set-up works well here too, so first impressions for the weekend are good. Then this afternoon unfortunately both riders had falls, which slowed things down and reduced their track time. They were both forced to use their second bikes and neither felt as comfortable as they had on their number one bikes. We couldn't use all our potential this afternoon, but we're okay, we just need to finish the final set-up adjustments tomorrow and try for better times."
Defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda) set the benchmark early with a time of 2'03.516, with rookie Makoto Tamada (Honda, 2'03.730) the only rider able to challenge the Italian. Maxi Biaggi (Honda, 2'04.142) and Loris Capirossi (Ducati, 2'04.161) completed the front row.
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 2'03.516
2. Makoto Tamada (JPN) Pramac HONDA 2'03.730
3. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 2'04.142
4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) DUCATI Marlboro Team 2'04.161
8. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 2'04.825
14. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 2'05.807