Portuguese GP MTY qualifying

Marlboro Yamaha Team duo Max Biaggi and Carlos ended this afternoon's thrilling final qualifying session at Estoril fifth and eighth on the grid. The pair played a major part in the entertainment and were amongst seven different riders taking...

Marlboro Yamaha Team duo Max Biaggi and Carlos ended this afternoon's thrilling final qualifying session at Estoril fifth and eighth on the grid. The pair played a major part in the entertainment and were amongst seven different riders taking their turn on provisional pole, Garry McCoy (Yamaha) claiming pole in the final few minutes. Gusting winds still caused difficulties, though they were less problematic than yesterday.

"Both our guys are consistent, they've got good tyres for the race and the second row is good enough," said Marlboro Yamaha Team manager Geoff Crust. "Since the last race, everyone has had Michelin 'qualifiers' available and that makes qualifying really exciting. It gives some extra grip to the guys who are struggling, but I think the times that matter for the race were set in the first 45 minutes."

Former Marlboro Yamaha World Champion Wayne Rainey watched the action from the team's pit. "It's great to see the guys again," said Rainey, who went on to manage a factory Yamaha 500 squad from 1996 to '98 and is making his sole visit to a GP this year. "And it's nice to see the team is still working really well together, they're a good bunch."

Marlboro Yamaha Team star Max Biaggi was one of the many to go fastest for a moment this afternoon, ending up fifth to lead the second row. Unlike most of his rivals, the Italian was running a race tyre when he set his best time and is thus optimistic about his chances in tomorrow's Marlboro Portuguese GP.

"We've worked well here, I'm happy," said Biaggi, winner at Brno two weeks back. "Tonight we will combine the engine from one of my bikes with the chassis from the other, to make an even-better race machine. The wind isn't as bad as yesterday but it still makes riding difficult because it's very gusty and it makes set-up difficult because every lap is different. The 'qualifying' tyres are good, they make Saturday spectacular and give everyone a chance to get up front but the race is a different story."

Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa jumped onto provisional pole with 15 minutes to go this afternoon, finally ending the session eighth quickest for a second-row start. The Spaniard is glowing with confidence after a tough few races and believes he can re-ignite his title challenge in tomorrow's race.

"I feel confident again, we've found what we'd lost at the last few races," he smiled. "I can really feel the tyres and attack on the brakes and on the throttle. My race tyres are really consistent, I just used a qualifier for my last-but-one run. We're feeling good here and I think a lot of that comes from the tests we did at Brno after the Czech race."

Wild-riding Australian Garry McCoy claimed his first-ever 500 pole position today, putting in his fastest lap at the end of a session that had seen Kenny Roberts (Suzuki), Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Honda), Biaggi, Checa, Tady Okada (Honda) and Nobu Aoki (Suzuki) all top the times. "I haven't been happy with the conditions all weekend, it's too windy," said McCoy. "Sometimes the rear gets pushed around, sometimes the front, it's unpredictable to say the least. After making the front row at Brno I've been working so hard to get another front-row start, because Brno proved it's so important for the race."

Nobu Aoki scored his best grid slot of the year, taking second ahead of Jurgen van den Goorbergh and team-mate and series leader Kenny Roberts (Suzuki). "I'd been struggling with grip all weekend until we made a small adjustment near the end of the session," said the Japanese. Van den Goorbergh was delighted with his first front row of the year, achieved on a private Honda twin. "I keep doing the impossible, just like I did last year on the MuZ," said the Dutchman. <pre> FINAL QUALIFYING

1. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 1'40.736 2. Nobuatsu Aoki (JPN) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'41.111 3. Jurgen vd Goorbergh (NED) Rizla TSR-HONDA 1'41.145 4. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'41.150 5. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'41.366

8. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'41.596

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Jurgen van den Goorbergh , Wayne Rainey , Nobuatsu Aoki