Despite set-up changes and determined effort from Fortuna Yamaha's riders and their crews, today's final qualifying pace-setters were fast in the extreme, leaving Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri to start tomorrow's Rio Grand Prix from 10th and...
Despite set-up changes and determined effort from Fortuna Yamaha's riders and their crews, today's final qualifying pace-setters were fast in the extreme, leaving Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri to start tomorrow's Rio Grand Prix from 10th and 16th places respectively. Checa and his crew focused all their resources on altering the overall balance of his YZR-M1 overnight, and as a result made a significant improvement to his first qualifying lap time during this afternoon's session. Team-mate Melandri was not so lucky, and despite many changes to his set-up from yesterday, was still unable to improve his lap time greatly due to lack of grip.
With track temperatures pushing 35 degrees, the opening half of this afternoon's session saw little improvement on the leader board compared to yesterday. Yet as the session came to a close the action increased, and defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1'49.038) eventually claimed pole. The Italian was closely followed by Loris Capirossi (Ducati, 1 '49.340) and Sete Gibernau (Honda, 1'49.808), who crashed heavily on his final flying lap in an effort to dislodge Rossi from the prime position. Gibernau walked away unhurt, while provisional polesitter Max Biaggi (Honda, 1'49.876) completed the front row.
Carlos Checa joined the frenzied effort for front row places, gaining six places on the grid from 16th to 10th, finding a 1.410 second improvement on his provisional qualifying peformance. This progress came despite the hindrance of increased track temperatures as the traditionally warm Rio sun made its first appearance this week, leading to a reduction in track surface grip levels.
"We made a step today on engine and chassis set-up," said Checa, who is scheduled to make his 120th start in the premier Grand Prix class in tomorrow's race. The Spaniard will become only the eighth rider to have reached that milestone "We basically lost yesterday's practice session so it was difficult to move to a better level today in the limited time that we had. We changed back to my Brno set-up today, which was our starting point. There wasn't enough time today to do more, so we will try something else tomorrow morning. It's clear that the race will be quite difficult for us tomorrow."
Despite a marginal improvement on his first qualifying lap time, a frustrated Marco Melandri dropped from 15th to 16th place on the starting grid. The 21-year-old overcame some of his set-up concerns but could not improve feeling with his Yamaha YZR-M1 machine, and was frustrated with his lap time of 1'51.566. Melandri's crew will now take another look at how any improvement can be made for a competitive race day set-up.
"It was another disappointing day for me," said the Ravenna-born rider. "Once again I couldn't get any grip and couldn't get a good lap time as a result. We changed many things but I still didn't have a good feeling no matter what we tried. We will analyse the data again tonight and try something different tomorrow morning. Starting from 16th place on the grid will certainly not be easy."
"Both riders made a small improvement since yesterday," said Fortuna Yamaha' s Team Director Davide Brivio. "They went back to their basic settings and Carlos moved to tenth place today, now we hope that he can improve even more tomorrow. Marco improved his lap time very slightly but still doesn't have any grip so isn't comfortable to push. Tomorrow he will start from the fourth row which is not going to be easy but he's been there before in Brno and made quite a good recovery - I hope he can do that again."
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 1'49.038
2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) DUCATI Marlboro Team 1'49.340
3. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar HONDA 1'49.808
4. Max Biaggi (ITA) Camel Pramac Pons HONDA 1'49.876
10. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'50.042
16. MARCO MELANDRI (ITA) Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'51.566