Motorcycling: Rossi's tyre change produces big boost in his qualifying form

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The Independent Online

Valentino Rossi changed his strategy to dominate practice for tomorrow's Czech MotoGP here yesterday, and keeps alive his hopes of winning the championship for the sixth consecutive year.

Rossi put a qualifying tyre on his Camel Yamaha early in the afternoon session, and finished the day around a second and a half faster than the three Honda rivals who lead him in the points table.

"My tactic is to be competitive on Fridays," Rossi said, referring to times when his team have been slow to achieve a good set-up for his bike. "The important thing now is not to start from 10th place, and to finish on the podium at every race."

Rossi lapped the 3.36mile track in 1 minute 57.871 seconds, 1.6sec faster than the championship leader, the American Nicky Hayden. But Hayden elected to run on race tyres on his Repsol Honda and save his qualifiers for today's sessions.

"We tried a few things but they didn't work out too well," Hayden said. "We've still got some work to do."

The Frenchman Randy de Puniet was the only rider to get close to Rossi, taking his Kawasaki around less than two-tenths of a second slower. Loris Capirossi, only now back to full fitness after crashing in Barcelona in June, was third fastest on his Marlboro Ducati.

Dani Pedrosa, the 20-year-old Spaniard who holds second place in the championship, was eighth fastest on his Repsol Honda, and third-placed Marco Melandri, was ninth best.

Yamaha have their new 800cc machine in the pits here, ready for next year's regulations aimed at limiting the power and 215mph potential of the current 1,000cc bikes. But the team's managing director Lin Jarvis confirmed that Rossi will only test the 800 on Monday and Tuesday if the team is happy with its current machine.