Michelin Czech GP first qualifying notes

Italian trio of Biaggi, Rossi and Capirossi set red-hot pace to lead the way Top six riders inside lap record, fastest eight riders equipped with Michelin tyres Brno king Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) got his Czech GP ...

Italian trio of Biaggi, Rossi and Capirossi set red-hot pace to lead the way
Top six riders inside lap record, fastest eight riders equipped with Michelin tyres

Brno king Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) got his Czech GP weekend off to a great start by snatching provisional pole position from arch-rival Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) in the final moments of this afternoon's opening qualifying session. The Italian, only beaten twice in his last nine appearances at the Czech track, bettered his 2002 Brno pole position on his final lap to undercut Rossi by 0.188 seconds. Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Micheli n) and Tohru Ukawa (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) complete the provisional front row. The fastest six riders were all inside the circuit lap record, with the best eight men all using Michelin tyres.

The day started with a damp morning session, which at least gave riders a chance to experiment with tyres since more rain is expected during the weekend. "This morning was wet but I wouldn't say it was a wasted session," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "Our riders were able to try various rain tyres and intermediates, with good results because we were well ahead of our rivals. And if it's wet again, we'll know which way to go with tyres. This afternoon was t herefore the first dry session when our riders had their first chance to work on choosing between the seven rears and three fronts we have on offer here."

Biaggi, who also topped last month's Brno group teams test, spent most of the session in second place, fitting a softer Michelin rear for his final run to overcome Rossi. "That's a good start to the weekend but I hope to make the finish even better," said the Italian, who lost valuable championship points when he crashed out of last month's German GP. "We're working on our race set-up and we're still not at 100 per cent. Last month's tests are helping us, but I know I can go faster."

Rossi, sporting a red hairdo which he claims has nothing to do with a rumoured move to Ducati in 2003, was happy enough with his day's work. "We did good work here in the tests and everything is fine so far," said the reigning champ and current series leader. "The Michelins are good at a track like this where grip is so important; they're moving around but I'm happy with traction."

Third Italian Capirossi, who has new bodywork and a new chassis and front fork here, was a slender 0.031 off pole and 0.599 seconds ahead of Ukawa. "Last month's tests were so useful -- we know exactly what we need to do here," he said. "I used the new fairing throughout but the weather spoiled this morning's session, so I preferred to spend most of my time riding with the existing chassis which we know so well."

Ukawa chased team-mate Biaggi for his best lap. "I'm already faster than I was at this point last year," said the Japanese who hasn't been on the front row since May's Spanish GP and has yet to score a podium finish in 2003. "We're working with Michelin to find some more traction, my pace is good and my aim for Sunday is a podium."

German GP winner Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) ended up fifth, just one tenth off the front row. Gibernau has won more races than anyone this year and is currently second on points to Rossi. American youngster Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) rode his best qualifying session of the year to go sixth, 0.922 seconds off pole. Hayden is gaining speed and confidence all the time -- his best grid slot so far is 11th at April's Africa's GP. Carlos Checa (Fortu na Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Shinya Nakano (D'Antin Yamaha YZR-M1-Michelin) completed row two.

-michelin-

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Tohru Ukawa , Sete Gibernau , Shinya Nakano
Teams Repsol Honda Team