Team Suzuki rider Kenny Roberts Jr. was a close seventh-fastest in today's first qualifying session for Sunday's Pacific GP, exploiting the latest round of improvements to the GSV-R four-stroke prototype, while by contrast team-mate Sete Gibernau was 16th and struggling.

The latest improvements continue work on the all-important slipper clutch, which reduces engine braking, rear-wheel hop and lock-up when the throttle is closed. An all-new Suzuki-designed clutch was introduced for the Portuguese GP two races ago. For Motegi, the first round of changes to the design have refined the performance still further.

Other changes are also aimed at solving problems that came to light when the machine achieved a new and higher level of performance - primarily to try to improve weight transfer to the front of the machine.

"We've raised the level a bit with the new clutch, but it's also doing some bad things that weren't a problem before," admitted Roberts. "We were never able to get enough slip with the old clutch. Now we can do that, but we need to find the right level. This morning, with one adjustment we gained a full half-second in time."

Spaniard Gibernau had problems finding the right set-up for the stop-and-go Motegi circuit, and is hoping to find the key for tomorrow's second day of practice.

"I really don't have much to say," stated a dejected Sete. "We had a bad session, basically because we screwed up. I'm sure we can get it better tomorrow, and that's all I'm thinking about right now."

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