Gauloises Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards will start from the second and third row of the grid respectively for tomorrow's Portuguese Grand Prix after a highly competitive qualifying session at Estoril this afternoon. In bright sunshine and tepid ambient temperatures of 16º degrees, both Rossi and Edwards mounted pole attacks in an entertaining finale but were unable to convert their good race pace into a front row grid position.
Rossi, who has taken victory for the past four successive seasons at this circuit, qualified fourth fastest with a 1'37.643 after working intensively on the race set-up of his YZR-M1 machine until the final 15 minutes. The World Champion appeared to have sealed third place on the grid for tomorrow's race after lapping inside last year's pole record but he was dislodged by a surprise late flurry from Carlos Checa (Ducati, 1'37.456).
Rossi's Gauloises Yamaha team-mate Edwards also lost places in the late scrap for times, making a mistake on his best lap and dropping to seventh place with a 1'38.003. Alex Barros (Honda) took pole position with a time of 1'37.202 and is joined on the front row by Sete Gibernau (Honda, 1'37.329) and Checa.
The Saturday MotoGP programme turned out to be a day of bruised and battered fairings for the Fortuna Yamaha Team with both Ruben Xaus and Toni Elias tasting the dirt - once for the former and twice for the latter. Despite this both riders put in respectable performances - Ruben 12th with a 1'38.949 and Elias 15th with a 1'39.836 - and are looking forward to race day.
Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team) 4th, 1'37.643
"The bike has changed a lot since we raced here last year so we have had to work hard on the setting. It was probably better this morning than it was in the afternoon but it is virtually impossible to get a perfect set-up at this track and fourth place isn't bad. I'm still having problems getting heat into the left-hand side of the tyre. We tried some different tyres today to try and fix that but we're still not at 100%. There are four or five guys with a good rhythm and I think the pace will be very fast tomorrow. If the weather is good then it should be a group race and it will be a very tough battle."
Colin Edwards (Gauloises Yamaha Team) 7th, 1'38.003
"That was tough! We've worked hard this weekend on my race pace and we're pretty pleased with how it's looking but I had difficulties again on the qualification tyres. Part of the problem is that you only have two laps to get it right and if you make a mistake it can cost you several positions on the grid. I ran a little wide in turn one on my best lap so there are definitely a few tenths we can make up. Generally we need to make the bike more stable and rider friendly, but we're getting there. We'll see what happens with the weather tomorrow. I'd prefer it to be dry for the fans and the TV but I won't mind if it rains - it would be kind of good to have a wet race at this stage of the season. The bike felt good in the wet at the Jerez tests. Either way is good for me."
Davide Brivio, Gauloises Yamaha Team Director
"With Valentino we spent quite a lot of the session working on his race setting. He has a good pace but we will try to make it better in the morning. Colin also has a good base set-up but it is fair to say there is room for improvement with both of them. The last 15 minutes saw a good battle for the hot lap and some riders emerged who we haven't seen much of this weekend. In any case both our riders have reasonable grid positions and a good race pace so we are confident. It is going to be a very tough race. If it rains it will be even more unpredictable!"
Ruben Xaus (Fortuna Yamaha Team) 12th, 1'38.949
"All the riders are so fast! They're on such an amazing pace. This year it's a seriously high level out there. Right now we have to do things just as we are, with a level head while building our pace and experience. We're going in the right direction with the set-up and I'm starting to get more fluid on the bike. We still need to improve the set-up a little, but that's because we are progressively getting faster each time we go out. I had another crash, nothing serious, I just lost the front."
Toni Elias (Fortuna Yamaha Team) 15th, 1'39.839
"It was a really difficult day. Yesterday everything went so well. to plan you could say, and I really wanted that to continue today. I was hoping for a top ten start, and I was confident I could do it because I was so comfortable on the bike. Then Valentino came past and I thought I'd try to follow him. But I made a little mistake and that put me on the deck. I guess this is the price you pay for such a move. I'm not upset, I just want to get on with the job and concentrate on tomorrow."
Session 1 :
- 1, A. Barros, Honda (BRA) - 1' 37.202
- 2, S. Gibernau, Honda (ESP) - 1' 37.329
- 3, C. Checa, Ducati (ESP) - 1' 37.456
- 4, V. Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) - 1' 37.643
- 5, M. Melandri, Honda (ITA) - 1' 37.835
- 6, L. Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) - 1' 38.000
- 7, C. Edwards, Yamaha (USA) - 1' 38.003
- 8, M. Biaggi, Honda (ITA) - 1' 38.009
- 9, N. Hayden, Honda (USA) - 1' 38.123
- 10, S. Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) - 1' 38.283
- 11, J. Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) - 1' 38.412
- 12, R. Xaus, Yamaha (ESP) - 1' 38.949
- 13, T. Bayliss, Honda (AUS) - 1' 39.033
- 14, K. Roberts, Suzuki (USA) - 1' 39.628
- 15, T. Elias, Yamaha (ESP) - 1' 39.836
- 16, R. Rolfo, Ducati (ITA) - 1' 41.327