Fortuna Yamaha riders make progress in Africa's GP opener. Day one of the African's MotoGP, held at Welkom's Phakisa Freeway circuit today, proved to be a challenging venture for Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Norick Abe - the...
Fortuna Yamaha riders make progress in Africa's GP opener.
Day one of the African's MotoGP, held at Welkom's Phakisa Freeway circuit today, proved to be a challenging venture for Fortuna Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Norick Abe - the latter filling in for the injured Marco Melandri. The notoriously bumpy Welkom circuit has retained some of its former character, although recently resurfaced. The combination of bumps and the dusty surface hindered the Fortuna Yamaha Team's attempts at finding a balanced chassis set-up during this morning's free practice session. However as the circuit conditions gradually improved so did Carlos Checa's confidence, with the Spaniard eventually finishing the day 13th, with a best lap time of 1'34.806.
Much of the improvement was the result of a change to the base set-up, with Checa's best placing him only 1.364 seconds off the provisional pole time, set by defending MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1'33.442). Loris Capirossi (Ducati, 1'33.586), Sete Gibernau (Honda, 1'33.961) and Troy Bayliss (Ducati, 1'34.322) completed the front row.
Carlos Checa 13th, 1'34.806:
"Overall I felt better this afternoon compared to this morning. We changed the balance and chassis set-up a little since this morning's practice session, so it feels more like last year's set-up. The progress we made today is good - we have a better and clearer direction, and I have already got a better lap time than last year. However I am still a step behind the others so we might need to adjust the balance again. We need to use all the materials we have to progress. The circuit feels a bit better than last year because of the new asphalt. It's still bumpy but I quite like that and I like the racing line of this circuit."
After spending much of the pre-season testing programme and the opening race of the 2003 season on the Yamaha Factory Testing Team prototype YZR-M1, today Abe made his debut performance on the 2003 spec YZR-M1. The likeable Japanese spent the opening day of the Welkom MotoGP weekend working on a base chassis set-up, eventually finishing 18th fastest with a lap time of 1' 35.156.
Abe replaces MotoGP newcomer Marco Melandri, who fell at the Suzuka Grand Prix three weeks ago breaking his leg in three places, and has been out of action since. Melandri is making impressive progress and hopes to return to the MotoGP class soon.
Norick Abe 18th, 1'35.156:
"We went step by step today. It was almost the first time on this bike for me as I was only able to ride it for about three hours at the Suzuka test after the race there due to the rain. My feeling on the bike is not too bad but I do need to get a better lap time. It's not easy with such a small time separating the riders. For tomorrow we are going to change the front geometry slightly, and take it from there. Hopefully I will be able to improve."
Davide Brivio (Fortuna Yamaha Team Director):
"Carlos was in one of the top positions when he came into the garage to change tyres before the last five minutes of the session. Unfortunately when he went back he only had one lap before the end and was unable to improve his time. He made some improvements compared to this morning. There are many riders that are very close in the top positions so a few tenths of a second difference makes all the difference.
"Norick had his first full day on this bike, and it's quite different to the prototype that he tested during the winter. This circuit is quite a difficult one to start with as it's so bumpy. He is still finding his general set-up. We will use today's feedback from both riders to make the necessary changes, and then we will see what happens tomorrow."
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA 1'33.442
2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) DUCATI Marlboro Team 1'33.586 #3. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar HONDA 1'33.961
4. Troy Bayliss (AUS) DUCATI Marlboro Team 1'34.322
13. CARLOS CHECA SPA Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'34.806
18. NORICK ABE JPN Fortuna YAMAHA Team 1'35.156