Saturday December 8 2001
BIAGGI & CHECA CONTINUE PROGRESS AT SEPANG
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa completed a useful three-day test session with the YZR-M1 four-stroke at Sepang today, their final track outing of 2001. The test followed a similarly helpful session at Phillip Island, Australia, last week and allows both riders to head into the Christmas/New Year break with peace of mind.
The team haven't released lap times from either of these two private sessions but Yamaha staff are delighted with progress and now return to Japan to carry out further detail improvements before Biaggi and Checa recommence testing in Europe during late January. M1 reliability has been exemplary, the team's four bikes covering a total of almost 600 laps at Phillip Island and almost 400 laps at Sepang without encountering a single problem.
"I'm happy," said YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "We've improved every day, especially chassis set-up and tyre combination after Michelin gave us a new rear this morning. They're happy, the riders are happy and we are happy! We now have a very clear development direction which is very important. In Japan we don't stop for Christmas, so we've got a good amount of time to work on various improvements for our next tests in January.
Biaggi had a grueling final day at Sepang, completing no less than 86 laps in sweltering heat and humidity. "That's a lot of laps, especially because it's been so hot today," said the fiercely committed Italian. "We've done a lot of tyre testing with Michelin, trying to find a race tyre for this track. We're still not quite there but me and the Michelin guys are clear on the direction we need to take. For sure when we come back here to race we'll have what we need. With the four-strokes everything is brand new for Michelin as well as for us, so they're working just as hard.
"Apart from tyres there's not been much to test, it's mainly been familiarising myself with the bike and trying to understand what happens when we make changes. We've learned a lot and now we've got to take all the data and work towards getting everything right for our next tests in January. There's still a lot to do and I can't make any predictions until after that, but with the direction I've given the team they should be able to improve. My web site has been crazy with messages from fans wanting to find out how things are going, all I can say is that people will have to wait a little longer to find out!
"It would nice to go home to Monaco now but at this time of year it's traditional for me to go to the Bologna Motor Show and do the Supermotard race, so that's what I'm doing. Then it's time to switch off and relax for a few weeks."
Checa also plans a good few weeks rest after completing 75 laps today. "I'm looking forward to taking it easy for a while," said the Spaniard. "These tests have been good for us, we've learned a lot about the bike and the tyres. Today I concentrated on doing endurance tests, so we didn't make a lot of changes to the set-up as we had done during the first two days. I did in one outing, which should give useful information to Yamaha and Michelin, and that's what we're really here for.
"Now we need to continue this good work, focusing on the chassis and the tyres. Yamaha and Michelin will make some improvements over the next few weeks before our next tests. As for me, I feel very comfortable on the bike, it just remains to compare ourselves against the opposition."
The Marlboro Yamaha Team commences its 2002 test programme at Valencia, Spain, in late January and will conduct further tests at Jerez, Estoril, Catalunya and Suzuka before the first four-stroke-based MotoGP season kicks off with the Japanese GP on April 7.