PACIFIC GRAND PRIX, MOTEGI Final Qualifying, Saturday October 6 2001 Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were second and 11th fastest in this afternoon's final qualifying session at warm and sunny Motegi, giving them first...
PACIFIC GRAND PRIX, MOTEGI
Final Qualifying, Saturday October 6 2001
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were second and 11th fastest in this afternoon's final qualifying session at warm and sunny Motegi, giving them first and third-row starts for tomorrow's Pacific GP grid. Like their rivals, the pair found little grip around the Japanese track. At most GPs this year the pace has been dramatically faster than last season but today's pole was just 0.154 seconds faster than last year's and no one is certain why.
"Everywhere this year many riders have been inside last season's pole position times, but not here," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "The track doesn't have the grip, it doesn't feel like it did last time, maybe it's something to do with car racing. This has made it quite difficult for us to get the right set-up for both our riders. Max isn't 100 per cent happy, so we still have some work to do on his tyre choice and machine balance. Carlos hasn't been able to find a good compromise for braking and turning performance, but we'll work on improving the set-up of both his and Max's machines for tomorrow."
BIAGGI JUST MISSES POLE
Max Biaggi missed out on scoring his sixth successive pole position by a fraction of a second at Motegi today. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man enjoyed a frantic battle for pole, dislodging Alex Barros (Honda) with five minutes to go, only to have the Brazilian's team-mate Loris Capirossi (Honda) outdo him a minute later. Biaggi ended the session second, 0.448 seconds off pole, for his 11th front-row start of 2001.
"We've been struggling a little with set-up, even though we've tried lots of ideas to improve things," said the Italian. "My number-one bike was working slightly better this afternoon but that bike had a gearbox problem early in the session, so I had to use my second machine which wasn't set-up quite as well. I never really like to use my second bike because it always feels a bit different, but I just put my head down and it was good enough for second fastest. I should have my number-one bike back for tomorrow morning's warm-up session and hopefully it'll work a bit better. It's going to be a hard race - Capirossi has been fast all weekend. I'll just do my best and try to close the points gap on Rossi."
Biaggi currently lies second overall, 42 points behind Valentino Rossi (Honda).
CHECA LOOKS FOR GRIP
Carlos Checa will start tomorrow's Pacific GP, round 13 of this year's 16-race campaign, from the third row of the grid. It's the first time the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider has been off the first two rows since June's Catalan Grand Prix. Like team-mate Max Biaggi and many of his rivals, Checa expressed some bewilderment at Motegi's track surface.
"I can't find enough grip," said the Spaniard who finished fourth here last year. "I guess it's something to do with the track condition and that affects some riders more than others. We made our bike better than yesterday but I'm still having some chatter trouble, so I can't maintain good rolling speed through the corners. Also, I'm not getting enough rear-end feedback, and without that it's very tricky to be aggressive with the throttle out of the turns. We'll work some more tonight and see what we can do tomorrow."
CAPIROSSI SCORES THIRD POLE
Hard-riding Loris Capirossi (Honda) was rewarded with his third pole position of 2001 at Motegi, riding a super-aggressive lap to beat Max Biaggi. Today's performance makes the Italian favourite for tomorrow's Pacific Grand Prix. "I'm very happy to be on pole again, especially since I did the time with a race tyre," said Capirossi, who scored his other 2001 poles at Suzuka and Assen but has yet to win a race this year. "I'm experiencing a little movement from the front on the way into corners but we won't mess around with the set-up tonight because rear-end traction is more important here."
ROSSI - LAST MAN ON FRONT ROW
World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda) just squeezed on to the front row, with four fastest time. "We've got plenty of problems here, most of all with grip," said Rossi, who was fifth quickest after Friday's first qualifier. "We thought we had found a good set-up this morning but it didn't work so well in the warmer conditions this afternoon. I did one good lap to get me on the front row, which is good, but to be honest I'm still struggling."
FRONT ROW 1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'49.800 2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'50.248 3. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 1'50.511 4. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzurro HONDA 1'50.591
11. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'51.602