MARLBORO YAMAHA TAKE TOP 4-STROKE SPOT Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 rider Max Biaggi was the fastest four-stroke rider at Sachsenring this afternoon, qualifying third quickest behind Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano, whose lighter two-stroke...
MARLBORO YAMAHA TAKE TOP 4-STROKE SPOT
Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 rider Max Biaggi was the fastest four-stroke rider at Sachsenring this afternoon, qualifying third quickest behind Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano, whose lighter two-stroke Yamaha YZR500s are ideally suited to this ultra-tight and twisting circuit.
The German GP venue, shortest track on the World Championship calendar, also produced the closest grid in the history of the premier class, with just 1.547 seconds covering the entire 21-rider field. Biaggi's team-mate Carlos Checa was just two tenths of a second slower than the Italian but that was a big enough difference to consign him to tenth on the grid.
"The M1 is the top four-stroke and the fastest three bikes are all Yamahas, not so bad," smiled YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "The difference between our two riders is tiny but it's put Carlos on the third row. Carlos is one of those riders who always focuses on finding the fastest possible and most consistent race pace, rather than going for one-off qualifying laps. But he seems happy with the bike and so does Max. It's been a little difficult to find the correct geometry and spring balance here. We initially thought our problem was in turning but in fact it was stability. The high-speed T3 section is very bumpy, and this was where our guys had been losing time, so we've worked at finding a good suspension and geometry compromise. Also, our engine seems very fast. Tomorrow both riders will probably use Michelin's dual-compound rear slicks."
BIAGGI ONLY 4-STROKE ON 'RING FRONT ROW
Max Biaggi finished this afternoon's final qualifier with a dazzling flourish, claiming pole position with just seconds to go, then slipping to third as YZR500 riders Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano bettered his best time. Honda NSR500 rider Alex Barros completed the front row.
"I'm the four-stroke meat in a two-stroke sandwich!" joked the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider who won last year's German GP on a YZR500 almost identical to those of Jacque and Nakano. "I'm also very happy to be the fastest four-stroke out there. This afternoon I tried everything for one or two laps because I knew lap times would be close. Everyone knew the 500s would be good here, because they're lighter, so they can use their agility, and they also benefit through the corners from having less power, but I'm surprised to see they're as strong as they are. Hopefully we can improve our race set-up in the morning warm-up, then we'll see what we can do in the race."
CHECA THREE TENTHS OFF POLE BUT ON ROW THREE
Carlos Checa has started four of this year's GPs from the front row and four from the second row, but today his fastest lap was only good enough for a third-row start. Second quickest at one stage, the Marlboro Yamaha Team star ended up just 0.360 seconds off pole, but lap times are so closely packed here that the Spaniard will start tomorrow's German GP from tenth on the grid.
"I'm happy with my lap times and with the set-up of the bike, I'm just not happy about my grid position," said Checa, who started last Sunday's British GP from second on the grid. "We made a big improvement to the bike after yesterday and again after this morning's session. We've been working on suspension and chassis settings to improve front-end feel for better turning and also stability. We don't plan any real changes in the warm-up, my main focus is to be calm at the start and get away well, and if I can do that I think we can race up front."
JACQUE ON POLE, ROSSI SIXTH
Frenchman Olivier Jacque claimed his first premier-class pole position at the very end of today's final session, bettering team-mate Shinya Nakano by just 0.080 seconds. "It's been a long time since I started a race from the front row," said the former 250 World Champion. "And having my team-mate start next to me gives our team a great pleasure. I think this is the two-stroke's best chance to win this year."
World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda) had a very different day, only managing sixth fastest, his first time off the front row this year. Rossi isn't a fan of the 'Ring and his 220 horsepower RCV is proving to be a handful here. "The bike was sweet this morning but more difficult to ride in this afternoon's heat, very much wheelspin!" he said.
1. Olivier Jacque (FRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 (YZR500) 1'25.758
2. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 (YZR500) 1'25.838
3. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'25.875
4. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) 1'25.956
10. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'26.118