Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka Final Qualifying, Saturday April 7 2001 MARLBORO YAMAHA TEAM CONFIDENT FOR SEASON OPENER Max Biaggi goes into tomorrow's Japanese GP confident of running up front in what promises to be a super-entertaining ...
Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka
Final Qualifying, Saturday April 7 2001
MARLBORO YAMAHA TEAM CONFIDENT FOR SEASON OPENER
Max Biaggi goes into tomorrow's Japanese GP confident of running up front in what promises to be a super-entertaining season-opener. Although the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider wasn't able to hold on to his provisional pole from yesterday, he ended qualifying third overall behind Loris Capirossi (Honda) and Shinya Nakano (Yamaha). Team-mate Carlos Checa was 12th, held back by chassis set-up concerns.
Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi shares Biaggi's optimism for tomorrow's race at Suzuka, a fast and open racetrack that encourages races of breathtaking closeness and intensity. "No pole position is okay!" smiled Atsumi. "Our main job today was to prepare for the race, so Max has been doing a lot of tyre testing and he feels happy. Apart from Capirossi, the lap times are quite close. I expect a very close race tomorrow, and a close and exciting season also! Carlos has some problems. He's had a fever all weekend and had to go to hospital last night. Also he's not getting the same feeling he got from the bike during our recent tests here."
BIAGGI WHERE HE NEEDS TO BE
Max Biaggi will start tomorrow's Japanese GP from the front row of the grid after clocking third-fastest time in this afternoon's warm and sunny final qualifier. Quickest yesterday, the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider found conditions more difficult today but is certain he will feature in the contest for victory in this all-important first race of 2001.
"Front row was my target, so I'm happy," said Biaggi, who has suffered from a minor stomach upset this weekend. "My chassis and suspension set-up is fine, though we didn't make any real improvements from yesterday, which is why my lap times were so similar. Also, we had a few little carburation settings problems. I just hope the weather stays good so we can fix that and work on some more improvements during warm-up. I expect the race to be a big fight, good for the fans, and with lap times in the sixes."
FRUSTRATED CHECA ON ROW THREE
Still suffering from the bug which struck him yesterday, Carlos Checa could only manage 12th quickest this afternoon. The Spaniard also battled minor chassis problems which caused rear-end chatter on his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR500.
"It's strange, I'm a second off the times I did a couple of weeks back, when I felt quite comfortable," he said. "The chatter is preventing me from holding my line and that's costing me time. We must now check the data and analyse why we're having this problem. Maybe the bike has caught my virus! I went to hospital last night because I had a fever, which also came back this morning but I feel much better than yesterday and hopefully I'll be fully recovered for the race."
CAPIROSSI'S ELECTRIFYING LAP
Loris Capirossi left it until the last few minutes to ride a stunning lap of Suzuka, a massive two seconds inside the existing lap record. The little Italian had only been eighth yesterday but was confident he could improve dramatically in this afternoon's crucial final qualifier. "I'm very happy to get pole but I knew I could do it," said the former 125 and 250 world champ. "I came into the pits, told my mechanics to keep the same settings, fit new tyres and watch the screens! Everything went as I thought it would and I've left my mark on Suzuka! Tomorrow will be different, I'll have to work very hard to go for the win -- there are at least six guys who can make life difficult for me."
SHINYA SHOCKS HIMSELF
First-time 500 racer Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) grabbed pole in the closing stages and though he was later surpassed by Capirossi, the Japanese star is delighted to be second on the grid for his 500 debut. "I can't believe I've done so well in qualifying for my first 500 GP," grinned the rookie, who was second in last year's 250 series. "But now I really feel the pressure of being at home, and racing a 500 for the first time in front of my Japanese fans, Yamaha and my sponsors. We didn't have a great set-up when we came here two weeks ago but the bike is now well balanced. My aim for tomorrow? Just to get points, that's all."
FINAL QUALIFYING CLASSIFICATION <pre> 1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 2'04.777 2. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 2'05.588 3. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 2'05.703 4. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 2'05.833 5. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol YPF HONDA Team 2'05.924 6. Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin 2'05.927 7. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 2'06.140 8. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 2'06.295 9. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 2'06.469 10. Noriyuki Haga (JPN) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 2'06.597 12. Carlos Checa (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 2'06.858