First Qualifying, Friday October 4 2002 MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN ON FRONT ROW AT MOTEGI Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa are chasing the team's fourth consecutive pole position here, and so far, so good, both men...
First Qualifying, Friday October 4 2002
MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN ON FRONT ROW AT MOTEGI
Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa are chasing the team's fourth consecutive pole position here, and so far, so good, both men ending today's opening qualifier on the provisional front row.
In warm and sunny conditions Biaggi battled back and forth for provisional pole with Honda rivals Daijiro Kato and Valentino Rossi, going fastest six minutes from the chequered flag and completing the session a close second, 1.4 seconds inside the track record and just 0.11 seconds down on Kato. Checa meanwhile ended the day fourth quickest and very much in the hunt.
"I'm happy with today's result but tomorrow can be better for us," said M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "We have a new engine spec here, both riders have one bike each fitted with this spec, so they can make back-to-back comparisons. The new parts are designed to improve acceleration and so far Carlos likes the power characteristics of this new spec, though Max isn't so sure yet. Carlos also has both his bikes fitted with the new chassis introduced at Brno, which makes his job easier. Max prefers to stay with one new and one previous-spec chassis, though he prefers the new one here. You need quick turn-in for this track and that's one of the positive characteristics of the new chassis. Now we just need to fix our rear-suspension movement, with some suspension adjustments and maybe a small change to the geometry."
BIAGGI A FRACTION OFF POLE Max Biaggi was bang on the pace at Motegi today, well up to the dramatically faster pace at this stop-and-go track where the four-stroke MotoGP bikes can use their horsepower advantage to good effect. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man went quickest with six minutes to go, bettering Daijiro Kato by three tenths, but the Japanese hotshot's final lap was just enough to put him back in front.
"I'm quite happy, the sun seems to help," smiled Biaggi, who's already scored three pole positions this year. "We've worked well today, and I'm very focused and highly motivated. This is our first time here with the M1, so we're still looking for the best set-up, though we already have a clear idea of which direction to take and we have more things to try tomorrow. We are also evaluating some new engine parts and we have more work to do on that. Everyone up front is riding well, and I hope the weather stays nice so I can attack Kato tomorrow."
CHECA FOURTH AND ON FORM Carlos Checa moved up to fourth at the very end of the session, focusing on fine-tuning chassis set-up. The Marlboro Yamaha Team rider, who went from last to first before falling at the Rio GP two weeks ago, now has both his bikes equipped with the latest M1 chassis. Since August's Czech GP he's had two different chassis in his two bikes, which greatly complicates the set-up process.
"It's great to have both bikes fitted with the same chassis," said Checa. "It's a much better way to work, I can make proper comparisons when we try different settings, so we can find the correct settings sooner. At the moment we're focusing on chassis set-up, the bike is working pretty well but we need to do some more work on the rear, I was getting some chatter this afternoon. As for the engine, we'll check the data to compare the two different specs."
KATO ON TOP AT HOME Local-favourite Daijiro Kato enjoyed a busy session today, increasing his pace throughout, only for fellow Honda rider Valentino Rossi and then Biaggi to better his pace. But the Japanese dug deep on his final run, sneaking provisional pole for the first time in the MotoGP class. "It's only Friday but I'm already feeling hopeful," said the former 250 World Champion. "The bike is perfect and I didn't have too much trouble going fast."
Valentino Rossi, who wrapped up the MotoGP crown at Rio two weeks ago, is suffering from food poisoning here. "I'm not feeling 100 per cent," said the Italian after going third fastest.
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. Daijiro Kato (JPN) Fortuna HONDA Gresini (RC211v) 1'49.052
2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'49.162
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211v) 1'49.720
4. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'49.885