Australian Grand Prix, Phillip Island
Final Qualifying, Saturday October 13 2001
Marlboro Yamaha Men Ready For Island Battle
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa qualified first and seventh for tomorrow's Australian GP, the pair declaring themselves good and ready for what promises to be another ultra-close battle around the high-speed Phillip Island circuit.
Biaggi was once again in breathtaking qualifying form, putting his YZR500 on pole with five minutes to go, while Checa's attempts to join his team-mate on the front row were frustrated by a backmarker.
"I think both riders are in good shape for tomorrow's race," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "This is a very special circuit, the only one of its kind in the world, so we've been working to get the correct suspension settings and machine balance, both for the track and for the cool weather conditions. Max is on pole but the times are very close, so I think it's going to be another very exciting race here. Carlos feels even better on the bike than usual, I think he'll be able to ride very hard tomorrow, it 's just unfortunate he couldn't make the front row."
Today's Phillip Island action was indeed fast and fraught, with Biaggi clocking the fastest-ever two-wheel lap here, and the quickest 15 riders covered by just 1.109 seconds.
BIAGGI'S SEVENTH POLE OF 2001
Max Biaggi today maintained his reputation as the quickest man in 500 GP racing by scoring his seventh pole position of 2001, 0.424 seconds ahead of Valentino Rossi (Honda). The Marlboro Yamaha Team star has qualified on the front row at 11 of the 14 GPs so far this year, and the last time he missed a front-row start was at Jerez in early May. Today's pole was the 15th of his 500 career and his 48th in ten seasons of GP racing.
"I feel like I'm on top and I'm confident for the race, but pole position is one thing, winning races is different," said the Italian who won here last year. "We changed the set-up this morning, we've been working a lot on the front, we found some chatter but fixed that and since then we've been concentrating on small adjustments. The feeling from the front end is now much better so I feel confident. I think I can go fast tomorrow, hopefully fast enough!"
CHECA FAST BUT FRUSTRATED
Carlos Checa qualified seventh for tomorrow's Australian GP, round 14 of the 2001 World Championship, but reckons he should be on the front row. The ever-smiling Spaniard ended the day deeply frustrated because his quickest lap at the end of the session had been interrupted by a slower rider.
"It wasn't the rider's fault, there just weren't any blue flags to tell him to move over, I don't know what the marshals are doing out there," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider who is brimming with confidence for the race. "That was very annoying but now I must focus on the race and make sure I get a good start from the second row. The bike is working well. We've improved the chassis set-up, I'm getting great feedback from the tyres and no chatter. I'm feeling confident for tomorrow, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens in the race."
GIBERNAU ON FRONT ROW
Sete Gibernau scored his first front-row start for Suzuki at the Island today, moving up to fourth in the closing stages, right behind Honda riders Valentino Rossi and Alex Barros. "I rode absolutely to the maximum this afternoon," said the Spaniard, who has previously raced factory Yamaha and Honda 500s at this track. "There's a couple of guys ahead bike-wise but I don't think anyone's ahead in terms of riding. I aim to get a good start tomorrow, then ride to the absolute maximum, just like today." Barros crashed heavily at the end of the session, spraining his neck, but is expected to race tomorrow.
ROSSI READY FOR CROWN
Untroubled by yesterday's crash and a brush with the local police, Valentino Rossi qualified a close second for the Australian GP. The World Championship leader, who was caught speeding on the Island before Friday's first practice, only needs to finish eighth tomorrow to secure the title, but wants to do better. "I know that I only need to finish eighth to win the championship but I don't think that finishing eighth is a good way to win the title," said Rossi. "So I want to end tomorrow's race on the podium."
1. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'31.984
2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'32.408
3. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 1'32.421
4. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'32.473
7. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'32.622