Portugal GP: Yamaha Team Saturday qualifying report

MARLBORO YAMAHA M1 TAKES POLE AGAIN Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa grabbed the YZR-M1's third pole of the season at Estoril this afternoon, waiting for the track to dry following an earlier downpour and then rocketing to the front of...


Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa grabbed the YZR-M1's third pole of the season at Estoril this afternoon, waiting for the track to dry following an earlier downpour and then rocketing to the front of the grid in the final 20 minutes of qualifying. Team-mate Max Biaggi, who gave the M1 its first race win at the Czech GP two weeks ago, moved up to fifth on his final lap, just 0.035 seconds shy of the front row.

M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda attributed the bike's ever-improving pace to painstaking work on chassis development, undertaken since a modified chassis arrived for the Czech GP. "We worked hard with Carlos and Max during our tests after the Brno race, trying to find the right way forward with the new chassis," explained Yoda. "Finally we found the right way and we've continued fine-tuning in that direction here. The positive point of the new chassis is front-end feeling, which both riders discovered at Brno, but we had some rear-end set-up difficulties there which we've fixed here. This is the bumpiest GP track of all and it's not so grippy either. I think the M1's engine-braking system helps our riders going into turns over the bumps, the bike looks smoother than some, but that also comes from rear-suspension settings. There's not much grip here but the M1 isn't doing so bad because it's quite friendly with its tyres, which we've already seen at Brno."

Marlboro Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio added: "It's quite ironic that Carlos should get his first pole with the M1 here, because we had our most difficult pre-season tests here in February. So thanks again to everyone involved including Michelin."


Carlos Checa scored his first pole position since Jerez 1998 at Estoril today, outpacing the MotoGP competition aboard his Marlboro Yamaha Team M1 in the most difficult of conditions. A brief downpour soaked the track a few minutes before the start of this afternoon's final session and it wasn't until the last 15 minutes that the surface had dried enough to allow riders to go on the attack, aiming to better their times from yesterday's dry session. With 13 minutes to go Checa moved up to third, then went fastest with three minutes to go and went faster still on his final lap to end the day 0.075 seconds up on Daijiro Kato (Honda).

"I'd been out earlier when the track was still too wet," said the delighted Spaniard after scoring his second premier-class pole. "There wasn' t much time left when the surface was dry enough, so it was a bit like a Formula One qualifying session, we had so little time, just your out lap, then go for it, you couldn't waste your chances. I was concentrating at my maximum, focusing myself towards doing as perfect a lap as possible and I didn't make any mistakes on my best laps. These weren't easy conditions for the team, so I think the main reason we got pole was because the team, the bike and me worked well together, so I'd like to offer a big thank you to everyone working with me. We lost our way at the last two races and now I have a nice feeling with the bike once again, it's going really well. Now it 's important that we analyse the data from today and fight for victory tomorrow."


Max Biaggi ended final qualifying fifth fastest, less than four tenths of a second off pole. Pole sitter at June's Catalan GP and winner and pole sitter at Brno, Biaggi hasn't been able to get his Marlboro Yamaha Team M1 set up quite to his liking around this awkward and challenging racetrack but is hoping for further improvements in tomorrow morning's warm-up session.

"First of all, my compliments to Carlos, he did a great job today," said Biaggi, who's Brno pole was the 50th of his career. "There's no doubt that we are more competitive now but I've been struggling to find a really good feeling here. The new chassis does feel better but at the moment the front's too light, so we still have a lot of things to fix. It's important that we find a good set-up in warm-up and then I'll try my best in the race."


Daijiro Kato, MotoGP's newest candidate for victory, ended today's session a close second fastest and just ahead of World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda). "We had a good test at Valencia last week, so I'm happy with the bike," said Kato. "We had rear-grip problems yesterday but today was much better." Rossi announced himself satisfied with third: "The bike had been difficult to stop, but we solved that today."

1. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'39.793
2. Daijiro Kato (JPN) Fortuna HONDA Gresini (RC211v) 1'39.868
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211v) 1'39.984
4. Alex Barros (BRA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) 1'40.112

5. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 1'40.147


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Valentino Rossi , Alex Barros , Davide Brivio