Marlboro Portuguese Grand Prix, Estoril First Qualifying, Friday September 7 2001 MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN ON ROWS ONE AND TWO Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were third and fifth fastest in this afternoon's first qualifying session at baking hot and ...
Marlboro Portuguese Grand Prix, Estoril
First Qualifying, Friday September 7 2001
MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN ON ROWS ONE AND TWO
Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were third and fifth fastest in this afternoon's first qualifying session at baking hot and blustery Estoril, giving them provisional places on the first and second rows. Both Marlboro Yamaha Team men were right on the pace, though their engineers will be working hard overnight to help them bite into pole sitter Valentino Rossi's advantage in tomorrow's all-important final qualifier.
"We're okay so far but we need to improve, we need to get closer to Rossi," said Marlboro Yamaha Team manager Geoff Crust. "Max has come here in very determined mood - after Brno he knows he's got to pull it all back together, get his head down and win some more races. A lot has changed to our bikes since the IRTA tests we did here in February. We've also tried a few little settings changes to help Max to steer faster with the 16.5, though they're not a night-and-day difference. Carlos seems to be going good, he improves every time he goes out and we know we can make his bike better for tomorrow."
BIAGGI A CLOSE THIRD
Max Biaggi rode to third-quickest today, just one thousandth of a second off second-quickest Norick Abe (Yamaha). However, the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider 's main concern is how to close the half-second gap between himself and arch-rival Valentino Rossi (Honda). And even more than that, how to shrink the 29-point championship difference between himself and his fellow Italian. Biaggi had got the gap down to ten points before last month's Czech GP, where he tumbled out of the lead, while just ahead of Rossi.
"I'm hoping for a little more luck this weekend," said Biaggi, who's already started from pole on four occasions this season. "We had a few problems this morning but we're better now, I'd say we're 80 per cent of our potential. I don't know how good we can do here, I guess I won't know until we make the few improvements we need to make. We're missing a bit of speed and a bit of traction, so after the session I sat down and had a long chat with Fiorenzo (Fanali, Biaggi's crew chief) and we have some ideas to fix those problems for tomorrow."
CHECA JUST OFF ROW ONE
Carlos Checa ended day one at Estoril less than a tenth of a second off a provisional front-row start. The Spaniard rode a great session this afternoon, looking fast and smooth on his factory YZR500s, moving up to third with ten minutes to go before finally slipping to a very close fifth, just 0.095 seconds behind Loris Capirossi (Honda).
"I feel pretty confident on the bike," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team man. "But we need to improve the engine set-up because so far it's too aggressive when I get on the throttle. The chassis balance is pretty good, though I'm still getting some front-end push, which comes from having so much rear grip. We also had some chatter from the 16.5, though you expect chatter when you're running softer tyres in practice. That shouldn't be a worry when we concentrate on race tyres tomorrow."
ROSSI RULES, SO FAR
Valentino Rossi was in dominant form this afternoon, leading the first qualifier until Norick Abe (Yamaha) displaced him with 13 minutes to go. Undaunted, Rossi counter attacked on soft tyres, cutting under Abe's best by 0.512 seconds. "When we came testing here in the winter, it was a disaster," said the World Championship leader. "We worked for two days without finding a good set-up and I crashed. So the tests we did at Valencia last week were very useful, since the track is a bit similar to here. Now we've got a good setting for both tracks and we're running a much softer engine configuration than we use at faster places like Catalunya and Assen."
ABE FAST BUT FALLS
Norick Abe (Yamaha) had a bitter-sweet birthday today. The Japanese star, celebrating his 26th birthday, was in flying form, leading qualifying until he fell with just minutes to go. Abe tumbled heavily at turn five, a 230kmh fifth-gear right-hander where riders try extra hard to give themselves the best-possible slingshot on to the back straight. Apart from severe bruising, his only injuries are a few minor friction burns and a sprained finger.
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'40.389
2. Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin 1'40.901
3. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'40.902
4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'40.946
5. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'41.041