<pre> SOUTH AFRICAN GRAND PRIX, WELKOM Final Qualifying, Saturday April 21 2001 </pre> The Marlboro Yamaha Team had a tough final day of qualifying at Welkom this afternoon, lone rider Max Biaggi making the second row in parching heat...
<pre> SOUTH AFRICAN GRAND PRIX, WELKOM Final Qualifying, Saturday April 21 2001 </pre> The Marlboro Yamaha Team had a tough final day of qualifying at Welkom this afternoon, lone rider Max Biaggi making the second row in parching heat at Welkom.
Biaggi is riding alone here after team-mate Carlos Checa was advised to stay home in Spain while he recovers from a recent fall. Checa crashed his YZ Supermotard machine at his local track outside Barcelona last Thursday, bruising a kidney. He has been in hospital since then but was discharged this morning. In his absence Biaggi hasn't had the easiest of times.
"We improved the chassis today but Max ran into some kind of small engine problem when he went out the last but one time," explained Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "We changed some parts for his last run but the bike wasn't accelerating as it should. It's disappointing but I don't think it should be a problem for tomorrow's race.
"The chassis is better than yesterday, we have eliminated most of the chatter, and we have a good overall chassis set-up and tyre choice. Also, of course, we've been doing a lot of work on the engine because of the high altitude here. The air is thinner which costs everyone a lot of horsepower, so we've been working at minimising the effects by adjusting compression via different cylinder head volumes and by changing carburettor settings."
Tomorrow Yamaha defends a 100 per cent win record at Welkom; Biaggi won the inaugural GP here in 1999 while fellow YZR man Garry McCoy won last year.
ENGINE MISHAP HAMPERS BIAGGI
Max Biaggi clocked the eighth best time at Welkom this afternoon and believes he would've been able to go for a front-row start if his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR500 hadn't encountered a minor engine mishap in the closing stages. Biaggi and his team had been working hard to perfect chassis settings at this notoriously bumpy venue, but finally the Italian was unable to make the best use of their work. Nevertheless he believes race day will bring better fortune.
"We had an engine problem in the last 20 minutes of the session," said Biaggi, who had been tenth yesterday. "The engine had been good earlier on but then it lost some power. Of course I'm not too happy about what happened but it's better today than tomorrow.
"For sure I could've made the front row if we hadn't had the problem. I was happiest with my number one bike, which is the one that lost some power, and if we can solve the problem I feel confident that I can go well in the race. We still have some chatter but not as bad as we had yesterday."
ROSSI AND CAPIROSSI DUEL FOR POLE
Valentino Rossi (Honda) prevailed at the end of a thrilling final session at Welkom, securing his first-ever 500 pole position after an intense battle with fellow Honda rider Loris Capirossi, who ended up second. The two Italians swapped places at the top of the table time after time, Capirossi convinced he'd done enough when he took pole with just over two minutes to go. Rossi replied with a lap 0.243 seconds faster, almost two seconds inside the track record.
"That was a very exciting session for everyone," said Rossi, current leader of the World Championship. "I went for a good time mid-session because it can be difficult later on when the track is so busy. I knew that'd put me on the front row, so I was able to relax and have another go at pole. I've a good rhythm but Capirossi, McCoy and Ukawa are all fast enough to win the race."
Capirossi added: "I went one second faster than yesterday and I'm still second. But we've got a good race set-up and I'm confident I can fight for the win tomorrow."
Dazzling 500 rookie Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) scored his second 500 front row today, out-pacing last year's Welkom winner Garry McCoy (Yamaha). "My target is the podium because I didn't manage that at Suzuka where I qualified second," said the Japanese. "We have a pretty good race-long set-up, so I'm feeling confident."
<pre> FINAL QUALIFYING
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'34.629
2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'34.872
3. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 1'35.216
4 Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 1'35.434
5 Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'35.476
6 Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol YPF HONDA Team 1'35.537
7 Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA-d'Antin 1'35.692
8 MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'35.921
Lap Record: Gibernau (1999) 1'36.554
Best ever lap: Rossi (2001) 1'34.629