Friday time ensures front row start for Checa at damp Suzuka. Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa will start his Yamaha YZR-M1 from the front row of the grid for tomorrow's season-opening Japanese Grand Prix. His time of 2'07.426, set during...
Friday time ensures front row start for Checa at damp Suzuka.
Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa will start his Yamaha YZR-M1 from the front row of the grid for tomorrow's season-opening Japanese Grand Prix. His time of 2'07.426, set during the brief spell of dry track time in yesterday' s qualifying session, was not bettered today. The Spaniard decided to sit out today's damp qualifying hour without risking an outing on the wet and dry track. In this morning's fully wet free practice session Checa had completed a total of 11 laps to find a wet set-up in case conditions are the same for tomorrow's 21-lap race.
"I wonder if I'll get paid less because I haven't ridden very much," joked the 30-year-old Checa, who started from the same place in last year's race before finishing third in the wet GP. "We decided not to test much because of the conditions today as it wasn't worth risking a fall. I'm happy to be starting from the same position as last year, but it doesn't really mean anything. I wasn't that happy this morning in the wet but I would have also liked a bit more dry time. The weather forecast is better for tomorrow but I 'll just give it my best shot whatever it's like and I hope to get a good result."
Team replacement rider Norick Abe rode his Yamaha prototype YZR-M1 machine to fourteenth on the provisional grid yesterday, a result that still stands. The two-time Suzuka GP winner and MotoGP veteran switched to become Yamaha's M1 factory test rider this year. He was already entered into this weekend's GP as a wildcard before being drafted into the official squad today to replace the injured Marco Melandri.
"The only thing we achieved this afternoon was to establish grip levels with the cut-slick tyre in these conditions," explained Abe. "The weather should be better tomorrow but I don't mind if it's wet or dry. We need to try a new dry setting tomorrow morning, if possible, as we made some changes after yesterday morning but haven't had another dry session. My objective is to battle with the top riders. Even if this is a development bike we are always looking for a good result."
"Today's weather was as forecast and was not a surprise, so it was important to have secured the front row start yesterday," commented Fortuna Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio. "Tomorrow we're not sure about the weather, but I think Carlos can do well either way and I hope Norick can score some good points as well. We're very pleased that Marco is back at the circuit and will be watching the race tomorrow."
The team's 20-year-old Italian rider, Marco Melandri, suffered a broken ankle and nose and a small chipped fracture of the femur in a high-speed crash during yesterday's opening practice session. After one night in a local hospital Melandri was back at the circuit today in the care of the Clinica Mobile staff.
"I only had about one hour's sleep last night," said a groggy Melandri. "The staff at the Japanese hospital have been very good and I have to thank them. But I am happy to be back with the Italian Clinica Mobile staff as they are a little like family. I've had some serious painkillers so things are a little better today. I am looking forward to heading home on Monday. We'll reassess the injury when I get back to Italy, but it is too early to say when I'll be back on the bike. Thanks for all the messages of support from everybody that I've already received." Those messages (around thirty so far) have been arriving from all over the world to a special e-mail address only set up by the team about two hours ago. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
FRONT ROW (all times set on Saturday)
1. Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol HONDA 2'06.838
2. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 2'07.092
3. Tohru Ukawa JPN Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 2'07.298
4. CARLOS CHECA SPA Fortuna YAMAHA Team 2'07.426
14. NORICK ABE JPN Fortuna YAMAHA Team 2'09.162 (replacement rider for Marco Melandri)