Originally published by Julian Ryder on Friday, August 18, 2006
Valentino Rossi’s championship chances may be slim but that doesn’t mean he’s given up. He stuck a qualifying tyre on halfway through the session this afternoon and promptly gapped the field by 1.25 secs. This is not The Doctor’s usual modus operandi but he says he must put pressure on the men leading the championship – ‘and if I am in tenth, twelfth there is no pressure.’ The qualifier went in early to enable the team to start work on a set-up for Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session because he reckons he must be on the first or second row to apply said pressure. ‘In the race it is difficult to play tactics. My tactic is be competitive from Friday.’ He’s doing that okay but you do get the impression that finishing today fastest was important to him, and that in itself is a change.
Nicky’s response? ‘I like the pressure, that’s what makes it fun!’ He sure had some fun this morning but it didn’t look too much like it this afternoon. His explanation is that they tried a few things that simply didn’t work. Nicky never got to the point where he could use a qualifier today.
The guy who got nearest to Rossi was Kawasaki’s Randy de Puniet. He’s been having trouble with qualifiers for the past few races so the team thought they’d give him a run on one this afternoon. He was happy with the bike anyway, and when the qualifiers went in he said it just felt right.
There isn’t much new machinery in sight, although Suzuki have a new cylinder head and other engine parts they intend to work through. Most of the new stuff is staying in the trucks until the two-day test on Monday and Tuesday. Rossi says he will ride the new Yamaha 800 on Monday but just as a shakedown before getting down to the serious work on the M1.