First Qualifying, Friday September 21 2001 Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa fought their way to provisional second and third-row grid positions in this afternoon& ...
First Qualifying, Friday September 21 2001
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa fought their way to provisional second and third-row grid positions in this afternoon’s hectic opening qualifying session at Valencia. On a hot and busy track, and with the top 12 riders separated by just 0.833 seconds, Biaggi was sixth quickest and Checa ninth.
“ The big thing for both our guys has been finding a clear track,” said Marlboro Yamaha Team manager Geoff Crust.“ Both of them have found themselves blocked by other riders on fast laps, and when there’s 15 guys covered by one second, that makes a big difference, plus we’re playing catch-up to all the Honda guys who’ve been here testing. Max and Carlos have been focusing on improving stability on turn-in, so they can run into the corners on the brakes while the bike keeps turning. The other thing here is the grip level– it’s not the grippiest of tracks, and there’s only two rights, so it’s a job to get some temperature into the right side of the tyres. We’ve heard there’s rain forecast for tomorrow but all we can do is take it as it comes.”
BIAGGI AIMS FOR FRONT-ROW START
Max Biaggi ran fourth in the closing stages of this afternoon’s opening qualifier but slipped to sixth at the end of the session, albeit a scanty 0.340 seconds off provisional pole. The Italian, currently second in the World Championship, is struggling to find grip through the anti-clockwise track’s two right-handers.
“ We have a few little suspension and bike balance problems to work on, plus some vibration,” said The Marlboro Yamaha Team rider.“ But our main concern is the right-handers. There are only two of them here, so it’s not easy to get the tyres hot on that side. It’s a bit strange because this is not something we’ve struggled with before at this track. We’re working with Michelin to find a solution but at the moment it’s complicating our work on set-up. We’re hoping to make a step forward tomorrow and get on the front row.”
CHECA A FRACTION OFF ROW TWO
Carlos Checa ended today’s frantic session in ninth place, just six tenths of a second off provisional pole. Highly motivated for his last race this year on Spanish tarmac, the Marlboro Yamaha Team man is confident he can move up the order tomorrow, if the weather stays dry.
“ We had a good test at Estoril after the GP there and our idea was to keep the bike the same for here and just work on tyre choice,” he explained.“ But although the tracks have similarities, the differences are critical, so we’ve had to start changing things. The bike wasn’t turning the way I like, so we’ve worked on the rear to put more weight on the front. By making small adjustments to geometry and suspension we have improved the bike, we’ve found the right direction, but we need it to stay dry tomorrow so we can keep improving and get closer to the front of the grid.”
ROSSI PUSHES HOME ADVANTAGE
Like most Honda riders, World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda) came testing here before the recent Portuguese GP, so he currently enjoys an advantage over many of his rivals and if rains tomorrow, he’ll retain that advantage.
“ We’re okay so far, testing here has given us an edge but the others are already catching us,” said the Italian.“ I expected to go faster at the end of today’s session but I wasn’t able to, probably because the front tyre we had was a little too used. I’m happy, and if the sun shines again tomorrow, I know I can go quicker.”
BARROS BACK UP FRONT
Alex Barros (Honda) is back on form after a couple of so-so races.“ I wasn’t quick enough at Brno because I was so tired after three months of non-stop riding– doing GPs, the Eight Hours and lots of testing, and I got taken out at the first turn at Estoril,” said the Brazilian, just 0.122 seconds off Rossi.“ I didn’t even test here because I was testing for the Eight Hours in Japan but the bike feels good, all we have to do is make a few minor adjustments to suspension and carburation, then choose tyres.”
<pre> FIRST QUALIFYING 1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'35.434 2. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 1'35.556 3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'35.594 4. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'35.634 5. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol YPF HONDA Team 1'35.731
6. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'35.774
9. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'36.059