Marlboro Yamaha Team men Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa completed their three-day test session at Sepang this afternoon and return home for Christmas full of optimism for 2001.
Biaggi made electrifying progress during the final day, clocking the fastest-ever two-wheel lap at Sepang, a staggering 1.4 seconds inside the existing track record and six tenths inside Kenny Roberts' pole position time from last April's Malaysian GP. Checa also broke the record during the three days, lapping six tenths inside Roberts' race record.
Biaggi's speed was all the more impressive since he fell earlier in the day, badly damaging his number-one YZR500, forcing him to complete the tests on his number-two bike. And he lapped consistently at that pace, running a whole string of mid 2m05s laps, despite track temperatures nudging 50 degrees.
"It's always good when you're fast and my lap times show that we now have a very good combination," said the Italian, who was unhurt in his get-off. "I fell on my first lap on new tyres and lost an hour while we got my second bike prepared. I knew I could go quick because we've done some good work over the past few days, it was just a case of putting everything together and pushing hard."
The team spent the first two days evaluating and comparing engine and suspension improvements, many of which will be incorporated into their 2001 bikes. Today was reserved for testing the latest range of Michelin slicks, but Biaggi and Checa didn't start riding until the afternoon, since overnight rain had made the track slick. Checa slid off on Friday after an overnight downpour and the team was anxious to avoid a repeat.
"We had some new fronts and some new 16.5 rears to try today and I think we've made good progress," said Checa, who rested after his tumble on Friday. "The bike feels better and the tyres are an improvement. We've been trying to dial out the rear-end chatter that you sometimes get from the 16.5, and I was able to do consistent mid 2m 06s laps. When we tested here before the 2000 season I did just one 06.4 in three days. I did run into some chatter this afternoon and without that I think I could've got into the 05s but I'm happy and we can come back here in January to put this data to good use."
New Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi was delighted with the speed shown by his riders during their final test of the year. "I'm very happy with both of them," he said. "We will now go back to Japan and analyse the data from these tests to make final improvements for our 2001 machines."
Yamaha will build its 2001-spec YZR500s in mid January and Biaggi and Checa will return to Sepang for their first tests of the new year at the end of January. Checa, however, hasn't completed his riding duties for this year - he returns to Europe this week to take part in the thrilling Guidon d'Or stadium Supermotard event at Paris-Bercy on December 23.
Lap times @Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) @Thursday 2m 06.2s
Friday 2m 07.1 @Saturday 2m 06.4
Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team) @Thursday 2m 07.5s @Friday 2m 06.9s
Saturday 2m 05.4