Yesterday's first qualifying session at Phillip Island began with a dejected Marco Melandri walking away from his Fortuna Yamaha after crashing in the opening minutes, bringing out the red flags, but today the Italian rookie turned his GP around by taking seventh on the grid and top Yamaha honours.

The twenty-one-year-old made a 1.4secs improvement over his Friday performance after he and his crew rectified some of the grip issues suffered yesterday during hard braking and acceleration. Melandri contributed some of the improvement to the chassis' overall suspension balance but felt that the main gain came from improved throttle response and slightly modified gearbox ratios.

"I'm very happy," said Marco, who won the 250cc World Championship at the Phillip Island circuit last year. "Since yesterday we've changed the chassis setting slightly and improved my confidence with the front. This is really important at this circuit because of the high speeds here. My team have worked so hard and I'm really grateful. The rear grip felt better today and I can use the throttle more than yesterday. I found a good rhythm this afternoon and think I can find a good pace for the race. I'm happy."

"Marco had a good improvement today compared to yesterday, not only his lap times but also his pace. I think he can do well tomorrow if it doesn't rain," stated team director Davide Brivio.

In an effort to improve on yesterday's performance, Checa opted for a modified chassis geometry today, which backfired. Despite the setback, the Spaniard still made a 0.252 second improvement on his provisional time, and will start ninth tomorrow.

"We've changed so many things today but basically didn't improve," said a philosophically Checa. "My mistake was to not go back to yesterday's setting today, as I was more confident with that. We will now go back to that setting for tomorrow. I still think I can make a good race with the pace and confidence I had yesterday, as long as it's dry. If not of course it will be a different story! We tried something different today but didn't improve but that's normal, sometimes you improve from changes, sometimes you don't."



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