Italian GP MYT first qualifying

Fresh from their storming one-two at the French GP two weeks ago, Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa have yet to show their best pace at sun-drenched Mugello. Biaggi fell twice during this afternoon's opening qualifying...

Fresh from their storming one-two at the French GP two weeks ago, Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa have yet to show their best pace at sun-drenched Mugello. Biaggi fell twice during this afternoon's opening qualifying session to end the day eighth fastest while Checa was 12th.

With track temperature nudging 40 degrees, Biaggi is some way off the times he clocked during private tests here in mid-May but the Italian is convinced he can make substantial improvements for tomorrow's all-important final session. Second behind Biaggi at Le Mans, Checa is also confident of moving forward on Saturday.

"It's strange, the lap times Max was doing at the tests were as fast as Rossi's been doing today," said Marlboro Yamaha Team manager Geoff Crust. "We're going to take a long look at the data and find out why he went down, then we'll try again tomorrow. Carlos says he's not feeling too comfortable on the bike, but he thinks that's more down to him than the machine."

TORRID DAY FOR MIGHTY MAX

Max Biaggi walked away from both today's tumbles and plans a change of set-up for tomorrow to improve his pace. The first crash came 20 minutes into the session when the Marlboro Yamaha Team man fell as he entered the final Bucine left-hander, the second happened 24 minutes later when he missed a gear going into the first esses.

"After Le Mans, I didn't expect to start the weekend like that," said Biaggi, who clocked a 1m 52.9s during his tests here. "I lost the front first time, then the next time I missed a gear and the rear end stepped out when I found the gear. But it's only Friday and I'm sure we'll be able to improve things for the race. The bike felt a little unstable today, and this certainly isn't the level we should be at, so we're working to fix that and we'll run a different set-up tomorrow. Although our chosen direction on rear tyres is 16.5, we also tried the 17 today. The 16.5 obviously has advantages but if you've not got the set-up right, you can't always make the best of that advantage."

CHECA: 'MORE ME THAN THE BIKE'

The French GP proved once again that Carlos Checa can run up front with the best of them and the Spanish star is confident he can do the same here, once he's feeling more confident.

"I didn't feel so comfortable today," he said. "But I think it's more me than the bike, I don't think I was riding so well this afternoon. We tried a few different things with my machines, running one as we ran it at Le Mans and the other with last year's Mugello settings. The main problem I've been having today is turning into the corners -- I've been getting quite a bit of front-end push when I'm turning in and when I'm going through the corner. We'll try a narrower front-wheel rim tomorrow and we think that will help."

ROSSI ON A ROLL

World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda) dominated this afternoon's opening qualifier, heading the pack from ten minutes into the session and steadily improving his pace throughout. "I'm very satisfied with what we've achieved today," said the Italian, who crashed out of the lead of last year's Italian GP here. "I've changed my style quite a bit since then, riding more with the rear end, and I think that's definitely helping me get around here at a good pace."

ROBERTS CHASING HARD

Reigning World Champion Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) moved to second at the end of the session, three tenths shy of Rossi. The American, who has yet to score a top-five finish this year and currently lies seventh overall, is struggling to find a good balance for his RGV500. "We've been trying to find a setting that makes the bike more tyre friendly," he said. "But that won't work here for the lap times, so we've gone back to a more nimble set-up which will make life harder for the tyres. We'll just have to see how they work over race distance." <pre> FIRST QUALIFYING 1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'52.838 2. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'53.151 3. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 1'53.694 4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'53.842

8. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'54.497 12. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'55.324

-MYT

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