Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi delighted his legion of local fans with a sensational final lap in qualifying practice for the Grand Prix of Japan this afternoon. Rossi continued his excellent progress with another day of hard work on the...
Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi delighted his legion of local fans with a sensational final lap in qualifying practice for the Grand Prix of Japan this afternoon. Rossi continued his excellent progress with another day of hard work on the race setting of his YZR-M1 before heading out to challenge Loris Capirossi (Ducati) for pole. Unfortunately Rossi's first attempt on qualifying tyres was baulked when a rider crashed in front him, forcing the Italian to make a last-minute pit-stop. It made for a tense finale as Rossi returned to the track and beat the chequered flag by just ten seconds, giving him one last chance to challenge Capirossi's dominance. The World Champion responded in typical style with a lap of 1'45.991 - inside last year's pole record but not quite enough to topple pole man Capirossi, meaning he will start tomorrow's race from second place.
Colin Edwards worked in tandem with Rossi throughout the day to improve the solid base setting the pair had found in yesterday's opening free practice sessions. The Texan was again one of the leading riders on race rubber, lapping consistently in the low 1'48 mark and even dipping under the lap record of 1'47.968. However, the Texan struggled to improve on that pace significantly after fitting a qualifying tyre and he slid down the time sheets in the closing stages, ending the session in tenth place and setting himself a tough challenge tomorrow from the fourth row of the grid.
VALENTINO ROSSI (2nd -- 1'45.991; 26 laps)
"For sure I am very happy to be on the front row again for the fourth race in a row. My M1 has worked well from the start here so we've been able to work on the setting with various different things and then mix everything together to find the very best race set-up. Now it seems we're in good shape. The bike worked very well also with the qualifying tyre and I had very good grip. Unfortunately I lost one qualifying tyre when Hopkins crashed in front of me, but luckily my team did a great job with the pit-stop -- it was even faster than a Formula 1 team! Fortunately I made a good lap with the final tyre and now we're starting from second. I am happy; tomorrow will be a difficult race but I am quite confident."
COLIN EDWARDS (10th -- 1'46.726; 26 laps)
"I've been happier with my qualifying position but I've got a good race pace so it's not all doom! To be honest, even though on paper it doesn't look too great, I'm really happy with the bike right now. It's working really well, it's just we couldn't quite get it together with the qualifying tyre and when we put it in today it just overloaded the suspension a bit and made everything a bit too soft, so that's something we need to think about for the next time. Race-wise our setting is pretty good and I think I've got one of the best rhythms out there. Obviously it's annoying to be starting from the fourth row but I think I can come through the pack pretty quickly and then just get my head down! I need to get a good start, fight my way past a few people and then just keep pushing. I'm actually pretty excited about tomorrow and I'm looking for a good result."
DAVIDE BRIVIO -- CAMEL YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR
"It's been another very good day for Valentino, it seems things are working well and it's nice to be consistently on the front row. It's good to be starting tomorrow's race, which is so important for us with regards to the championship, from this position. It looks like he's in good shape for the race and hopefully he can make the most of the start to get away in front. Unfortunately Colin wasn't able to qualifying in such a high position but he actually has a very strong race pace so the situation is not too bad. If he can get a good start then I think he will be able to come through the field quite quickly and once he's up front he should be able to stay there. Now we hope that the weather stays dry and that we can have a fun and exciting race!