Checa edges provisional Le Mans pole

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Carlos Checa made a mockery of Yamaha’s four-stroke troubles when he grabbed a shock MotoGP provisional pole position in Le Mans today.

The Spaniard took his YZR-M1 to the top of the leaderboard in the closing stages with a best time of 1.36.59 to edge out runaway world championship leader Valentino Rossi by just nine-hundreths-of-a-second.

Checa told MCN: " I am feeling really confident on the bike. I’m more comfortable backing in to turns after we made some improvements to the engine braking system and the chassis in Mugello last week. I can brake deeper now with the front and rear.

" We have softened the suspension and springs by about 15 per cent which has made a big difference. "

It was a good day all round for the Marlboro Yamaha squad as Max Biaggi slotted his M1 onto the last place on the front row. Biaggi also had the fastest bike out there as well. His M1 clocked a speed just short of 185mph.

Best two-stroke on show was the works Yamaha YZR of Shinya Nakano, who came from nowhere to grab third place having followed Biaggi round on his fastest lap.

Britain’s Jeremy McWilliams ended up the incredibly tight opening session in 14th position, with top 14 riders split by just 0.9s.

He had been quick of the traps by slotting himself into second position after just 15 minutes.

The session was frantic throughout as riders desperately tried to get in a good lap time with ominous rain clouds hanging over the circuit. Checa though could not have timed it any better as he hadn’t got back into the pits to celebrate when the showers started.

Friday’s MotoGP qualifying:

1)C Checa 2) V Rossi 3) S Nakano 4) M Biaggi 5) L Capirossi 6) T Ukawa 7)N Abe 8) O Jacque 9 )S Gibernau 10) A Barros 11) D Katoh 12)J van de Goorbergh 13) K Roberts 14)J McWilliams 15)T Harada 16) N Aoki 17) R Laconi 18)G McCoy 19) J Hopkins 20) J L Cardoso

125s

HOME favourite Arnaud Vincent claimed provisional pole for the Le Mans 125 GP as he looks to build on his world championship lead.

Vincent, bidding to become the first French winner of the 125 championship, dominated today’s opening 30-minute session with a best time of 1.44.49.

He edged out reigning champion Manuel Poggiali by just 0.1s. Alex de Angelis, who was the innocent victim of the incident in Jerez earlier this month that saw Poggiali disqualified for dangerous riding, finished third.

Simone Sanna completed the front row.

British teenager Chaz Davies had his best day since joining the GP arena. The 15-year-old ended up 24th fastest but outpaced 13 other riders. He was only 2.5s behind Vincent’s best time, the closest he had been to the front all season.

125 qualifying

1)A Vincent 2) M Poggiali 3) A de Angelis 4) S Sanna 5) S Jenkner 6) M Azuma 7) M Sabbatani 8) A Rodriguez 9) G Borsoi 10) Y Ui 11) L Cecchinello 12) H Barbera 13) A Dovizioso 14) P Nieto 15) S Bianco 16)D Pedrosa 17) J Hules 18) J Olive 19) M Giansanti 20) N Ueda 21) M Fabrizio 22) S Perugini 23) M Kallio 24) C Davies 25) A Ballerini 26) G Lefort 28) K Nohles 29) G Talmasci 30) A Baldolini 31) J Lorenzo 32) M Angelioni 33) J Petit 34) I Toth 35) V Braillard 36) Y Tiberio 37) G Leblanc

250s

RAIN in Le Mans tomorrow will see only nine riders legally qualify for Sunday’s French 250 GP.

Fortunately though it seems that conditions will be more favourable than the riders experienced this afternoon.

Nineteen riders failed to make the qualifying grade of 1.51.03 as torrential rain struck the Bugatti circuit barely five minutes into the session.

With lap times not going to improve in the wet, and Franco Battaini putting in such a quick early lap when it was dry, it made it impossible for over half the field to qualify.

Battaini was fastest with a 1.43.77 and only did four laps but it was easily enough.

Other qualifiers included Roberto Rolfo, Roberto Locatelli. Randy de Puniet and Casey Stoner. Prominent non-qualifiers included Marco Melandri and Toni Elias.

British duo Jay Vincent and Leon Haslam will be praying for dry conditions tomorrow. Vincent missed out ending the session 19th though he did spend the session getting in some wet practice. Haslam would have struggled in the dry as a result of a massive crash this morning that left him battered and bruised but luckily with no broken bones.

1)F Battaini 2) R Rolfo 3) R Locatelli 4) R de Puniet 5) A Debon 6) E Alzamora 7) C Stoner 8) T van den Bosch 9) F Nieto

Unqualified (outside 107%)

Y Lussiana, D Heidolf, H Marchand, R Jara, T Elias, S Aubry, J Janssen, T Sekiguchi, S Yuzy, J Vincent, H Aoki, M Melandri, D Checa, S Porto, E Nigon, V Phillippe, N Matsudo, H Faubel, H Mora, L Haslam.

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MCN Staff

By MCN Staff