MARLBORO YAMAHA UP FRONT AND FAST
Max Biaggi stormed to his third pole position of the season at Sachsenring this afternoon with Marlboro Yamaha Team-mate Carlos Checa in close attendance, just a fraction slower and fourth fastest. This is the team's best qualifying performance since May's French GP when Biaggi and Checa started from first and fifth on the grid, then dominated the race in superb one-two fashion. The last time they both started from the front row was at last October's Rio GP.
Biaggi's closest challenger was Shinya Nakano, making it three Yamahas on the front row. "Our bike is not so bad!" beamed Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "Our team, our bikes and our riders are in great condition, but today we've only really been making tiny adjustments, a few clicks to damping here and there. We tried a few things in the morning 'free' session which didn't work, so we went back to what we knew. When you are in a position where you are only making small adjustments to the bikes, riders can get confident and feel at home with their bikes, and that's why they're fast."
However, despite his riders' speed, Atsumi is sure they will have to race Valentino Rossi (Honda) tomorrow, even though the World Championship leader only qualified 11th. Two weeks ago Rossi won the British GP from 11th on the grid. "Rossi will be coming, for sure," Atsumi added. "But our riders can beat him. I believe in our bikes and I believe in our riders."
BIAGGI ON POLE AGAIN
Max Biaggi claimed his second successive pole position in Germany today, putting himself in the best-possible position for a great start at this tight and twisting track, where overtaking can be so difficult. Fastest yesterday, the Marlboro Yamaha Team man had slipped to fourth in the closing stages of the session but his mechanics fitted a soft rear tyre double-quick to give the Italian enough time for three more laps. In fact he didn't need it, for he reclaimed pole with his first flying lap.
"I'm very happy to be on pole again," said Biaggi, who currently trails series leader Valentino Rossi by 26 points. "We were already fast yesterday and the team's working so well at the moment. We made some changes overnight to improve in a few places where we'd been losing some time, but they made things worse, so we went back to yesterday's settings. With a few more little adjustments we were immediately faster. This pole gives me a lot of satisfaction, since this isn't my favourite track. Once again my team worked very fast to get me out with new tyres at the end of the session. I just hope race conditions are like they were this afternoon - the track was much less grippy when the weather was cold and humid this morning."
CHECA FOURTH AND ENJOYING HIMSELF
Carlos Checa qualified fourth in this afternoon's frantic final session to give himself his first front-row start of the year, despite a minor tumble in the first few minutes. The Marlboro Yamaha Team star's previous best of 2001 was fifth in France, where he went on to finish second, so he's feeling confident here, and, most important of all, he's enjoying himself.
"We didn't change many things from yesterday, we just worked at making minor adjustments to improve the balance some more," said the Spaniard. "I felt good on the bike and I'd already done some good times with race tyres at the start of the session, but when we fitted a softer rear and new front for the final laps, the bike was good in the slow section but not so good through the faster corners. I had some huge wheelspin going down the hill at turn 12 - fourth gear and 200kmh - incredible! I'm enjoying myself and I feel confident for the race. It will be hard and close, but I'm ready for that."
NAKANO SO CLOSE TO POLE
Class 500 rookie Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) led qualifying for most of the last ten minutes, until Max Biaggi slotted in his stunner of a lap. This is the third time that the Japanese has scored second place on the grid in his debut 500 season. "I'm happy to be second but not so happy to miss pole by so little!" smiled Nakano, 0.153 slower than Biaggi. "I don't like this track so much but we went testing at Brno before we came here and that has really helped our suspension set-up."
McCOY IS BACK
Garry McCoy (Yamaha) will start his first GP in two and a half months tomorrow. The little Australian, who broke a wrist during practice for May's French GP, and made an abortive comeback at last month's Dutch GP, qualified an excellent sixth today. "It hasn't been easy because I'm still pretty weak," said McCoy. "The bone is fine, it's just that I've not been able to train hard, so I'm lacking upper-body strength which is what you really need on a 500. Now I'm just looking forward to having a race, it's been a long time."