MYT French GP first qualifying

Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa ended day one of French GP qualifying fifth and seventh, both of them just a fraction of a second off the provisional front row. Last year Biaggi and Checa qualified first and second fastest...

Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa ended day one of French GP qualifying fifth and seventh, both of them just a fraction of a second off the provisional front row. Last year Biaggi and Checa qualified first and second fastest at Le Mans.

Biaggi and Checa are both in good spirits following last week's team tests at Italian circuit Mugello, where they worked at ongoing development and at getting back into the groove after a difficult Spanish GP two weeks ago. The pair tested a variety of engine and chassis parts, and that work has allowed them to concentrate on straightforward track set-up today and tomorrow. The Marlboro Yamaha Team's status as Yamaha's fully-owned factory team gives them the advantage of receiving the factory's latest development parts first, but it also means they often have more time-consuming test duties than their fellow Yamaha teams.

"The Mugello test went well for us," said Yamaha Grand Prix manager Masahiko Nakajima. "We tested four engine parts and two chassis items and gained some invaluable development data. Here we are concentrating on basic set-up because we realise that we were confusing our riders by asking them to test new parts on Friday and Saturday at Jerez. We have simplified the way we tackle practice during a GP weekend and we believe that this will allow us to find better race settings."


Max Biaggi is in confident mood after clocking fifth-best time in cool, cloudy conditions at Le Mans, just 0.439 seconds off provisional pole. And the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider, who spent several days at Mugello last week testing his YZR500 and Yamaha's new YZR-M1 four-stroke, will aim for pole tomorrow.

"Compared to the last two GPs, the bike is getting better," said Biaggi, who qualified on pole here last year but crashed out of the race while leading. "We did some nice work at Mugello and we've found a good direction, improving the bike on the brakes and in the turns. We started today with one of my bikes with last year's Le Mans settings and the other with the Mugello set-up, and the second bike is working really well. Tomorrow we'll run both bikes the same and we've already got an idea about how to improve the front suspension in the morning session. The team's doing a good job, we're going in the right direction."


Carlos Checa ended day one at Le Mans seventh quickest, two tenths down on team-mate Biaggi. Badly battered in a huge get-off during Spanish GP qualifying, the Spaniard is still sore but looking forward to getting his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR back up front.

"My left shoulder gets a bit tired with all the braking here, but I'm not having any more treatment," he said. "The best treatment for me is going fast! Physically I feel okay and I feel better on the bike than I did at the last few races. As always, we're trying to improve and our focus here is the rear. The front is working good but I want to improve the rear so I can get more feeling. At the moment it's too harsh, so I'm not getting the feeling for the tyre I'd like."

Checa only rode one day at Mugello last week, allowing him the maximum-possible time to recuperate from his Jerez crash. "The shoulder was hurting quite a bit through the fast chicanes," he added. "But the pressure here is on your forearms, so it's not so bad."


Sideways hero Garry McCoy (Yamaha) is back on the pace after a poor Spanish GP where he could only manage ninth. Second in the season-opening Japanese GP, the Aussie needs a good result here to get himself back in the title hunt. "Everyone's saying I look more relaxed on the bike here," he said. "But I feel the same as ever -- just having fun! I felt I could do a good lap right from the start of the session and I can do good times consistently."


On-form Norick Abe (Yamaha) battled for provisional pole throughout today's session, but the Japanese star was finally eclipsed by McCoy, who ended the day 0.164 seconds faster. Second at Jerez two weeks ago, and second here last year, Abe is looking good and going faster than ever before. "I feel very good on the bike at the moment and confidence is so important," he said. "We have a good set-up for this track and we can do better tomorrow."

FRONT ROW 1. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 1'39.366 2. Norick Abe (JPN) Antena 3 YAMAHA d'Antin 1'39.530 3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'39.584 4. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'39.692 5. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'39.805

7. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'40.014


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Valentino Rossi , Norifumi Abe , Kenny Roberts Jr.