Rossi on front row
Valentino Rossi will start from the front row of the grid in third place with his Camel Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards just two spots behind him in fifth when the Australian Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow, thanks to a much improved performance on the
second day of action at Phillip Island.
After initially struggling to find an adequate set-up for their YZR-M1 machines in yesterday's opening free practice sessions due to the cool spring temperatures, both riders worked effectively with their pit crews to find better grip for the rear tyre - improving their best lap times by almost two seconds and securing prime starting positions for tomorrow's crucial round in the process.
For Rossi the target is a sixth victory of the season as he looks to pull even closer to series leader Nicky Hayden (Honda). After an excellent run of recent form the Italian lies just 26 points short of the American and tomorrow promises to be another mouth- watering duel between the pair, with Hayden starting from pole position thanks to a record lap this afternoon.
Edwards is also targeting his best finish of the season in front of a bumper Phillip Island crowd including many of his Australian family members and friends.
VALENTINO ROSSI (3rd 1'29.271; 28 laps)
The team did a really good job today because we had some difficulties setting the bike up yesterday, but today it worked really well and I was able to qualify on the front row, which is very important at this circuit.
Because of the temperatures here we are finding it hard to get heat into the rear tyre and we struggled a bit again today, which is why I had to leave it so late before trying for the fast time on the qualifying tyre. We still have some work to do in this aspect on the race setting but with the qualifying tyre the grip was there and I was able to go third fastest, even though I ran off the track on my out lap and then my bike did a small wheelie in the last corner on my flying lap. Anyway I am happy and want to say a big thank you to my team and to Michelin for the excellent progress we made today. I'm surprised that Capirossi and Gibernau are so far back because they have got a very strong race pace so I suppose me and Nicky will be pushing hard from the start to try and escape.
COLIN EDWARDS (5th 1'29.680; 29 laps)
I don't think I've ever gone from one extreme to the other to this extent in my whole career! From being totally miserable yesterday I'm now really happy and content with our set-up and today's work. It's a good feeling! We've actually made a big move with the setting, back towards what we had at China and Le Mans and it seems to be working. The thing is we had a different chassis back then and we were suffering with chatter at the time so we never went back to that but the guys worked overtime and came up with a concoction that worked. I've really got to thank my team; we've changed almost everything possible since yesterday, from electronics to suspension and, bar the engine and the chassis, it's hardly the same bike today. They've put in the hours and it's clearly worked so I really am seriously grateful to them. I'm really happy with my race tyre and the set-up we used through the session and then the qualifier I used was like superglue! It's no secret that we were struggling in the tyre area too yesterday so I want to say thanks to Michelin, they've pulled something out overnight and it's looking good. I can't wait for tomorrow; it feels good to be starting at the right end of the grid for my favourite race of the year!
DAVIDE BRIVIO CAMEL YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR
It's been a very good day for us. Firstly we're all really pleased to see Colin back near the top again and feeling so much better with the bike. Then with Valentino we achieved our main target of starting on the front row and this is very important for tomorrow's race. I think it's going to be a very interesting race tomorrow! The race pace of both Valentino and Colin is very good and I think it's going to be a great fight, as it always is at Phillip Island, with a lot of overtaking. I hope that we will be in that fight with both our riders!