Catalunya reaches 53 degrees! Fierce track temperatures can't stop Michelin men from breaking track record Home-hero Gibernau in close third place and confident of a good weekend Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), Loris ...
Catalunya reaches 53 degrees!
Fierce track temperatures can't stop Michelin men from breaking track record
Home-hero Gibernau in close third place and confident of a good weekend
Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) and Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) enjoyed a frantic battle for provisional pole position at blazing-hot Catalunya t his afternoon, Rossi demoting local favourite Gibernau to third in the final minutes, Capirossi a close second. On-form Shinya Nakano (D'Antin Yamaha YZR-M1-Michelin) completed the Michelin-dominated front row.
The fastest three men set a tremendous pace in the torrid conditions, all of them taking their turn out front and all of them inside last year's pole time despite track temperatures soaring to a burning 53 degrees. Rossi's final lap was his fastest and bettered the 2002 Catalunya pole by almost six tenths, a testament to the ever-improving grip offered by Michelin's MotoGP tyres.
"Such high temperatures mean that there's less grip here than usual, which means the riders have to deal with more wheelspin, but the lap times are very good," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "This track is usually dirty on day one, but it's been quite clean today, so the times came quite fast. Valentino's final lap was great, and it's also good to see so many different manufacturers up front -- there's four different marques in the top seven."
Championship leader Rossi was in particularly fine form on his final run, bettering Gibernau by 0.206 seconds on his penultimate lap, opening that gap to 0.406 seconds next time around. "We worked very well on the bike today, making good improvements from the morning session," said Rossi. "I was able to do a very fast lap at the end, and it would've been possible to go a little better if I hadn't found a Kawasaki in the way."
Gibernau, the only man to have defeated Rossi so far this year, went to the front eight minutes from the end of the hour-long outing, and is still feeling upbeat about his home GP. "We're inside the pole record and my times are consistent too, said the Catalan rider who ran off the track and into the dirt during a fast, mid-session lap. "The heat is really terrible -- so the help I get from my Michelin technician is more important than ever this weekend."
Capirossi, who topped preseason testing here during March, is focusing all his efforts on race settings, as he did at Mugello last week, where conditions were only slightly cooler. "We learned a lot here during the tests in March but the conditions are totally different now -- the track feels very slippery," he said. "The heat is the concern -- for us and for the tyres -- so we need settings that will work throughout the race, especially when the tyres are past their best."
Final front-row man Nakano was delighted with his day's performance, just a week after he scored his first four-stroke MotoGP front-row start at Mugello. "I'm getting great a feeling from the bike now," said the Japanese star. "We improved the set-up in Italy so that I can now focus all my efforts on riding the bike, rather than thinking about settings. My times are consistent too."
Alex Barros (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) was also looking good for the front row, moving into second place with 15 minutes to go, but then sliding off on the next lap. He ended the session eighth, at the back end of row two, behind Colin Edwards (Alice Aprilia Racing Cube-Michelin), Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) and Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V). Biaggi had led the earlier stages of the session.