Dutch Grand Prix, Assen First Qualifying, Thursday June 27 2002 Marlboro Yamaha in the hunt for pole at Assen. Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were once again in the thick of the action at Assen this afternoon,...
Dutch Grand Prix, Assen
First Qualifying, Thursday June 27 2002
Marlboro Yamaha in the hunt for pole at Assen.
Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were once again in the thick of the action at Assen this afternoon, Biaggi going fastest in the closing moments before ending the session a close-run second, Checa in sixth.
The Assen track, fastest venue on the MotoGP World Championship calendar and nicknamed 'The Cathedral' by race fans, has undergone minor changes to its layout this year, but that hasn't really changed the circuit' s high-speed zigzag character which dominates the minds of riders and their engineers.
"The most important aspect of performance that we work on here is high-speed direction change," says M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "After this morning's session we adjusted suspension and geometry to improve manoeuvrability, but we still need to work some more in this area. We also need to improve front-end stability, so we have to make a compromise between that and direction changing."
BIAGGI A FRACTION OFF POLE
Max Biaggi celebrated his 31st birthday at Assen yesterday, and today he came within 0.025 seconds of giving himself the perfect present - provisional pole position for the Dutch TT. The hard-riding Marlboro Yamaha Team man ran in the top four throughout this afternoon's first qualifier, then upped his pace in the final minutes, moving into provisional pole with moments to go. But seconds later old rival Valentino Rossi (Honda) sneaked ahead. Two weeks ago at Catalunya Biaggi scored the fast-improving M1's first-ever pole position.
"We're looking for agility and I know we can improve for tomorrow and race day," said Biaggi. "We've been working on suspension and geometry and the bike feels better than it did this morning. Our pace isn't so bad, we came very close to pole, and it's important to be up front here on day one in case it rains tomorrow. The new part of the track around Veenslang and Ruskenhoek is quite difficult to get right but it's okay. I crashed this morning, I ran across some dirt on the track and lost the front."
CHECA SIXTH AND COMFORTABLE
Carlos Checa ran in the top four throughout most of this afternoon's first qualifying session, slipping to sixth in the final minutes, though still only 0.545 seconds off pole. The Marlboro Yamaha Team star, who led the first half of the recent Catalan GP, is feeling cool, calm and confident as he works to perfect his M1's chassis performance for the revised Assen layout.
"The changes they've made around Veenslang make life more difficult for us," explains Checa. "Four-stroke MotoGP bikes are faster and heavier than 500s, so they have more inertia which makes it harder for us to change direction at high speed. At the moment the bike seems a bit too heavy through the direction changes. We've improved our suspension set-up which has helped, and I know I can go faster if we make it even better. Overall I feel comfortable, but I must say I preferred the old track layout. The new section feels narrow and the changed double right (Duikersloot) doesn't have camber like the rest of the track; you used to be able to go in there with more speed."
ROSSI'S LATE CHARGE TO POLE
World Championship leader Valentino Rossi left it until the final minute of qualifying to grab provisional pole. The man who's won five of six races so far this season worked throughout the day to get his RCV working to his satisfaction. "We only really got it right for our final run," he said. "The bike is stable here but it's difficult to get through the direction changes, so we've been working on suspension, geometry and tyres to fix that."
Two-stroke riders Alex Barros and Loris Capirossi dominated much of the session, their lighter 500s suiting Assen's flowing nature. "The absence of heavy braking and acceleration helps us here," said Capirossi, who ended the day in fourth place.
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211v) 2'01.691
2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 2'01.716
3. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI (GSV-R) 2'01.836
4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) 2'01.983
6. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 2'02.236