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Valentino Rossi capped an impressive Yamaha debut by trimming a further 0.4secs from his previous best M1 lap at Sepang today – putting him within 0.05secs of Sete Gibernau and 0.165secs of Honda pace setter Max Biaggi, present at the circuit a few days previously.

"We did some good work. The time (2mins 2.75secs) we made was good for a first test, but tyres and chassis settings were the main aim here. I've really enjoyed my first three days with Yamaha, I'm very happy," smiled Vale.

"There's still work to do on the engine and we'll carry on with that, but overall things have been good," he confirmed.

"I guess we're doing okay," added cautious crew chief Jerry Burgess. "We've achieved enough for a fast time and we were running according to the Michelin test programme. Things have been very harmonious in terms of integration with Yamaha and now we'll go away and work on whatever the Yamaha Development Group have got for us."

"I didn't honestly expect we'd be at his level so soon," admitted Gauloises Fortuna team director Davide Brivio at the completion of Rossi's first test. "All our competitors will work hard this winter too, but this is a good first test to motivate everyone in the team and everyone from Yamaha."

As well as exceeding Yamaha's expectations, Rossi also proved exactly why he's a five-times world champion as he lapped almost a second faster than the next quickest M1 today, ridden by Yamaha veteran - and new team-mate - Carlos Checa.

"The bike feels better with the 16.5-inch front tyre," said the Spaniard, who tried both 17-inch and 16.5-inch fronts during an 88 lap stint, but lapped 0.13secs slower than on Sunday. "The race endurance test was not so bad, and this was only the first test of the season. Of course we've got more to do but we have all we need to achieve results."

In the Tech 3 outfit, new riders' Marco Melandri and Norick Abe were left over 2.3secs behind Rossi, neither having lapped as quickly as yesterday.

"That was a bit so-so," confessed Abe. "We're still not quite there with the settings, but we have not worked together before as a team. Even so I couldn't get the time I felt the tyres were capable of."

"Better than yesterday," claimed Melandri, still sore from recent shoulder surgery. "In the end the bike was okay but I took time to adjust to the 16.5-inch front tyre I tried today. At the moment my mind is strong but not my body."

Despite the deficit to Checa and Rossi, Tech 3 team director Herve Poncharal claimed - perhaps predictably - that the test was about setting his new riders in rather than lap time.

"We needed this first test to establish communication with new riders. For Marco this is his first ride since Phillip Island last year and he's not 100% fit yet. The 16.5-inch front tyre is helping him and we weren't here for lap times anyway - that's not an excuse - it's a fact," said the Frenchman.

"Norick is more of a racer than a tester and he looks very motivated. As the team begins to understand his needs more, we can expect more from him too," added Herve, who fielded Olivier Jacque and Alex Barros in 2003.

Yamaha has five more test sessions planned before the 2004 MotoGP season starts, in South Africa on April 18, but must now wait and see what the new Honda and Ducatis can do.


Yamaha Sepang test – day three times:

1. Valentino Rossi ITA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha 2mins 2.75secs
2. Carlos Checa SPA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha 2mins 3.72secs
3. Norick Abe JPN Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 2mins 5.05secs
4. Marco Melandri ITA Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 2mins 5.55secs

Yamaha Sepang test – best overall times:

1. Valentino Rossi ITA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha 2mins 2.75secs
2. Carlos Checa SPA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha 2mins 3.57secs
3. Norick Abe JPN Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 2mins 4.90secs
4. Marco Melandri ITA Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 2mins 4.90secs


Comparative lap times:

Best Honda/Yamaha Sepang test laps:
1. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Honda Pons 2min 2.585secs
2. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar Honda 2min 2.7secs
3. Valentino Rossi ITA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha 2mins 2.75secs
4. Tohru Ukawa JPN Honda Racing Corporation 2min 3.2secs
5. Nicky Hayden SPA Repsol Honda 2min 3.2secs
6. Colin Edwards USA Telefonica Movistar Honda 2min 3.3secs
7. Makoto Tamada JPN Camel Pramac Honda Pons 2min 3.41secs
8. Carlos Checa SPA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha 2mins 3.57secs
9. Norick Abe JPN Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 2mins 4.90secs
10. Marco Melandri ITA Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 2mins 4.90secs


2003 Malaysian Grand Prix:
Pole position: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 2min 2.48secs
Fastest lap: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 2min 3.822secs
Fastest M1 lap: Carlos Checa SPA Fortuna Yamaha 2min 4.193secs









 
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