There was a flavour of the former glory days during the second and final qualifying session for the 2003 Motegi Grand Prix when an all-out qualifying tyre war determined the final grid positions for the 24-lap Pacific main event.

The battle began in earnest during the final ten minutes of the session, only for the qualifying benchmark to change no less than a half a dozen times before the chequered flag.

Up until the final, erratic flurry of times Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa looked set for a promising qualifying result, after he placed the factory YZR-M1 on the front row of the grid with the second fastest time.

Despite the competitive run, a 1'48.767 as his personal best - only 0.060 seconds of pole at that time - and feeling confident with the overall race package of his machine, the Spaniard wasn't able to produce the one-off flying lap required to maintain his front row start. As a result Checa will now start the Pacific Grand Prix from the second row of the grid - seventh - as the lead Yamaha rider.

"I am positive about this afternoon's session. For some reason I couldn't go faster with softer qualifying tyres at the end of the session, so I wasn't able to improve my time. I'm pleased, though, because I had a good pace with the race tyres for most of the session, and some of my laps were quite fast," he explained. "We've certainly improved since we were here last year. There's still a gap of about one second between me and the top rider but I think we can still make up a few tenths. Tomorrow I will try to be focused for the start and if so I think it will be possible for me to fight with the top riders."

Checa's Fortuna Yamaha team-mate Marco Melandri continued to improve throughout the second day of qualifying, featuring well in the top five on a few occasions before completing the session with the ninth fastest time. Despite being relegated back to the third row the young Italian is confident with his race package for tomorrow's race, but realises the importance of a good start at this venue.

"Today we changed quite a few things; we tried a slightly different set-up of the geometry, tested different tyres, and slightly modified the engine," said the Italian. "Overall we improved a bit since yesterday. At each practice session I have had more trust in the bike and I feel better entering and braking in the corners. My focus was to start from the second row, but I didn't feel totally comfortable with the qualifying tyres, and by the time I did there was nothing left in them. I had a good rhythm in general, however, and did almost the same time with the race tyres. I'm quite happy about the package for tomorrow's race."

"That was quite a good session," commented Davide Brivio, Team Director. "We are looking forward to tomorrow's race, and will finish our preparations tomorrow morning. Both riders went for many laps with a good pace, which is a good sign for tomorrow. Their starting positions are okay. I'm sure they both have the potential to follow the top group."

 

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