MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN FIGHT BACK AT STEAMY SEPANG Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa shrugged off withering heat and humidity at Sepang this afternoon to qualify second and fifth fastest for tomorrow's Malaysian Grand...
MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN FIGHT BACK AT STEAMY SEPANG
Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa shrugged off withering heat and humidity at Sepang this afternoon to qualify second and fifth fastest for tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Both riders had struggled with machine set-up yesterday, clocking sixth- and 11th-fastest times in the first qualifier, but their crews have worked tirelessly since then to dramatically close the gap.
"It's amazing what the team has been able to do," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio. "Everybody - the riders, the engineers and the rest of the crew - have spent many hours in discussion since yesterday afternoon, working to find a solution to the problems. So, I have to say a big thank you to them all, now let's keep going from here. Yesterday both Max and Carlos had struggled in the corners, so we've adjusted chassis geometry and suspension balance to give them the feeling they need to really attack the turns."
Conditions were more gruelling than ever during today's session, with 36-degree ambient heat and 50-degree track temperature. Tomorrow's race is expected to run in similar conditions, making it the toughest event for riders and bikes on the 16-round MotoGP World Championship calendar.
BIAGGI FIVE HUNDREDTHS OFF POLE POSITION
Max Biaggi was in extraordinary form this afternoon, slicing a massive 1.375 seconds off his Friday best to lay his claim for pole position at Sepang. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man, who's currently battling for second in the World Championship, went fastest with just two minutes of the session remaining, only for Alex Barros (Honda) to sneak pole away from him by just 0.049 seconds. But Biaggi was beaming after the session, certain he'd done his utmost and ready to challenge for another win tomorrow.
"First of all, my congratulations to Barros for pole, now he owes me a pizza because he was chasing me for his fastest lap!" grinned a sweat-drenched Biaggi after securing his tenth front-row start of the year. "I felt I did my best out there today. We made some changes last night and then some more suspension adjustments this morning, which found us some competitiveness, though it's always difficult to make the bike perfect. I used different compound front and rear tyres this afternoon and just tried my maximum for a good lap time. This race is going to be very tough on tyres, but I'm sure I can go well tomorrow."
CHECA MISSES FRONT-ROW START BY A FRACTION
Carlos Checa also transformed his performance in Malaysia today, lapping 1.292 seconds faster than he'd managed in yesterday's opening qualifying outing to lift himself to within a fraction of the front row. In fact The Marlboro Yamaha Team man did move up to fourth with an astounding end-of-session charge, but was demoted to fifth by Loris Capirossi (Honda) in the dying seconds. Like team-mate Max Biaggi, Checa's revitalised speed was thanks to painstaking work from his technicians and a superb on-track effort.
"We worked all day towards the correct race-distance set-up, then we fitted new tyres at the end and went for it," he said. "Today we made quite a few changes to the bike, back to stuff we know better. It was just slight modifications to geometry and suspension that improved the overall balance, which I feel confident will make a useful difference to our race performance. Maybe we can still make some more improvements - we'll probably try a few more things in warm-up."
BARROS SCORES FIRST MotoGP POLE POSITION
Just six days after scoring his first MotoGP victory in last Sunday's Pacific GP in Japan, Alex Barros this afternoon scored his first MotoGP pole position. "Considering my team had no data for this track, I'm surprised to get pole," said the Brazilian who's riding an RCV four-stroke for only the second time. "The race will be tough, you get so much wheelspin here that you have to concentrate so hard." World Champion and fellow RCV rider Valentino Rossi, who lost out to Barros in the last race, could only manage eighth today.
1. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons (RC211v) 2'04.487
2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 2'04.536
3. Daijiro Kato (JPN) Fortuna HONDA Gresini (RC211v) 2'04.680
4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) 2'04.785
5. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 2'05.031