After sensational qualifying
With a positive opening day as a springboard for today's one-hour qualifying session, the Tech 3 Yamaha Team, led by Carlos Checa, continued the encouraging performance of the weekend as he grabbed a top 10 spot on the grid claiming ninth fastest
time to start tomorrow's Gran Premio de Portugal at the Estoril circuit from the third row of the grid.
His lap time was less than a second off pole-sitter and fellow Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi who is attempting to defend his world champion status in the 28-lap race. With just 10 minutes remaining of the session Carlos astounded the MotoGP paddock as he was second fastest taking over a second off his time from yesterday to confirm the on-going improvements of the Dunlop tyres and the factory Yamaha combination at a track where side- grip is so very important.
With these two days now behind them, the team is confident that Carlos can score his best result of the year and help celebrate the Cataluyan's 34th birthday tomorrow.
The second Tech 3 Yamaha pilot, James Ellison also improved taking nearly two seconds of his fastest lap from yesterday and will start from 17th position on the grid but unfortunately was pushed off the track after another rider came underneath him in the closing stages of the session causing him to crash and thus negate any further chance of moving up the grid.
Carlos Checa (9th, 1'37.107, 28 laps)
"It was a very positive day because we improved a lot with our race tyre and of course the track has improved in grip as well but we have made some good steps.
We have found a good tyre for tomorrow after I had some concerns about warming the left hand side of the tyre and grip on that side but we have found a combination of tyre that we don't lose anything on the right side so this automatically gives me more confidence. With qualifying I had some chatter but we tried a different wheel size with the same tyre and we improved more than one second which for us is good. It was not enough to be in the top spot but I am quite satisfied with our procedure, our work and the structure of the tyre area for this race and gives us much more confidence for tomorrow. We have been moving step by step so we are improving time and again. Finally I couldn't improve anymore but at the end of the day we have had some very good information so I think for the next race we will be more effective in qualifying but for tomorrow I hope we can get the best result of the year."
James Ellison (17th 1'38.810, 26 laps)
"We improved again as I took two seconds off my time but I was hoping for a little bit more with another half a second. With the bike at the moment I feel I'm on the limit all the time but I don't think I pushed hard enough. I'm not entirely happy but not too disappointed either. Then to finish off the session I had a bit of an incident. There were a lot of guys going slow and I moved to keep out of the way but John (Hopkins) came around and he had to hit the brakes really hard getting out of shape to miss everyone and his handlebar hit me pushing me into the gravel and that was it. If it was anyone's fault it was all the guys going slow spread out over the track but at least it was right at the end of the session so I didn't lose too much. I'm ok and John came to apologise but really it wasn't his fault. Just one of those things and it was only cosmetic damage to the bike and I'm ok so no problem. I'm feeling pretty good for tomorrow as we can run a low 1'39 on race tyres so I'm fairly happy with that. Ive looked at the times and the guys that we should be up against, Chris (Vermeulen) and Randy (De Puniet), they're doing the same sort of times on race tyres so we just need a good start to get away with everybody - if it's dry. Chances are it's going to be wet tomorrow so we'll have to wait and see. If that's the case it's going to turn into a gamble for everybody."
Herve Poncharal - Tech 3 Yamaha Team Director
"We have had a fantastic day today but what is really worrying me is the weather forecast for tomorrow as it is supposed to be showers so it could be the same scenario like we had at Philip Island. That was also after such a good qualifying where we were sixth fastest, but we can't do anything about the weather. We have had a very positive weekend so far and it was so good to happen here because we were very sceptical after Japan and as I said yesterday we are back to where we were in Phillip Island. Carlos is very happy and I think the Yamaha/Dunlop package is working very well here as qualifying was very satisfactory and the third row is good enough for us. Also I think we have a good pace with the race tyre and providing we can get a good start I know we can stay with the lead group. Dunlop is looking good here and Carlos is very strong here and very motivated. James has also been improving a lot. Yesterday morning was a disaster but since then he has improved and his lap time is very decent. I'm sorry that he was taken out and he had a fall. Everybody knows that we are trying to finalise our collaboration for next year at the end of this race so I hope a good result will push the reason to allow Carlos to stay with us."