James Toseland (Winston Ten Kate Honda) rode to provisional pole at the new-look Imola circuit after a busy day of practice and qualifying, with several riders in the running for the coveted fastest lap after a particularly close qualifying contest. Toseland eventually ran out with a 0.211 second advantage over his closest challenger Troy Corser, with Troy Bayliss third quickest. Toseland's main championship target, Noriyuki Haga, was 11th quickest, 0.843 down on provisional pole.
In 12th place Karl Muggeridge (Winston Ten Kate Honda) found Imola more of a challenge, setting an identical time to Haga. The top 13 riders were all within one second of Toseland's time.
Ronald Ten Kate - Team Manager;
"A good start to the race weekend for James, pretty consistently fast on the race tyres. He is already enjoying some benefits with the traction control system from PI Research, which we have added to the machine since the Magny-Cours test session. We are also using it here for the first time in a race weekend. We still have some issues to resolve on the machine in general, especially the rear end, which we have to improve a bit. I'm sure that we will be capable of making the bike even better tomorrow. It's all looking good but there is still some work to do today and tomorrow. The other side of the garage is a bit more complicated at the moment. Karl is still trying to resolve some issues with his machine set-up but as it is one of his favourite circuits, I'm sure that he will be able to move up the grid tomorrow."
James Toseland - Winston Ten Kate Honda Rider (Pole position - 1'50.039 - 20 Laps);
"The reactions of the bike were very good and the tyres are working well, so I think set-up and tyre life on a race set-up are already pretty good. We did a consistent and fast run on what we hope will be our race tyre. The engine mapping and electronics changes were really good, even if we used traction control at only a small percentage of its settings. So far so good, and we're going in a good direction with set-up."
"It hasn't been a bad day" declared Troy. "I haven't been here for a while, since 2002 and it's nice to get back into the swing of things. The only thing I noticed is that the track seems to be getting rougher and rougher, also we have the new chicane which is definitely a downer, it's far too tight and dangerous. Someone could easily go through and T-bone somebody else. But overall I'm feeling good on the bike, we've got a couple more things to try tomorrow and I'm sure we'll improve a bit".
Troy Corser- 2nd, 1:50.250:
I had a little crash at the start of the afternoon session but don't really know why. According to the telemetry my throttle position was the same as the lap before, so maybe I was on an old tyre, I don't know. I banged myself a little, but no real damage and I rode the bike back to the pits ok. I jumped on my spare bike and carried on working on a good set-up for the race. I'm reasonably happy with the bike's set-up and our main concern is the tyres. When the temperature rises, we lose grip. When it's hot, we can find a tyre that will last a race distance ok, but it'll mean much slower lap times. I had quite a lot of wheelspin here today but I guess that's because of the nature of the layout. There are lot of camber changes and fast elevated turns and the bike seems to spin slide quite a bit. It?s an area we'll work on in tomorrow morning's warm-up.
Yukio Kagayama- 4th, 1:50.357:
In the morning I believed that I'd finish with a lap in the 1:49s this afternoon, but when the temperature rose, it was not possible to do this time. As we've seen before, our tyres do not seem to like the heat so much and the lap times come down. My feeling was quite good in the morning and the only real problem was braking into the corners. I pushed hard in the afternoon, but it made no big difference to my lap times. Tomorrow morning we'll change the rear spring to start off and see if we can go faster.
"That was a tough qualifying session, we're all there together" commented Lorenzo. "As has happened on other occasions, almost everyone set their time by following the others, we'll see what the real position is tomorrow when we do the one lap in Superpole. I am quite happy, I was beginning to enjoy myself out there but in the last ten minutes I went out to set a quick time and my bike had a mechanical problem. I came in as quick as possible to change bikes but it didn't feel quite as right as the other one so I had to settle for that time. Despite everything I felt I was lapping well and this makes me hopeful for tomorrow".
Andrew Pitt (Yamaha Motor Italia);
"The main thing we've been working on is finding a good gearbox setting. This place is such a compromise that when you get the gearing right for one corner it's out at the next. We had a couple of little niggling problems with the electronics but overall it's been a good day. We were able to try out a lot of different tyres and we're pretty sure what we'll be running on Sunday. Our race pace seems good and the guys ahead of us are only doing one faster lap before dropping back to the same pace, so I think we'll be right up there."
Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia);
"We're still trying to find the right balance of the bike and tonight we'll make some changes to improve the feeling. Imola is a very physical circuit and my wrist is still quite painful, but I do not think this will be a problem because when the lights go out you forget about any problems you have."
Alex Barros: "The qualifying session in the afternoon went quite well. I put in a fast lap in the early stages. In the second half of the session I tried to improve my time, but I failed, because we tried several things on the bike during the session. Anyway I am happy to be back here in Imola. The track and the atmosphere both are very nice."
Norick Abe (Yamaha Motor France);
"Not such a bad day! The bike is working ok and close to the top riders, so this is an alright result for us. I hope that tomorrow we can stay in the top 16 and qualify for the superpole. That would prepare us for a good race."
Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha Motor France);
"This is my first time at Imola so today my priority is to learn the course and improve the set-up. Tonight we will try some things and I am quite confident that I can get faster as the weekend goes on."
Karl Muggeridge - Winston Ten Kate Honda Rider (12th position - 1'50.882 - 20 Laps);
"I found it difficult to get into a good rhythm today but it is just a few little things, so it will be all right. We're not a mile away - only 0.8 from the first guy, who happens to be my team-mate. That's cool; he's showing how it can be done. I think that it won't be a problem to find our feet tomorrow, and we've just been a little bit off the boil today."