South African GP: Yahama Team qualifying report

Africa'S Grand Prix, Welkom Final Qualifying, Saturday April 20 2002 Marlboro Yamaha Men chase the Welkom pace Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were in fine form at sun-baked Welkom this afternoon, qualifying their...

Africa'S Grand Prix, Welkom
Final Qualifying, Saturday April 20 2002

Marlboro Yamaha Men chase the Welkom pace

Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were in fine form at sun-baked Welkom this afternoon, qualifying their YZR-M1s fourth and seventh fastest for tomorrow's Africa's Grand Prix, round two of the new-look MotoGP World Championship.

The team worked hard to make good progress from yesterday, their first day with the M1 at this bumpy and slippery circuit. "Everyone in the team is working harder than with the 500s because we have no experience of this track with the new four-stroke," said Ichiro Yoda, YZR-M1 project leader. "We started yesterday from our Suzuka spec, also using some of the track knowledge we have from the 500, and this is the way we'll work at every track that is new to the M1. The spec required here is very different from Suzuka. The circuit is bumpy and doesn't have much grip, so we've improved front-end contact feeling by working on geometry and fork offset and moving the weight balance forward. Between today's morning and afternoon sessions we only made suspension adjustments.

"We also reduced engine braking in second gear because there are many second-gear corners here. Our aim has been to improve the bike in braking and during on-brake turn-in, so the riders can brake deeper into the turns. We're happy with tyre life, both riders did endurance runs this morning, so I think we are in not such bad shape for the race."


Max Biaggi scored his first front-row start with his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 at Welkom this afternoon, trying hard as ever as he scorched to fourth fastest, just 0.404 seconds off pole position. Fifth yesterday, the Italian improved his times by 1.392 seconds this afternoon, proving that he is making excellent forward progress with the set-up of his two M1s.

"This is such a bumpy circuit and not so grippy either, so you have to work towards a real compromise on settings," said the Italian. "We didn't really find such a good rhythm during this afternoon's qualifying and we suffered a lot for that. I think it will be difficult to follow the front group in tomorrow's race, so we must keep working hard to increase our potential. But my thanks to Yamaha and the team, everyone is working incredibly hard at the moment and hopefully everything will come together soon."


Carlos Checa ended this afternoon's frantic final qualifier seventh fastest and confident he can run close to the front in tomorrow's Africa's GP. Although he lost a touch of speed by going the wrong way on front-end set-up, the Marlboro Yamaha Team man feels comfortable at the likely race pace and that's what is required for a good result at this track which wears tyres faster than any other GP circuit.

"We tried a different front-end setting for this afternoon and it didn't work the way we expected," said Checa. "Set-up is always a compromise but I think we lost some of the balance we had this morning. But we have found a good way, I feel comfortable and safe on the bike, maybe not for a very quick one-off qualifying lap, but certainly for running a good race pace. We're not in a bad position and, as always, we think things will be better tomorrow. The track is very bumpy so I'm trying to be friendly with the bumps. There's a lot of them, but I've given them all names!"


World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda RCV) won a hard-fought battle for pole position at Welkom today, finally edging out Loris Capirossi (Honda NSR) by just 0.032 seconds. Rossi led from the first ten minutes but Capirossi had closed to within five thousandths at one stage. Rossi's HRC RCV team-mate Tohru Ukawa was third fastest. "We made some good improvements to the set-up after yesterday," said Rossi. "We also have good tyres for the race, not so different from the compounds I used in qualifying, and I'm really looking forward to my first dry race on the four-stroke."

1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team 1'34.660
2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons 1'34.692
3. Tohru Ukawa (JPN) Repsol HONDA Team 1'34.875
4. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'35.064
5. Garry McCoy (AUS) Red Bull YAMAHA WCM 1'35.378
6. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'35.396
7. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team 1'35.476
8. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 1'35.508
9. Olivier Jacque (FRA) Gauloises YAMAHA Tech 3 1'35.554
10. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI 1'35.560


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Tohru Ukawa , Sete Gibernau , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Olivier Jacque