Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang
First Qualifying, Friday October 19 2001
Marlboro Yamaha Men Second And Tenth
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa rode through oppressive heat and humidity to record second and tenth-fastest times in this afternoon's opening Malaysian GP qualifying session.
Biaggi battled for provisional pole throughout the later stages of the outing while Checa focused on dialling out some minor set-up difficulties.
"Max was the fastest guy here during winter tests, but now some of the other riders are very fast too," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "We've been working with Max to improve his machine balance and feedback, but most of all we've been working on tyre endurance. It's so hot here and that makes life hard for the tyres, so we do whatever we can do with settings to make life easier for the tyres. Carlos is still looking for the correct bike balance. We made a mistake with his set-up in Australia, so we've gone back to the normal way for here, and now we're just fine tuning that."
BIAGGI VIES FOR POLE
Max Biaggi rode a scintillating lap of Sepang this afternoon to go to the top of first qualifying, but by the end of the session he'd been pipped for provisional pole. The Marlboro Yamaha Team star worked hard throughout the day, revelling in the withering heat, and working towards the ideal set-up for Sunday's race which will test riders, bikes and tyres to the very limit.
"This morning's rain meant we've only really had one practice session so far," said Biaggi. "But we managed to try a few different settings, then decided on one and then went for a fast lap at the end. Engines tend to suffer in this kind of heat, so tomorrow we'll work on carburation to improve performance. Tyres are the other concern, after a few laps you slide around a lot, and it's important to find a chassis set-up that's kind to tyres over race distance. The weather conditions also make this one of the most difficult races of the year for us, but if you work-out, this is when you feel the benefit. It's so hot that it's difficult to breathe, the only time you can really get your breath is down the two big straights."
CHATTER FOR CHECA
Carlos Checa could only manage tenth quickest in today's opening qualifier at Sepang. The Spaniard is working to cure chatter problems that are hampering him through the track's many long corners.
"I seem to have found myself in a bit of a hole at the moment," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider, who also had difficult weekends at the Motegi and Phillip Island GPs. "The main concern here is chatter, so far we' ve only found one tyre combination that helps cure the problem. We did improve the steering after this morning but the chatter is preventing me from going any faster. It seems to be a problem for me at any track where there are long corners which means I have to keep the bike on its side for long periods of time. Anyway, we'll forget today and start working on tomorrow."
CAPIROSSI GOES FOR FOURTH POLE
Loris Capirossi (Honda) grabbed provisional pole at the end of a dramatic session, outpacing Max Biaggi by just 0.205 seconds. "Today was very hard work," said the sweat-drenched Italian. "After this morning's rain the track was very slippery, but it picked up grip throughout this afternoon. Everyone was getting a lot of wheelspin, you could see how much rubber was getting laid down. I'm happy with the time I did with a soft tyre but now we need to work on improving endurance because it's a long and hard race here."
NAKANO BACK UP FRONT
Rookie Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) is back in contention for another front-row start after a difficult Australian GP where he started from row three. "After that I realised I've to work harder for a good grid spot," said Nakano, who was fractionally faster than new World Champion Valentino Rossi (Honda). "Also, I love this track because it suits my corner-speed style, and I love the heat, I won the 250s by quite a margin here last year."
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 2'05.637
2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 2'05.842
3. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 2'06.489
4. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 2'06.645
10. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 2'07.905