Final qualifying for the British GP may not take place until tomorrow, but with rain forecast, and some light drizzle during this afternoon's session, Marlboro Yamaha Team star Max Biaggi wanted to get ahead of the game today. The Italian did so...
Final qualifying for the British GP may not take place until tomorrow, but with rain forecast, and some light drizzle during this afternoon's session, Marlboro Yamaha Team star Max Biaggi wanted to get ahead of the game today. The Italian did so in stunning style, recording the fastest-ever lap around Donington. He thus ended the session on provisional pole, with team-mate Carlos Checa also looking strong on the second row.
"Max is in great spirits at the moment - he's happy confident and determined," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team's British team manager Geoff Crust. "His fastest lap was brilliant, and the team's doing a great job too, we've just got to take this concentration through to the race. The bike has been just right at the last few races and it's good here too, after we made a few small changes following this morning's 'free' session. He knew he could do some fast laps, and with rain possibly on the way, he went out and did it.
"Carlos took a little longer to get going but he feels good. It was just a matter of him getting wound up to put in the times. He feels confident and we think he's going to have a good weekend."
BIAGGI ON PROVISIONAL POLE
Max Biaggi grabbed provisional pole in breathtaking style with a new unofficial lap record, almost four tenths inside last year's pole position. Winner of last weekend's Dutch GP and currently second overall, Biaggi is chasing his second pole of the season.
"We improved the set-up from this morning and the bike feels better," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team man. "We made a small change to geometry and the bike feels good into turns, that's why I'm fast. We've still got some work to do on stability, though it's never easy to find perfect stability, we just need to do some fine tuning. Michelin have been working really hard on tyres, we've got some new compounds and constructions, though I did my best lap with the same tyre I used for qualifying at Assen. It's soft, but not that soft. With the weather looking unsure, it's good to be on pole, but we're looking beyond tomorrow, to the race."
Yesterday Biaggi was given a special award by the Riders for Health charity, organisers of the day's huge Day of Champions event that earned a record £80,000. A set of the Italian's leathers were auctioned for an amazing £4500, the biggest single earner of the day. "Max has made an incredible contribution over the years," said Andrea Coleman of Riders for Health, recently voted UK Charity of the Year. "We're very grateful, over the years he's probably made over £40,000 for the charity and that goes a long way in Africa."
CHECA MOVES UP TO ROW TWO
Carlos Checa was a lowly 17th halfway through the session, biding his time as he evaluated the contrasting set-ups of his two Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR500s. But a few drops of rain mid-session were enough to give him the hurry up and the Spaniard soon got up to speed, moving to fifth at one point, eventually ending up eighth.
"I started the session with different settings in my bikes, just slight differences in suspension balance, and I was using used tyres," said Checa. "When I saw some rain on my visor, I thought 'Okay, now I must go'. There wasn't much rain but it was enough to make you cautious but then it was pretty much dry again so I was able to have a real go. I chose my best bike and it felt good. We'll leave things virtually unchanged for tomorrow and hope it stays dry."
GREY DAY FOR ROSSI
World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda) had a difficult first day at cloudy Donington, crashing at high speed and ending the session 11th. The Italian lost the front at over 200kmh as he swept through the downhill, off-camber Craner. His bike was wrecked in the tumble and the session had to be red-flagged while debris was cleared away. Rossi, however, was unhurt and continued with his spare machine.
"That was a very fast crash," said Rossi, who has qualified on the front row at every race this year, apart from the season-opening Japanese GP, where he was seventh. "I went a little wider than usual, a little off line and the front tucked under. I'm not hurt, though my right hand was a little sore at the end of the session. The bike, as you probably saw, is not in such good condition!
CAPIROSSI SECOND AFTER FALL
Loris Capirossi, third of the Italian World Championship chasers, also fell at high speed today, just five minutes into this afternoon's session. The Honda rider bounced back from the 200kmh get-off to chase down Max Biaggi, ending the day just 0.113 seconds slower. "My team had given me a hard rear tyre to try and asked me to be careful," said Capirossi. "I'd done two laps, then I got highsided at Starkeys. One of the footpegs made a small hole in my leg and my hands hurt, but otherwise I'm okay. Luckily that was my second bike, so I was able to try again and do some good laps with my other machine."
1. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'31.964 2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'32.077 3. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 1'32.384 4. Jurgen vd Goorbergh (NED) Proton Team KR 1'32.593
8. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'33.066