MYT French GP final qualifying report

Two weeks after a difficult Spanish GP the Marlboro Yamaha Team is all smiles again following a thrilling final qualifying session at Le Mans this afternoon. In bright, sunny conditions Max Biaggi won a breathtaking duel for pole position with ...

Two weeks after a difficult Spanish GP the Marlboro Yamaha Team is all smiles again following a thrilling final qualifying session at Le Mans this afternoon. In bright, sunny conditions Max Biaggi won a breathtaking duel for pole position with arch-rival Valentino Rossi, the pair fighting back and forth throughout, Biaggi finally taking his first pole of 2001 with Rossi third, just behind reigning World Champion Kenny Roberts (Suzuki). Biaggi's team-mate Carlos Checa ended up fifth, just a fraction off the front row, even though he's still suffering the effects of a recent fall at Jerez.

"We can thank last week's Mugello test for this improvement in performance," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "During those tests we changed direction on tyres, moving more towards Michelin's 16.5in rear. In the past Max has sometimes run 17in rears but now we've worked to improve our range of settings with the 16.5, so we can react better whenever we encounter any set-up difficulties. My thanks to Michelin for all their input. It's been a good day for us, especially after the tough time we had in Spain. My congratulations to Max for pole position, and also to Carlos, because he's still not fully recovered from that crash."

BIAGGI TAKES FIRST POLE OF 2001

Max Biaggi grabbed pole position in nail-biting style at Le Mans today, trading places time and again with Rossi, while Roberts and Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) were also fastest for a few minutes. Biaggi first went to the top of the TV monitors halfway through the hour-long session but Rossi twice went ahead, Biaggi finally making sure of pole with just three minutes to go.

"We're working very well here and the fundamental difference is what we learned from our Mugello tests," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider who also took pole here last year. "It's great to get pole, I really wanted it today and it's good for everyone involved. It's like a re-launch for the team, and hopefully this will see us back at the top of the sport.

"When you're working well, everything comes much more easily -- we were just unlucky at the last two races. Today we ran both bikes with the Mugello set-up, just working on a few detail settings. I feel good now that we've focused in this new direction. We've been working to improve the bike's agility with the 16.5, and tyres will play a very important part in the race. I will do everything I can do to win tomorrow."

Biaggi scored his ninth 500 pole today. Last year he was the most successful rider in qualifying, taking five pole positions

CHECA IS BACK!

Carlos Checa rode a superb final qualifying session today, moving up to fifth fastest in the final minutes, just two tenths off a front-row start. Still hurting from his massive fall during Spanish GP qualifying two weeks ago, the Marlboro Yamaha Team man spent most of the session testing tyres, putting in one quick lap to ensure his second-row start.

"I'm comfortable at this pace and I think the race will be run in 39s and 40s," said Checa. "Our goal here, and during last week's tests, was to work on feeling, and that's why we're running a different front tyre to give me more feel. Once you're getting good feedback, you know what the bike's going to do, how it's going to react. That makes you feel more confident, which means you can give your technicians better information, which in turn allows you to further improve your set-up. I'm still having a few problems with front-end push which is spoiling my rolling speed through the corners but I feel good about the race."

ROBERTS' FIRST FRONT ROW

World Champ Kenny Roberts scored his first front-row start of the year today, 0.247 seconds off pole. "We changed the geometry after this morning and that allowed me to brake a little harder, turn in a little harder and square off some of the turns," he said. "I was picking up tenths everywhere."

World Championship hopeful Garry McCoy (Yamaha) is out of the race after breaking a wrist this morning.

ROSSI THIRD

Valentino Rossi failed to qualify on pole for the first time in three races but the World Championship leader believes he can fight for victory here. "I made a mistake on my best lap, so maybe I would've been slightly faster," he said. "But it doesn't matter, the important thing is that I'm on the front row. I think we've got a good tyre choice and though this isn't my favourite track I can be up front."

FRONT ROW

1. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'38.421
2. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'38.668
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'38.852
4. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 1'38.891
5. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'39.093

-MYT

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Valentino Rossi , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts