ITALIAN GRAND PRIX, MUGELLO First Qualifying, Friday May 31 2002 MARLBORO YAMAHA LEAD THE WAY AT MUGELLO Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi today made a superb start to the 2002 Italian Grand Prix, placing first and...
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX, MUGELLO
First Qualifying, Friday May 31 2002
MARLBORO YAMAHA LEAD THE WAY AT MUGELLO
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi today made a superb start to the 2002 Italian Grand Prix, placing first and second in this afternoon's opening qualifying session. The pair's performance suggests that the latest upgrades to the YZR-M1 are working exactly as Yamaha engineers expected.
Both riders have one new chassis each, with revised geometry, to improve handling and steering, which they tried for the first time this morning but used exclusively in qualifying. As a result of the new chassis the bikes also feature revised fuel tanks, airbox and seat units.
"Today was very good for us, we expected something good and I really appreciate the work done by everyone at the factory and everyone within the team," said YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "The race department in Japan has been so busy, our engine and chassis designers have cancelled their holidays and they've been working to 11 or 12 every night! This is what we' ve been working on since Suzuka and I'm very happy that all our work has had a good effect. The new chassis has a different engine position and slightly revised geometry. The new fuel tank allows the riders to sit further forward and lowers the centre of gravity."
CHECA AND MIGHTY M1 SET THE PACE
Carlos Checa enjoyed a rousing battle for provisional pole position with team-mate Max Biaggi and World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda). The Marlboro Yamaha Team man led much of the session before dropping down the order and then fighting back in his final run, which put him 0.111 seconds ahead of Biaggi and 0.115 seconds ahead of Rossi.
"It's amazing to be at this level after just two hours with the new chassis," said a delighted Checa. "Most of the merit for our performance must go to Yamaha, I just did the last bit of work on the track! The bike is working quite well now. I feel much more confident in the front because I'm getting a more positive feeling, so I can keep rolling into the corners faster, even with brake on, and there's less front-end push. Now we need to be very precise in how we analyze data and improve from here, so I'm looking forward to testing at Valencia next week, where we will have the time to fully explore the potential of this chassis. I've always asked Yamaha to improve in this area, so I'm happy that my thinking has helped us to get better. We've fixed that problem, now we need to keep improving, and I'm quite optimistic that we can do that."
BIAGGI JUST 0.111 SECONDS OFF POLE
Max Biaggi made it to pole on two occasions before Marlboro Yamaha Team-mate Carlos Checa sneaked ahead in the dying moments of the session, by just one tenth of a second. Like Checa, the Italian is delighted with the improved performance of his YZR-M1
"Friday doesn't count for much but this is a good start," he said. "The new chassis gives me a good riding sensation, and the new tank is smaller and narrower, which makes the bike easier to ride. We've definitely taken a step forward here, Yamaha have done a great job to get this new chassis to us in the few weeks since Suzuka. We had a minor carburation problem this afternoon, the motor was a bit sharp on acceleration, but I tried my second bike with the other chassis this morning and that motor felt better, so we know what to do for tomorrow. Now we have to see how things go in the race on Sunday - I don't think we'll be doing times as fast as this."
ROSSI CHASING HARD IN THIRD
MotoGP World Championship leader Valentino Rossi seems to be under more pressure than usual here. Quickest this morning, the Italian couldn't quite match the Marlboro Yamahas this afternoon, despite set-up improvements to his RCV. "The bike felt much better than this morning,," he said. "We adjusted the suspension but I'm still getting a lot of wheelspin." Daijiro Kato (Honda) and Sete Gibernau (Suzuki) fell at speed this afternoon in separate incidents but were unhurt and continued on their other bikes, placing 16th and ninth.
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW
1. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'52.086*
2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'52.197
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211v) 1'52.201
4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) 1'52.592
* New official circuit best ever lap