Final Qualifying, Saturday October 20 2001

Marlboro Yamaha men have torrid day at boiling Sepang

Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa had a fraught final qualifying session at boiling-hot Sepang this afternoon, Biaggi slipping to third following a tumble and Checa struggling to 13th.

In withering heat and humidity the pair did their best to prepare for the Malaysian GP, despite another morning session run mostly in the damp. Tomorrow's race, round 15 of the 2001 World Championship, is likely to be their toughest physical challenge of the year. "Today wasn't such a good day, so we have a lot of work ahead of us tonight," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "It looked like Max got the front end bouncing on some bumps going into the final hairpin, that's why he fell. His set-up is so-so but Carlos seems to have more of a problem here. It's strange because he finished second at the last two races at this track but he doesn' t feel happy with the balance of his bike at the moment."

Second fastest yesterday, Max Biaggi slipped to third in this afternoon's final Sepang qualifier after a minor tumble 20 minutes before the chequered flag. The Marlboro Yamaha Team rider was able to continue the session but unable to improve on his Friday best. Nevertheless he has qualified almost a second faster than he qualified for this event last year.

"I was trying to get myself into a good rhythm but the bike was moving around and I lost the front going into the final turn," said the Italian. "It's been a difficult day, this track is pretty slippery in the heat but I tried my best, so I'm a little angry after the crash. Anyway, I got back to the pits and waited until my bike was ready but I'd lost some confidence, so I wasn't able to improve on yesterday's time. But we're still on the front row and that's good."

Carlos Checa didn't have the best of Saturdays at Sepang. Struggling to get comfortable around the sweeping Malaysian track, he slipped to 13th quickest.

"We've tried various different settings to improve things but I just don't feel good on the bike here," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team man who had been tenth in the opening qualifying session here. "Yesterday was bad and we thought we'd make some progress today. I'm still getting quite a bit of chatter in a few corners and that's not helping. We'll see what we can do with the set-up in the morning warm-up but I'm not expecting any miracles. I 'll just go out and get the most points I can."

Loris Capirossi was one of many riders unable to improve on their Friday lap times today, but the Honda rider had been fast enough yesterday to give him his fourth pole position of 2001. Once again Italians dominate here, with Capirossi first, Valentino Rossi (Honda) second and Max Biaggi third. "Because this morning's session was damp I spent this afternoon testing race settings and tyres, I only stopped twice in the session," he said. "I did have one go with soft tyres at the end but it didn't work out."

Valentino Rossi may have secured his first 500 World Championship last weekend but that didn't stop him having a last-minute go at pole position today. The Italian ended up second, just 0.075 seconds shy of Capirossi. "My guys did a great job, the bike set-up is much better today," he said. "I could've got pole but I made a little mistake exiting the final corner, running up and over the kerb, which lost me some time."

1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 2'05.637
2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 2'05.712
3. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 2'05.842
4. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 2'05.961

13. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 2'07.751