MARLBORO YAMAHA SO CLOSE TO POLE Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa came within nine hundredths of a second of scoring his first pole position on his YZR-M1 at Donington this afternoon, heading the times in the dying moments of the session...
MARLBORO YAMAHA SO CLOSE TO POLE
Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa came within nine hundredths of a second of scoring his first pole position on his YZR-M1 at Donington this afternoon, heading the times in the dying moments of the session before Valentino Rossi (Honda) stole his thunder. Team-mate Max Biaggi's hopes of scoring his second pole of the year were dented by a mid-session crash, but the Italian held on to fifth for a good second-row start.
"Today wasn't so bad for us but we still have work to do," said YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "As with many circuits this year, this is our first time at this track with the M1, so we still don't have so much data. We will analyze what we've got tonight and make some minor suspension adjustments for the race. We also have to choose which Michelin tyres to run -- we still have three rears to choose from -- but I think both our guys can have a good race.
"Carlos and Max have been trying a new crankshaft here. We also had new cranks at Assen and this latest crank is another step in the same direction, offering more progressive acceleration and easier direction changing. Both riders seem to like the new crank, but maybe only Carlos will race with it. Carlos seems very happy with his machine while Max just has a minor wheelie problem. He likes a harder suspension set-up, for faster direction changing, which can make the bike wheelie out of the low-gear turns."
CHECA READY FOR HIS CENTURY
Carlos Checa approaches his 100th premier-class start in tomorrow's British GP with an air of confidence, following a storming performance in this afternoon's final qualifying session. Fifth yesterday after a tumble during first qualifying, he improved his Friday best by almost a second, taking pole for a moment and ending the session a tantalizingly close second.
"That was good but it's tomorrow's result that really counts," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team man. "We always knew this year would be a big fight to improve both the machine and myself, so we've stayed focused and things have got better and better. Yesterday, as is usual this season, we had a lot to test. I like the direction we've taken with the new crankshafts, this is something we discussed at Jerez. So today I was confident enough to start pushing and go quicker, then use a softer rear for my fastest run. It's a pity to miss pole by so little but my aim was the front row, so I'm happy. All weekend we've been focusing on getting the bike good for race distance and I'm quite confident for the race."
BIAGGI FIFTH AFTER TUMBLE
Max Biaggi survived relatively unscathed from a nasty mid-session tumble to take fifth place in today's final Donington qualifier, just 0.343 seconds off pole. The Marlboro Yamaha Team star was preparing for his usual end-of-session onslaught on pole position when he was flicked from his YZR-M1 as he powered out of Melbourne hairpin. Never one to give in easily, the Italian held on to the bike and was dragged along for a few metres before letting go, his M1 riding on alone until it ran on to the grass and toppled over. He ended the session fifth, his first time outside the top three qualifiers in five races
"That was another fall that I didn't need," said Biaggi, who also slid off yesterday morning. "And it was a strange crash, inexplicable. I was running a soft rear which I know well and the bike was almost upright but it was jumping a little and then it flicked me. Apart from the falls, I've been up with the fastest guys all weekend, and as soon as I got going again I was doing low 32s, even in traffic. Also, we've made a big step forward with settings since yesterday. We'll see what I can do in the race, though the second row means I'll need a good start. We tried some new stuff here, but I want to test it more before I race with it."
ROSSI BACK ON TOP
World Championship leader Valentino Rossi came back from his big Friday morning crash to claim pole at the end of today's session. It was the Italian's seventh pole of the year. "I've got a bit of a headache, but I'm okay," said Rossi who was mildly concussed in yesterday's accident. "I didn't expect pole today, so a big thank you to the Clinica Mobile and also to my team, who worked hard to give me this result with a day's less track time than the other guys."
The front row was completed by Honda NSR500 riders Tetsuya Harada and Alex Barros. There were more crashes at slippery Donington today, including Daijiro Kato (Honda), John Hopkins (Yamaha) and Kenny Roberts (Suzuki). None of these riders were hurt.
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211v) 1'31.563
2. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'31.651
3. Tetsuya Harada (JPN) Pramac HONDA Racing Team (NSR500) 1'31.803
4. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) 1'31.828
5. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'31.906