MARLBORO PORTUGUESE GRAND PRIX, ESTORIL Final Qualifying, Saturday September 8 2001 Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Max Biaggi grabbed pole position in superb style at stifling-hot Estoril this afternoon while team-mate Carlos Checa rode a great ...
MARLBORO PORTUGUESE GRAND PRIX, ESTORIL
Final Qualifying, Saturday September 8 2001
Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Max Biaggi grabbed pole position in superb style at stifling-hot Estoril this afternoon while team-mate Carlos Checa rode a great session to make sure of a second-row start.
In 35 degree heat, and with track temperature soaring to 50 degrees, the pair got to grips with the tortuous Estoril track, chasing grid positions and the best-possible set-up for tomorrow's Marlboro Portuguese GP, round 11 of this year's 16-race World Championship.
"We've had a very good day, I'm pleased for the whole team," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "We've worked as usual, trying to adapt the set-up of Max's bike to this circuit, to suit his favourite style. After yesterday's session we've been able to improve braking stability and make the bike steer and handle better. I think the race will be another duel between Valentino and Max, and it will be very close. For Carlos we have adjusted his bike balance, taking a little weight off the rear to suit his style. We made a little mistake with his settings on race day at Brno, so I'm glad he is fast again here."
BIAGGI'S FOURTH POLE IN A ROW
Max Biaggi is the fastest rider in Grand Prix racing at the moment - today's pole position was his fifth of the season and his fourth in succession. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man's performance also proved beyond doubt that he has anything but given up his title hopes following his crash at the Czech GP two weeks ago. Fourteenth fastest yesterday morning and third in yesterday afternoon's first qualifier, Biaggi grabbed pole from Valentino Rossi with 22 minutes remaining, edging out his title-rival by nine thousandths of a second. By the end of the session he had opened the gap to 0.182 seconds, with Loris Capirossi (Honda) moving up to second.
"As everyone knows I'm a one-lap specialist!" joked Biaggi. "But I know it's going to be tough in the race. We started off with a few problems yesterday, the bike wasn't steering so well, and turning is so important here, so we've made a big improvement since then. We were up late last night working on solutions and the bike is much better now, though I'm still lacking a little speed and acceleration. I think my best lap was near-perfect, but we need to work some more on race-distance set-up. It's going to be a tough race, I'll give it everything I can."
Biaggi, of course, is still very much in the title hunt, with 150 points to play for. If he wins all six remaining races, with Rossi second on each occasion, Biaggi will win the title by a single point.
CHECA STAYS ON ROW TWO
Carlos Checa did well to stay on row two in the frantic final few minutes of this afternoon's session that ended with just 0.961 seconds covering the 12 fastest riders and front three rows. Despite improving on his times from yesterday afternoon, the Marlboro Yamaha Team star slipped three places, but he's happier than before.
"I'm still on the second row, and I feel more comfortable with the bike, which is the most important thing for the race," said the Spaniard. "We've been working to find the right balance and it's not bad so far, though I'd like to make a few little adjustments for the race. The engine also needs some work because the low-rpm power is not so constant and that's what you need for this track, especially through the last series of turns. I think I can keep a good pace for the race but in this heat it's going to be tough on the tyres."
ROSSI DOWN TO THIRD
Valentino Rossi looked in all-dominant form yesterday, leading the pack by over half a second, but even though he slightly raised his pace in today's final session he was still pushed to third by Loris Capirossi and Max Biaggi. This will be the fourth time this season that the three Italians, who head the World Championship, have started together from the front row.
"We started the session at a very good pace," explained the Italian who currently leads the 2001 series, 29 points ahead of Biaggi. "I was running mid one minute forties, but then we decided to test some little changes and they didn't work out quite as we'd hoped. But the important thing, of course, is to be on the front row. Like so many other races this year I think it will be a contest between myself and the other two Italians. In this heat it will be difficult for us, for the bikes and the tyres. I expect a close race."
<pre> FRONT ROW 1. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'40.076 2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'40.258 3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'40.324 4. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol YPF HONDA Team 1'40.531
8. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'40.752