Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka. Final Qualifying, Saturday April 6 2002. Marlboro Yamaha men on 1st and 2nd rows. Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi rode a magnificent final qualifying session at Suzuka today, both men...
Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka.
Final Qualifying, Saturday April 6 2002.
Marlboro Yamaha men on 1st and 2nd rows.
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi rode a magnificent final qualifying session at Suzuka today, both men involved in the thrilling battle for pole position aboard their YZR-M1 four-strokes. They ended the outing fourth and fifth quickest and will line up on the first and second rows of the grid for tomorrow's Japanese GP, first race of the new four-stroke MotoGP era.
Their impressive pace is the result of unstinting recent work by Marlboro Yamaha Team and Yamaha Motorsports staff who have toiled on crucial engine and chassis improvements.
"We've been concentrating on the chassis, finding a good balance and geometry," explained YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "This is only our fourth day with the new chassis and today we fine tuned the suspension. Both riders are now using very similar geometry and balance. We have also made a big improvement to the hydraulic engine-braking system, adjusting the gear, front-brake pressure and throttle position factors to give the riders the feeling they need into corners. And we've found a little bit better throttle connection.
"I'm very happy. Initially we had gone in the wrong direction with the chassis. That slowed our development speed but we found the right direction after our tests in February and we're still continuing to work that way. I'm expecting a good race - both riders can use similar rubber to those they used today because the four-stroke is not so aggressive with tyres."
CHECA'S POLE ATTACK FOILED Carlos Checa was in stunning form at Suzuka this afternoon, fighting for pole position throughout the session, and the Spaniard might have scored pole if he hadn't lost three tenths when he was baulked by a slower rider at the end of a super-quick lap. Checa had already gone to the top of the times earlier in the outing and eventually ended up fourth, 0.224 seconds off pole.
"We had a difficult start to the weekend but everything came right today, the bike was working very well, I felt really comfortable," said the Marlboro Yamaha Team man who reeled off an amazing succession of quick laps. "I used a softer tyre for my best lap but I hope for a good race tomorrow, I 'm aiming to be fighting in the front group and, of course, to win. We've had some difficult times in the last few months and we got a bit behind but I never lost faith in the bike and the team. Now we're very close but we've got to keep working."
BIAGGI ON POLE, THEN FIFTH Max Biaggi also benefited from the crucial modifications made to his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 and enthusiastically joined the scrap for pole position. And he too went fastest at one point, briefly holding pole with four minutes remaining, slipping to fifth at the close, just 0.230 seconds off the fastest time.
"We made a few more changes and today was better than I'd expected," said the Italian. "We made the bike a bit quicker, doing a lot of work on rebound damping. I feel the set-up is more mine now but we did lose some stability and I still feel like I'm losing time in the same places - corner entry and on changes of direction. I could've come in near the end of the session to get a set of softer tyres but decided to keep going with the race tyres because we'd learn more that way. However, the race is very different from qualifying!"
Right at the end of the session Biaggi was just a few metres ahead of Valentino Rossi as the Honda rider took pole position. Biaggi never saw his Italian rival but joked afterwards: "I didn't see him but if I gave him a tow he can buy me a pizza!"
ROSSI ON POLE, JUST
The first-ever MotoGP qualifying session turned out to be a real thriller, pole position changing constantly throughout. With rain clouds threatening Checa, Biaggi, Loris Capirossi (Honda) and Rossi all took turns out front, Rossi edging back to the top at the very end, his RCV outpacing Capirossi's NSR500 by just 0.183 seconds. "The last two days have been difficult," said Rossi who had his second fall of the weekend this morning. Capirossi also tumbled this morning, when he ran into the back of Jeremy McWilliams (Proton).
1. V. Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team 2'04.226
2. L. Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 2'04.409
3. S. Itoh (JPN) Team HRC 2'04.435
4. C. CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 2'04.450
5. M. BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 2'04.456
6. D. Katoh (JPN) Fortuna HONDA Gresini 2'04.491
7. A. Ryo (JPN) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 2'04.746
8. O. Jacque (FRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 2'04.953
9. S. Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 2'05.098
10. K. Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 2'05.122