Valencian GP: Yamaha Team final qualifying notes

Marlboro Yamaha M1 scores fifth pole of the year. Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 rider Max Biaggi grabbed the final pole position of 2002 in masterful style at sun-baked Valencia this afternoon, outpacing his closest rival by more than three tenths...

Marlboro Yamaha M1 scores fifth pole of the year.

Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 rider Max Biaggi grabbed the final pole position of 2002 in masterful style at sun-baked Valencia this afternoon, outpacing his closest rival by more than three tenths of a second. And team-mate Carlos Checa was also on the pace - challenging for pole in the final minutes until he slid off, ending the session fifth. This was the M1's fifth pole of 2002, four scored by Biaggi, one by Checa.

"It's fantastic to get pole for the last race of the season - Max promised this as a gift to his crew chief, Fiorenzo (Fanali), whose birthday it is today," smiled Marlboro Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio. "Max has been fast and consistent all day, he's riding well and pushing hard. Carlos also improved his pace today, and I think he's fast enough to be part of the leading group in tomorrow's race. It's a shame he fell in the last few minutes, but it wasn't a big crash, and the main thing is that he's on the pace. This is the last race of the year but everyone in the team is staying fully concentrated, we're putting in every possible effort to make sure that we can take second overall in the MotoGP riders' World Championship and claim another win with the M1."

BIAGGI GIVES FANALI PERFECT BIRTHDAY GIFT

Max Biaggi scored his fourth pole of the year at Valencia today - the perfect gift for his crew chief Fiorenzo Fanali, who celebrates his 51st birthday today. Equally important, pole position gives the Marlboro Yamaha Team man the best-possible chance of taking his third win of the season in tomorrow's Marlboro Valencia GP, which would secure him runner-up spot in the World Championship. Biaggi is currently second, though just one point ahead of Tohru Ukawa (Honda), who was seventh today.

"I'm very happy to take the last pole of the year," said a delighted Biaggi, who today bettered his 2001 Valencia GP pole time by a massive 1.2 seconds. "We've worked well since we got here, I was fast and consistent this afternoon and that's a good sign. This morning we did try some different settings but they didn't work so well, so we went back to the set-up we ran yesterday, fine tuned it, then pushed hard. I really wanted pole today for Fiorenzo, and also for my physio Marino, to whom I will give the watch I get for pole. Things are coming much easier now after a difficult start to the season. The Yamaha is very competitive, so I aim to keep pushing until the end tomorrow, to finish in style with the people I've worked with over the past four years."

Fanali has worked with Biaggi since 2000 and in GPs since 1969, when he was with MV Agusta. During the eighties he won three 500 titles with Marlboro Yamaha rider Eddie Lawson.

CHECA SO CLOSE TO FRONT ROW

Carlos Checa was right on the pace this afternoon, running in the top four, then falling in the final moments while trying to improve his pace still further. Sixth yesterday, the Marlboro Yamaha Team star cut almost half a second off his times to end the day fifth, a tantalizing two hundredths of a second off the front row.

"We improved quite a lot today, but then I lost the rear while pushing very hard in my final run," said Checa, who was unharmed in the fall. "I was running into turn seven, and maybe I got in a little too tight, I was braking hard, so there wasn't too much weight on the rear, and the rear came around before I got on the gas and highsided me. But it was a slow crash, I' m okay and the bike too. Other than that, I feel quite good on the bike. Today we made detail improvements to suspension balance and power delivery, but small improvements can make a big difference at this kind of track."

BARROS OVERPOWERED

Alex Barros (Honda) was fastest in the first three sessions at Valencia, but in the end he had no answer to Max Biaggi's stunning pace. "We had an engine problem this morning, so I was only able to do a few laps," said the Brazilian. "That meant that this afternoon I had to concentrate on testing tyres for the race, then trying for a quicker lap at the end, but I didn't quite make it." Daijiro Kato (Honda) was third, with top 500 rider Garry McCoy (Yamaha) completing the front row.

FRONT ROW
1. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'33.211
2. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons (RC211v) 1'33.584
3. Daijiro Kato (JPN) Fortuna HONDA Gresini (RC211v) 1'33.641
4. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM (YZR500) 1'33.794
5. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'33.815

-myt-

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