Stifling heat dominated day one of the Marlboro Grand Prix of Valencia today, with track temperatures reaching 45 degrees and Marlboro Yamaha Team men Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa running fifth and 13th quickest. Similar conditions are forecast...
Stifling heat dominated day one of the Marlboro Grand Prix of Valencia today, with track temperatures reaching 45 degrees and Marlboro Yamaha Team men Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa running fifth and 13th quickest. Similar conditions are forecast over the next two days, so the duo have been concentrating on tyre testing, rather than going for fast times.
"We've got a lot of new tyres from Michelin here, so we've been trying to get all the testing done today, narrowing things down for tomorrow," said team manager Geoff Crust. "The weather will be good tomorrow too, so that will be the time to concentrate on race set-up and going for fast laps. So far, both the guys have been testing 17 and 16.5 rears.
"Max is up there and looking good. Carlos needs to be higher up, but it's only Friday. He's only a second off pole but a second is a long time in 500s at the moment."
Last year just 0.89 seconds covered the top 15 here, the tightest grid in GP history.
BIAGGI FIFTH SO FAR
Marlboro Yamaha Team star Max Biaggi rode hard in the sweltering conditions, ending the day just 0.215 seconds off the provisional front row. The Italian qualified an ultra-close second quickest here last year and is confident he can challenge for a front-row start in tomorrow's crucial final qualifier.
"We had a lot of little problems today," he said. "We made some changes to our set-up after this morning's session, but, if anything, the bike was worse this afternoon. We had to go back a few steps during the session but at least we now know which way to go for tomorrow. We need to improve the way the front end is behaving over the bumps, that's my main concern."
CHECA CAN'T MATCH PRE-SEASON TIMES
Riding at his third home GP of the year, Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa could only manage 13th in today's opening qualifier. The Spanish star was only 1.013 seconds off the fastest lap of the session but that's enough to put him back on the fourth row of the provisional grid.
"I don't feel comfortable, especially on the brakes into the turns," he said. "I can't keep the bike rolling into the corners and it's running off line. I was the fastest guy in pre-season tests here (at 1m 35.4s) and I can 't even get close to those times now. We'll sit down now and analyse the differences, to see if it's just down to the extra heat or something else. The times are always very close here so it only takes a minor problem to put you well down the grid, the differences between us all are all very small."
LACONI ON POLE AGAIN
Regis Laconi (Yamaha) took the only pole position and victory of his 500 career at Valencia last year and the Frenchman was fastest again this afternoon. Using qualifier tyres in the final minutes, he took provisional pole by the narrowest of margins.
"We're running the same set-up I ran here last year," said Laconi, drenched in sweat. "I don't usually like really hot conditions, and it was getting really physically tough at the end of the session, so this is a good performance for me. It's nice to be fastest but I'm fully aware that it's only Sunday that really matters."
ROBERTS LOOKING GOOD
World Championship leader Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) is looking increasingly strong at the top of the 500 points table. After extending his series lead in Portugal two weeks ago, the American dominated most of today's session, losing pole by just three thousandths.
"The bike is working much better here than it did last year," said Roberts. "We've got some new engine parts that are working real good, they give me more confidence to open the throttle."
<pre> FIRST QUALIFYING 1. Régis Laconi (FRA) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 1'35.682 2. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'35.685 3. Alex Barros (BRA) Emerson HONDA Pons 1'35.824 4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Emerson HONDA Pons 1'35.860 5. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'36.075
13. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'36.695