MARLBORO CATALAN GRAND PRIX, CATALUNYA
Final Qualifying, Saturday June 16 2001
MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN ON ROWS ONE & THREE
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa enjoyed contrasting fortunes in today's final qualifying session at Catalunya. While Biaggi recovered from 13th yesterday to make sure of a front-row start in a baking-hot and hectic session, team-mate Carlos Checa was unable to build on early promise and slipped to the third row.
"Max nearly always starts practice at a steady pace and then comes good," explained Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "He takes his time to fix any problems and then gets better. We improved his bike's suspension balance today, curing some of the chatter and making the bike turn better. Lap times are very close at the front, and if he'd been just a fraction faster, he could've got pole, but first row is okay, though it's the minimum for me! The good thing is that Max didn't just do one quick lap, he's been quite consistently fast. Track temperature was well over 40 degrees this afternoon and the tyre factor will be very big if tomorrow is any hotter.
"Carlos did an okay job yesterday and his team decided to change direction today. He wasn't going so bad this morning but the bike didn't seem to work so well on this afternoon's hotter track. We well try more of a standard setting for the race and see how he goes."
BIAGGI SO CLOSE IN FOURTH
Max Biaggi ended qualifying for round six of this year's World Championship in fourth place, just 0.175 seconds off pole-sitter Valentino Rossi (Honda). After a difficult Friday, the Marlboro Yamaha Team man came back in style, upping his pace to mark himself down as a major contender for tomorrow's race.
"We've made a real move forward, and it's very satisfying to go from the fourth to the front row," said Biaggi, highest scorer at the last two GPs and currently second on points. "We worked hard but didn't make any major changes, it was more a case of a little things working well together. We also found a good front tyre that gives me more confidence. We're up front but we lost a day against the others yesterday, so the race will be hard.
"I had a surprise today - Jacques Villeneuve appeared in my pit after the session. I've been telling him for ages to come to a bike GP, so it's good to see him here. Tomorrow is a big day for me, even after the race. Roma are playing Parma and if they win, they win the Italian title! The game starts at three, so I need to find someone with the right satellite dish!"
CHECA UNABLE TO IMPROVE
Confident of a strong final qualifying session after being on the provisional second row yesterday, Carlos Checa was unable to find the set-up he required for this afternoon's final qualifier. The local Marlboro Yamaha Team man couldn't better his Friday times, and as others got faster, he slipped to 12th.
"I'm still getting a lot of chatter, so I'm not comfortable on the bike," he said. "When I'm going through a corner at maximum angle, the rear starts chattering as soon as I get on the throttle, so I'm having to wait before I accelerate, then stand up the bike as I get on the throttle and that's losing me time. I don't understand why it's so bad. We'll try something else in the warm-up and pray for a better race."
ROSSI BACK ON TOP
Two weeks after his two tumbles at the Italian GP, and a day after he crashed in yesterday's opening qualifier, Valentino Rossi is back on top at Catalunya, grabbing pole position with less than five minutes to go. "After my crash yesterday we focused on race set-up," said the series leader. "Then I got a clear lap on a soft rear and made pole. But the times are very close, I expect a tough race."
CAPIROSSI MISSES OUT, McCOY OUT
Fastest yesterday, Loris Capirossi (Honda) lost his chance at pole position when his crew took longer than expected to change rear tyres at the end of the session. Garry McCoy (Yamaha) returned to action here a month after breaking a wrist at the French GP, but despite qualifying 14th, he's withdrawn from tomorrow's race. "I don't think I can do race distance, so there's no point," he said. "It's the muscle strain that's hurting me and racing could make that worse."
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'45.507
2. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 1'45.518
3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'45.630
4. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'45.682
12. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'46.760
-Marlboro Yamaha Team