MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN LEAD ROWS ONE AND TWO Marlboro Yamaha Team stars Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were the main men at the Sachsenring today, ending the opening qualifying session first and fifth to head the first two rows of the provisional grid.
MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN LEAD ROWS ONE AND TWO
Marlboro Yamaha Team stars Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were the main men at the Sachsenring today, ending the opening qualifying session first and fifth to head the first two rows of the provisional grid. In warm, overcast conditions, Biaggi battled for provisional pole with last year's German GP winner Alex Barros (Honda), finally winning the contest by just 0.276 seconds. Team director Hiroya Atsumi was delighted by his riders' performances, which continue to improve as the 2001 World Championship moves into its second half.
"Last year we weren't so good here but our 2001 bikes are much more consistent from one track to another," he said. "We made the big breakthrough at our Mugello tests before the French GP and we've continued in that direction since then. We've worked at improving the bike's balance, so it's less nervous than before. Both Carlos and Max used to say the bike would get nervous when they were trying really hard, but we've cured that. Also, the new cylinders we've been using since Assen give more useable power delivery, so the riders can concentrate on riding, rather than controlling the nervousness. Now we just need to keep working some more, to get a good result on Sunday and beyond."
The Sachsenring is different this year. The track is around 200 metres and 3.2 seconds longer than before, raising average lap speed from 150kmh to 154kmh.
BIAGGI ON PROVISIONAL POLE
Max Biaggi is aiming to score his third pole position of the year tomorrow, having set the pace in today's first qualifying session for the 2001 German GP. Second in Britain two weeks ago and currently second in the World Championship, Biaggi is riding on the crest of a wave, aiming to zero in on Word Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda).
"I'm quite satisfied, it's always good to be in front," said the Roman. "The bike feels good, we've improved it since this morning and we've got some ideas to make it even better for tomorrow. We've made the bike more stable, which allows me to be more agile through the first section. Nothing's changed with the chassis, it's just a few tweaks to the front and rear suspension. Anyway, it must be all right, because I'm fastest! We've done a good job so far, but it's only Friday, the more important days are yet to come and the weather is looking unpredictable, which could be crucial.
"The track changes are good, though they've not radically changed the overall character. The first part is still too tight for 500s, with no room to overtake. The new part is wider, with a faster corner, which means riders can use different lines. That should make overtaking easier, which will make the racing more interesting."
CHECA BANG ON THE PACE
Carlos Checa is looking stronger than he's looked all season - running up front throughout qualifying after topping this morning's 'free' session. The Spaniard ended the day a close fifth quickest, 0.513 seconds off his team-mate's pole time, and attributes his new-found speed to further detail set-up changes.
"We tried a new geometry setting this morning and the bike feels better for me," said Checa who was second with just minutes to go. "We've been continuing in the same direction, trying to put more weight on the front to improve front-end grip, while also lifting weight off the rear to make it looser, for more easily controlled slides. Now we just have to work at perfecting the suspension balance to suit the new geometry setting.
"When I feel good on the bike, I feel more relaxed and the times come more easily. I really like the new section of the track, it's one of my favourites. I like tracks that go up and down, like Jarama or Laguna Seca. The steep downhill run at turn 12 is great; maybe I'll come back here in the winter with my snowboard!"
Sachsenring king Alex Barros led much of today's opening session but slipped down the order as Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) took over. Barros retaliated to go fastest in the dying moments, before Biaggi finally prevailed. "We had some problems this morning," said Barros, winner here last year and lap-record holder in '98 and '99. "We didn't have enough weight on the front, so the front-tyre contact wasn't so good, so the bike wouldn't turn. For this afternoon we changed the geometry and front suspension settings, and now it's much better."
ROSSI OFF THE PACE, SO FAR
Series leader Valentino Rossi could only manage tenth this afternoon. "I'm having some trouble getting used to my bike after riding the four-stroke," said Rossi, who tested a Suzuka Eight Hour Superbike in Japan last week. "Also, the set-up isn't right yet, the bike is slow to turn direction and I'm not getting good front-end feel. Plus we lost some time when the LCD display broke on one bike." <pre>
FIRST QUALIFYING 1. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'26.455 2. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 1'26.731 3. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 1'26.847 4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'26.963 5. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'26.968