MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN WORK HARD AT WET 'n' DRY MOTEGI Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were fourth and tenth in this afternoon's opening qualifying session for the Pacific Grand Prix, run in mild autumnal weather at Twin...
MARLBORO YAMAHA MEN WORK HARD AT WET 'n' DRY MOTEGI
Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were fourth and tenth in this afternoon's opening qualifying session for the Pacific Grand Prix, run in mild autumnal weather at Twin Ring Motegi.
After rain effectively robbed the pair of this morning's 'free' session, they spent this afternoon adjusting chassis settings for Motegi's special stop-and-go characteristics.
"This session was our first chance to work on dry-weather settings, so we hope it stays dry throughout tomorrow," said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. "We still have some work to do to find the correct chassis balance for this track and for both our riders. Carlos seems quite happy with the new cylinders, which we have created to improve acceleration from bottom-to-medium rpm, that's from around 7000rpm and up. Max didn't run the cylinders this afternoon, he was more concerned with improving the chassis balance of his machines."
BIAGGI ON FRONT ROW
Like his rivals, Max Biaggi has only had one dry session today, so he's still a way away from finding the ideal Motegi set-up for his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR500s. Nevertheless the former 250 king, who's going for his sixth successive pole position, was able to challenge for a slot of the provisional front row throughout the session, ending up fourth.
"We're struggling to find a good set-up, so considering that it's good to be on the front row," said the Italian. "We started with the settings we ran last year but for some reason the balance doesn't feel right, and the data confirms that the suspension isn't working the same as last time we were here. We'll work overnight to improve the bike and I feel positive, I think we can make things quite a bit better."
CHECA WANTS MORE FEEDBACK
Carlos Checa, second highest-scoring rider at the last four races, could only manage tenth at Motegi this afternoon but is sure he'll be able to move up the order in tomorrow afternoon's final qualifying session. As usual, the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider is focusing on adjusting the rear end of his YZR500 to suit his loose-riding corner-exit style.
"The track temperature is pretty low here, which tends to reduce the amount of feeling you get from the bike and the tyres," said the Spaniard. "This afternoon the rear end was going from grip to no grip a bit more quickly than I'd like. During the early stages of this afternoon's session I had quite a few near-highsides, so we've been working at improving feedback. If it's dry tomorrow I'm hopeful that we can get a lot closer to the front."
ROSSI FIFTH AFTER SCARY MOMENT
Valentino Rossi (Honda) was lucky to survive a scary moment halfway through this afternoon's session when he braked too late for the track's secondary pit-lane entry. The young Italian locked up his NSR's rear end, smoke pouring from the tyre, and had to run wide and off the track to regain control.
"I decided too late to use that pit road," said the World Championship leader. "I used the brakes too hard and nearly crashed. We spent much of the session trying various tyres which didn't seem to suit this track so well. Eventually we fitted a better tyre to get in a good lap time, because I was only 11th fastest and wanted to get a better provisional grid position in case it rains tomorrow."
ROBERTS IS BACK
Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) was the surprise provisional pole sitter today, out-pacing Honda Pons pairing Alex Barros and Loris Capirossi by a fraction. The reigning World Champion has had a difficult season so far, qualifying on the front row at only two of the 12 races, and he's yet to start from pole in 2001. But he believes he learned plenty at Valencia two weeks ago.
"Valencia gives a lot of feedback, which helped us pin down some of the problems we've had with feeling," he said. "We learned a lot there and so for this race we've gone back to some old chassis parts that have massively improved feel."
<pre> PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW 1. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'50.944 2. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons 1'51.007 3. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'51.141 4. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'51.788
10. Carlos Checa (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'52.367