MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN IN THE HEAT OF THE BATTLE Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa qualified second and third fastest in this afternoon's stiflingly hot final qualifying session at Mugello, the second successive race for which...
MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN IN THE HEAT OF THE BATTLE
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa qualified second and third fastest in this afternoon's stiflingly hot final qualifying session at Mugello, the second successive race for which the pair have both qualified in the top three. And Checa, who took provisional pole position in yesterday 's opening session, would almost certainly have done better if his number-one bike hadn't suffered a problem during this afternoon's final outing.
Following improvements to the YZR-M1's engine-braking system for last month's French GP, the bike's performance has been further improved here with a new chassis that allows Biaggi and Checa to attack corners at a higher speed.
"The most important things are that Max and Carlos stayed on the front row and that we are making the bike better, race by race," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio. "Max's last run was very impressive, he kept going rather than stop for new tyres and he was on pole for a few minutes before Rossi went quickest. Carlos' bike had an electrical problem, but we couldn't solve it during session, even though we changed some of the software and some parts. I'd like to apologise to Carlos. The technicians are now looking into the problem so that we can fix it for tomorrow and then I think both riders will be able to ride an interesting race. "
BIAGGI FASTEST FOR A MOMENT
This afternoon's final session was run in strength- and performance-sapping 32-degree heat, so it wasn't until the closing stages that riders began to beat yesterday's times. Marlboro Yamaha Team man Max Biaggi was the first to dislodge team-mate Carlos Checa from pole when he went quickest with three minutes to go. He stayed there until Valentino Rossi (Honda) bettered his time.
"We've been working towards the race, rather than just going for one-off times, so I know I can ride a good race tomorrow," said Biaggi, who was also second yesterday, behind Checa. "It'll be a hard race but I'm much happier with the bike now and I'm enjoying myself much more. The set-up we' ve got with the new chassis is okay, though we're not seeing the full benefits of it just yet. We need to work on the settings some more, so next week's test at Valencia will be very important."
CHECA'S CHARGE BLUNTED BY PROBLEM
Fastest yesterday, Carlos Checa had every hope of securing his first-ever MotoGP pole position today, until his number-one bike struck a problem at the very beginning of this afternoon's crucial final qualifier. In normal circumstances this wouldn't have been a problem, the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider would simply have switched to his second bike, which would've featured a near identical set-up. But Checa and Biaggi were equipped with one new chassis apiece yesterday, which they tried for the first time in morning practice and immediately liked. Since then both men have used the new chassis exclusively because it offers better steering and handling, so when Checa switched to his number-two machine, he wasn't able to match yesterday's stunning performance.
"It was annoying to run into this trouble in final qualifying but at least we're still on the front row," said Checa. "The bike was good yesterday, so we left the set-up basically the same, but it wasn't running right from the beginning of the session. I came back to the pits and took my other bike which didn't give me such a good feeling. We made some changes but I only had a few laps left and couldn't improve my time. I hope the guys can fix things for the race, and if they can, I think we can look towards a podium finish."
ROSSI GRABS POLE AT LAST GASP
Valentino Rossi tried hard all session to better the Marlboro Yamaha men, snatching pole from Max Biaggi on his very last lap. "Basically, the Yamahas seem to be at the same level as us now, so it was a difficult session," said Rossi, third yesterday. "We've had some problems here, we've fixed some of them but still have more work to do. Tomorrow won't be easy."
Rossi's team-mate Tohru Ukawa became the fastest bike racer in history when he clocked 322.3kmh on Mugello's 1.14km uphill main straight during final qualifying. In imperial figures that's 200.27mph, surpassing the magic 'double ton'.
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211v) Fri 1'52.201 Sat 1'51.258
2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) Fri 1'52.197 Sat 1'51.837
3. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) Fri 1'52.086 Sat 1'52.977
4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) Fri 1'52.592 Sat 1'52.107