A tough final qualifier for Yamaha contingent

Qualifying

After a strong start to the second day of the Spanish MotoGP, held in Jerez, Southern Spain, on May 10 – where Alex Barros (Gauloises Yamaha Team) and Carlos Checa (Fortuna Yamaha Team) set the third and fifth fastest times respectively during free practice – both riders eventually completed a disappointing final qualifier outside the first two rows. Ironically the time set by Checa, a 1’42.711, was a significant improvement over his provisional qualifying performance and was in fact only 0.728 seconds off pole, but it was not enough to place the Spaniard higher than tenth on the grid for tomorrow’s race. Barros (1’42.988), who crashed mid way through the final qualifier after losing the front of his M1 in turn two, will start from 15th on the grid.

This left a confident Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Team) to fly the Yamaha flag after setting the ninth fastest time, a 1’42.643. The Frenchman approached the weekend in a methodical fashion and is confident that he should have a competitive race with the package he has, given a good start. Meanwhile former team-mate Shinya Nakano (d’Antin Yamaha Team, 1’42.906) will start from 13th on the grid.

In a surprise result Ducati placed both its V-four four-strokes on the front row in only its third MotoGP event, with riders Loris Capirossi (1’41.983) and Troy Bayliss (1’41.993) securing first and second respectively. The pair were the only two to dip into the 41s, with Capirossi claiming a new circuit best lap in the process – 0.937 seconds below Valentino Rossi’s 2002 lap record – while Max Biaggi (Honda, 1’42.124) and Tohru Ukawa (Honda, 1’42.258) completed the front row. Championship points leader Rossi (Honda, 1’42.276) qualified fifth overall.

Gauloises Yamaha Team
Olivier Jacque 9th, 1’42.643:
“Apart from my crash right at the end, it was not a bad session. We followed the same work plan as in Welkom and made good progress. While I can’t really get too excited over my ninth place, I am obviously pleased to finish as the best Yamaha. It is just a pity that I missed out on a second row start. On my last lap I tried to go just 1/10th of a second faster and lost the front-end at the same place as Alex (Barros). Fortunately I didn’t hurt myself. Tomorrow is going to be a tough race – these bikes are difficult to control once the tyres go off – and if I finish somewhere between sixth and tenth place I’ll be happy.”

Alex Barros 15th, 1’42.988: “Obviously I’m not too happy. The beginning of the session went well and I posted a good time early on. Then while testing some tyres I lost the front-end. The mechanics worked really quickly to allow me to go back out on the same bike but a suspension change we made to the rear didn’t work out and I wasn’t able to improve my time. It is going to be difficult starting from the fourth row tomorrow – I’ll have to make a very good start.”

Fortuna Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 10th, 1’42.711:
“I was trying hard but the lap times just didn’t come. This morning things went quite well but the change in temperature did seem to have quite a big effect. We had quite a bit of movement from the rear, that we tried to fix during the session. When I put on new tyres and pushed I expected to be faster. Unfortunately on my fastest lap I did have some traffic, otherwise I could have easily moved up a row. When you are not totally comfortable you have to really push and get a perfect lap to get a good time. When things are going well it comes much easier.

“So far we’ve done quite a good job this weekend but we’ve reached a level and it is proving hard to get to the next step. I am confident that can keep a good pace for the race but it is hard to think about winning. But it’s a long, hard race here and always very special because of the fans, so you never know what will happen.”

Marco Melandri 16th, 1’43.020: “I was not too bad on the bike today. It’s still not perfect and there are certain areas where I can’t push as hard as I would like because of my back and ankle. However, the important things for me this weekend are to start my season and to make sure I finish the race. I’m starting from quite a way back on the grid but the distance is not too bad – it’s incredible this year how close the qualifying is. I have been using the new fairing but, for the time being, I have switched to the old seat as it is a little lower and suits me better.

“I’m optimistic for the race. I know it will be tough from half distance but I think I can take some good points. But now I shall head to the Clinica Mobile and just relax and have some more treatment.”

D’Antin Yamaha Team
Shinya Nakano 13th, 1’42.906:
“I’m a little disappointed today, with where I qualified. I was feeling very good on the bike and I felt that I should have been able to get onto the second row. The tyres were working, and the grip was there, so I have my choice already for the race. Now we only need to fine tune a few small things in the morning warm-up.”