Marlboro Yamaha Team duo Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa ran strongly in this week's three-day teams' test session at Jerez, clocking the second and third fastest times. In perfect conditions Checa went quickest earlier today, then Biaggi eased ...
Marlboro Yamaha Team duo Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa ran strongly in this week's three-day teams' test session at Jerez, clocking the second and third fastest times. In perfect conditions Checa went quickest earlier today, then Biaggi eased ahead by 0.024 seconds in the final hour, before Valentino Rossi (Honda) went a tenth faster with just ten minutes remaining. The Marlboro Yamaha Team has shown impressive speed all weekend, Checa quickest on Friday and Biaggi on top yesterday.
Biaggi was happy with his lap times but is more concerned about making further improvements to his YZR before the season-opening Japanese GP on April 8.
"The bike can still be better, for sure," said the Italian, third in last year's 500 World Championship. "We had a few problems here, with vibration and bike balance. I could go fast but for only one or two laps, I didn't feel confident enough to push hard for much longer. This is a test session and not a race but it's always important to push as hard as you can, because that's the only way you learn about the bike, so you can make it even better. I hope we can understand a few things from this session so we can further develop the 2001 YZR and come up with a good overall compromise during our next few tests."
Checa's fastest lap, recorded today before he concluded testing at lunchtime, was 0.7 seconds faster than he managed during qualifying for last year's Spanish GP at Jerez.
"The lap time isn't so important, what I am happy about is the set-up we've got," said Checa, who was consistently fast all weekend. "I think our settings will be quite close to what we need for this year's race, though the weather will be warmer in May and the track slower, because this surface works well when it's cool and is so sensitive to temperature changes."
Checa is in confident mood following his second test session of 2001 aboard the latest YZR. During the off-season Yamaha have worked hard to improve power delivery and tyre contact feeling and Checa is delighted with recent progress.
"The basic set-up is similar to last year, though this year's bike is shorter and here we've worked hard on tyres, front suspension and rear shock," he added. "We did have some rear-end chatter problems yesterday but we've cured them today, running both 17in and 16.5in Michelin slicks."
Checa also tried a thumb-operated rear brake here, following on from initial tests in Malaysia last month but has decided to shelve the system. "It seems to offer me no advantage over the usual foot brake and it has some disadvantages."
The squad's new team director Hiroya Atsumi was satisfied with progress over the three days. Appointed to improve the line of communication between team and factory, this is Atsumi's first GP season in a decade. For the past five years he has been in charge of YZR500 engine development in Japan.
"This is the team's third year with Max and Carlos, and our aim is to keep moving in the same direction as last year," said Atsumi. "We have evolved the bike carefully over the winter, with detail changes to engine and chassis, plus, of course, new aerodynamics. Here we've been focusing on the usual priorities, like suspension and tyres, and I'm happy with what we've done. Carlos has been very fast and he is comfortable on the bike. Max is also doing a good job and has done some good lap times. And I think we can make further improvements before the first race."
The Marlboro Yamaha Team has three test sessions remaining before the Japanese GP. The crew stays on the Iberian peninsular for another IRTA session at Estoril, Portugal, this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and concludes its winter programme with outings at Catalunya and Suzuka next month. <pre> 1. Rossi ITA Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'42.322 2. BIAGGI ITA Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'42.447 3. CHECA SPA Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'42.471 4. Capirossi ITA West HONDA Pons 1'42.518
Circuit lap record: Kenny Roberts (2000) 1'44.127