Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa are easing into their first tests of 2001 at Sepang this week. At the mid-point of the four-day session both men are concentrating on getting the feel of their 2001-spec YZR500s, rather...
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa are easing into their first tests of 2001 at Sepang this week. At the mid-point of the four-day session both men are concentrating on getting the feel of their 2001-spec YZR500s, rather than going for all-out lap times.
Typically tropical weather has interrupted proceedings at the Malaysian venue, soaking the track on several occasions and leaving grip at a premium. Biaggi and Checa continue testing over the next two days, winding up on Wednesday, before returning to Europe for next month's IRTA-organised Jerez and Estoril sessions.
After spending plenty of time watching the track dry on both days, Biaggi clocked a best lap just a few tenths outside the lap record, though some way off the astonishingly fast 2m 05.4s he recorded during his last visit to the track in December. However, the Italian insists he is unconcerned with out-and-out times, his only concern is race-winning consistency.
"I was very fast last time here but that was only over four or five laps," he said, "It's nice to be quicker than everyone but it means nothing; my target is to be consistently faster, over race distance and throughout the season."
During the second day of the tests, which was severely interrupted by showers, Biaggi and Checa attended a lunchtime team press conference for 40 Malaysian and some international media. Biaggi paid tribute to the efforts of Yamaha's GP engineers, who are preparing for the last season of two-stroke 500 GP racing, before 990cc four-strokes are introduced to MotoGP in 2002.
"Last season Yamaha won the constructor's championship and I feel we are seeing an even bigger effort from them this year," he added. "Everybody wants this season's rider's title because it'll be the last 500 crown, and that's what we're aiming for. We're just going to get out there and do it."
The most conspicuous indication of Yamaha's off-season R&D programme is a new fairing nose and seat unit design, aimed to increase top speed. Like Biaggi, Checa has been testing the new aerodynamics as well as working his way through Michelin's latest range of racing slicks and focusing on rear suspension settings.
"We've been working to get the rear sliding a bit more because I like to feel the bike moving around," said the Spaniard. "We're working on a lot of areas of improvement -- tyres, suspension and engine parts. There's plenty to do and I just hope the weather allows us to get through everything before the end of Wednesday.
"This is a long test but we've also got a long season ahead. It's too early to say what will happen but I already feel things are better for me this year. We have simplified the structure within my side of the team and it's great to have our new team director Hiroya Atsumi on board. He's and engineer so he understands what we need; his feedback to Yamaha will be important."
This week's four-day session is the team's last visit to Sepang before October's Malaysian GP, penultimate round of the 2001 World Championship.
Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team) Sunday 2m 07.2s (40 laps), Monday 2m 07.6s (16 laps)
Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) Sunday 2m 08.1s (52 laps), Monday 2m 08.2s (20 laps)