Australian Grand Prix, Phillip Island
First Qualifying, Friday October 12 2001

Marlboro Yamaha Men On Pace At Windswept Island

Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi were fourth and seventh fastest in this afternoon's opening qualifying session at windswept Phillip Island.

The venue's ever-changing early spring weather dominated the day, though conditions for the qualifier were at least better than they'd been in the morning when fierce winds and driving rain made riding particularly treacherous.

"In these kinds of conditions a lot of it has to do with which riders want to risk more," said Marlboro Yamaha Team manager Geoff Crust. "It is risky out there but with more showers forecast for tomorrow, everyone wants to try and get in the best-possible lap. At the start of the session there was a river of water running across the track at turn three and that had only just about gone by the end, so the riders were having to stick to a narrow line. Like pretty much everyone our guys started the session with wet front tyres, then switched to slicks after a couple of laps."


Carlos Checa was second quickest during much of the latter stages of today's session, ending the outing fourth for a provisional front-row start. With more rain forecast for the weekend, the Marlboro Yamaha Team man's main concern was getting as close to the front as possible, in case tomorrow's final qualifier is a washout.

"It's very windy out there but you've got to try and get used to it," he said. "It's bad everywhere, but I'd say it's worse through turns one, three and five. Turn one is scary because you're riding through there at over 200kmh and a gust of wind could cause you major problems. We're focusing on trying to help the bike in these conditions, adjusting the set-up to keep the front wheel on the ground, because you really get into trouble when the wind takes the front away from you. But there are other corners where the wind is blowing the other way, so the wind actually helps you steer into the turns!"


Max Biaggi took his time to adjust to the perilous conditions, getting up to speed in the final stages when he was challenging for a spot on the provisional front row. Fourth quickest just a few minutes from the end of the session, the Marlboro Yamaha Team man was bumped down to seventh at the very end.

"The wind was a big problem and I didn't like it much, it was so strong, especially at the first turn," said the Italian. "It stopped us doing much work on set-up, so we must work more on the settings tomorrow. The wind always lifts the front end and that's something we must try and fix, just in case it's windy again tomorrow. Also, we started today's session with a wet set-up, which wasn't so good once the track was dry."


Home favourite Garry McCoy (Yamaha) grabbed provisional pole position at the very end of today's session, dislodging Alex Barros (Honda). The Aussie was in irrepressible form despite the conditions, smokin' his rear tyre as he powered out of the Island's high-speed turns.

"The wind is terrible, it's really hard to cope with because it's pushing the front wide in pretty much all the corners," said McCoy who isn't keen on the pressures of racing at home. "I treat this race like any other but the expectations of the people scare me!"


Every racer aspires to racing in biking's premier class but riding a 500 at Phillip Island today wasn't very enjoyable, according to second-quickest Alex Barros.

"This afternoon was not so much fun," said the on-form Brazilian. "Most dangerous of all, the wind wasn't consistent, so you couldn't get used to it, but sometimes it's our job to ride in difficult conditions. We didn't do much on set-up today and concentrated instead on trying a lot of different tyres in an effort to find the best-possible grip."

1. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 1'34.104
2. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 1'34.199
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'34.430
4. CARLOS CHECA (SPA)Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'34.535
5. Olivier Jacque (FRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 1'34.569

7. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'34.820