MARLBORO YAMAHA TEAM DOWN TO ONE MAN Down to only one rider due to the absence of Carlos Checa, the Marlboro Yamaha Team is focusing all its attentions on Max Biaggi at Welkom this weekend. The Italian, however, is also suffering minor medical...
MARLBORO YAMAHA TEAM DOWN TO ONE MAN
Down to only one rider due to the absence of Carlos Checa, the Marlboro Yamaha Team is focusing all its attentions on Max Biaggi at Welkom this weekend. The Italian, however, is also suffering minor medical ills and placed tenth fastest in this afternoon's opening qualifying session held in warm and sunny conditions at the Free State circuit.
"It does feel very strange with only one rider and half the team in the pit," said Marlboro Yamaha Team manager Geoff Crust. "It's the first time one of our guys has been absent since Carlos and Max joined us in 1999. Max seems to be suffering a bit, he's definitely got a bit of a sniffle, and there's nothing worse than a head cold when you're working hard and you need to breathe freely.
"The bike seems pretty good so far and the only problem we've really run into is some chatter. But we'll stick with the 16.5 rear slick tomorrow and dial it out, rather than try the 17, because it's a long, hard race here where you need the 16.5's longevity."
Surface grip seems better than during GP racing's previous two visits to Welkom in '99 and 2000 when dust and sand on the racing line were a major problem. Overall lap times are already well down on last year's times.
LONE RIDER BIAGGI TENTH
Max Biaggi put his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR500 on the provisional third row of the grid with tenth fastest time at Welkom today, working hard to get the bike performing at its maximum around the bumpier-than-ever circuit. Despite a head cold, the Italian is determined to fix the chatter problems that have delayed him thus far.
"We're getting quite a bit of chatter from both the front and the rear, though maybe the rear end is worse," he said. "If we can solve this problem then I know we can do well when it comes to the race on Sunday. It's just a case of working on the suspension and overall balance of the machine. We hope to get that sorted in the morning, so we can concentrate on going for some good times in the afternoon. Tonight we will compare our data with what we got from last year. I was still injured when I raced here in 2000 but I think that information can still help us."
INJURED CHECA ABSENT Carlos Checa was forced to withdraw from this weekend's South African GP following a heavy fall from his Supermotard bike during a training session last week. The Marlboro Yamaha Team rider suffered a bruised kidney and heeded medical advice to miss the Welkom race. He will return to action at his home GP at Jerez on May 6. The team has not replaced the Spaniard for this race.
"I was really looking forward to South Africa because Japan was very disappointing for me," he said. "My preparation for this season has been excellent and I wanted to show that I am a serious contender for the championship. Now my season will have to start in Jerez where I'm going to be very motivated!"
CAPIROSSI QUICKEST AGAIN
Loris Capirossi proved once again that he is the fastest 500 rider of the moment, riding to a devastatingly fast qualifying lap, more than half a second ahead of Valentino Rossi (Honda). Two weeks ago Capirossi blitzed Suzuka, taking pole by over eight tenths of a second.
"I am working to a new system with my team this year," explained the former 125 and 250 champ. "We concentrate totally on bike settings in the morning, not even worrying about lap times and that gives me more confidence to attack in the qualifying sessions."
LEADER ROSSI SECOND, MCcOY THIRD
Suzuka winner and World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda) featured in the leading positions throughout today's qualifier, eventually slotting into second in the final minutes. "I like the track, the bike is good and I feel we've already got a good set-up," he said. "I feel very confident." Welkom 2000 winner Garry McCoy (Yamaha) moved up to third in the final seconds, just ahead of reigning World Champion Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) who completes the provisional front row.
<pre> FRONT ROW 1. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'35.618 2. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Nastro Azzuro HONDA 1'36.183 3. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 1'36.561 4. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'36.562
10. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'37.043
Circuit Record Lap: Gibernau (1999) 1'36.554 Circuit Best Ever Lap: Capirossi (2001) 1'35.618