Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were fourth and eighth fastest in this afternoonâ€™s final qualifying session at Mugello, giving them start slots on the first and second rows for tomorrowâ€™s Italian GP. The pair, who...
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were fourth and eighth fastest in this afternoon’s final qualifying session at Mugello, giving them start slots on the first and second rows for tomorrow’s Italian GP. The pair, who scored a famous one-two in France two weeks ago, came back well from a difficult Friday, when they were eighth and 12th, and both are confident of a good race showing.
A light shower of rain dampened the track at the start of the session and many riders didn’t venture out for the first 20 minutes. Once out on circuit, Biaggi didn’t waste any time in getting back on the pace. After 25 minutes he was up to fifth and then made the all-important move to fourth in the closing moments. Checa had also been up to fifth at one stage but slipped to eighth, unable to make the best of the soft rear tyre he ran at the end of the session. “That was better,” smiled Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. “But ideally I’d like another day for both riders! When we came here to test last month we were trying a new direction in set-up, not just looking for Mugello settings, and we continued in that same direction at Le Mans, making further improvements. But while my feeling was that this is a totally different kind of circuit, we still tried the Le Mans settings yesterday but they weren’t so good. Today both Max and Carlos ran a mixture of our Le Mans set-up and last year’s Mugello settings, and they’re both happier. It’s just detail adjustments to suspension balance and so on, and we think we can make some more improvements in morning warm-up.”
BIAGGI MOVES UP TO FOURTH
Max Biaggi bounced back from his two Friday tumbles to jump on to the front row with a storming end-of-session run. The Italian and his Marlboro Yamaha Team worked systematically to get back on track and put Biaggi in amongst the favourites for tomorrow’s race, round five of the 2001 World Championship.
“We’ve improved the set-up and worked our way through the tyre options, but we’re behind because we struggled yesterday and this morning, so it’s going to be a hard race,” said Biaggi. “This afternoon was good and I gave it everything I could, now we’ll spend the rest of the afternoon looking at the data and seeing what we can improve for tomorrow. We’ve been trying both the 16.5 and 17in rears. The 16.5 obviously worked well at Le Mans but this is a very different track and I find the bike jumps around less in the corners with the 17. But of course the 16.5 does have advantages. It’s a difficult choice and we’ll make the decision after tomorrow morning’s warm-up. I’m happy to be on the front row, that’s always the aim on Saturday. I had some traffic on my best lap so maybe I could’ve been faster but all I need is the front row, and then a good start.”
CHECA RARING TO GO
Carlos Checa was back on the pace today, coming close to the front row and ending up eighth for a second-row start. The Spanish Marlboro Yamaha Team rider, who was game enough to admit he wasn’t on form yesterday, cut over two seconds off his Friday best and would’ve been faster if he’d been able to use all the grip from the soft rear he ran at the end of the session.
“I was a little nervous yesterday and maybe my mind wasn’t exactly right, like at Jerez, so I accept that I wasn’t at my best,” said Checa frankly. “Also I didn’t feel so comfortable on the bike but the team has done a great job, I did some good times on race tyres and I feel ready. I could’ve been even quicker but the rear I ran at the end had so much grip that it was making the front push, so I couldn’t use the tyre’s full potential. We’re in a much better position than yesterday and we’ll leave the bike unchanged for tomorrow because I feel comfortable. If the race pace is 54s and some 53s, I can run at that pace, but if Rossi or someone does consistent 53s, it’ll be more difficult.”
ROSSI ON POLE, BUT ONLY JUST
Valentino Rossi (Honda) today secured his third pole position of the season but the Italian ended qualifying with less of an advantage than he had yesterday, now just 0.134 seconds ahead of Kenny Roberts. “There was a lot of pressure and although a lot of people are saying I’m in control, this shows things are pretty close,” he said. "Much will depend on tyres. I’ve been running the 16.5 rear but I think Kenny has been using a 17. We’ll have to wait and see which tyre works best.”
ROBERTS CLOSES THE GAP
Reigning World Champion Kenny Roberts showed his best form of the season with a strong run to second, after changing tyres. “The 17 helps because you don’t have to spend so much time at full lean,” said Roberts, who likes to get the bike into and out of a turn as quick as possible. “You’re on the side of the tyre longer with the 16.5, so you have to use smaller throttle openings, which relates to one of our engine weaknesses.”
<pre> FRONT ROW 1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'52.554 2. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'52.688 3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'52.834 4. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'52.942
8. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'53.253