Rossi, the newly-crowned World Champion set a fastest lap time of 1’33.531, which puts him on the provisional front row, while Checa’s 1’34.500 sees him onto the fourth row. Sete Gibernau (Honda) was the fastest qualifier, followed by Makoto Tamada (Honda), on what was a generally slower dry session than many expected, thanks to blustery winds and low track temperatures.
Rossi went to the top of the leader board after just five minutes of today’s qualifying hour, displacing Checa as he did so. Only in the last five minutes of the session did Ducati rider Troy Bayliss hijack Rossi’s lead, albeit temporarily, with first Rossi and finally Gibernau then bettering his time. Tamada, almost the last man on the track, nudged ahead of Rossi in the final seconds; with most other riders already back in pitlane.
Checa, who will race as a Yamaha rider for the final time on Sunday after six years in the Yamaha Factory Team, worked through set-up and tyre options during the session, but gradually dropped down the order. He ended the hour 11th fastest, unable to improve his pace due to a lack of confidence in the front end.
VALENTINO ROSSI (3rd, 1’33.795)
“The bike was not so much fun to ride today, it’s too cold and when I was accelerating the bike was difficult to control. There was an annoying wind on the track and the bike felt a bit nervous because of it. Now we will look at the data and try to find somewhere to improve our set-up. We are third so that’s not so bad. We did start to reduce the problems this afternoon and the bike felt a bit stronger, and my motivation is still high. Our objective is now to do our maximum to be ready for Sunday’s battle.”
CARLOS CHECA (11th , 1’34.500)
“I’m having some troubles and we didn’t expect to have the problems we have under braking. I cannot go into the corner with the confidence or the grip I would like to have from the front, and that’s pretty scary. Especially when you get on the gas and the front is still light. Qualifiers make this problem worse, but we will work hard to improve tomorrow.”
DAVIDE BRIVIO, TEAM DIRECTOR
“This last race of the year feels quite strange because we have just won the title and this is the last race for Carlos with Yamaha. Even with those things, we are approaching it as a normal weekend and we have been working through the standard first day problems. Both riders have some small problems, and they just need to be smoothed out. Valentino is close to the lead even if the pace seems to be slower than before. I think that is because of the lower track temperatures. Carlos is struggling a little but it is Friday, so we have time to improve.”