Checa chalks up a Portuguese pole


With the Estoril circuit damp from earlier rain, up until the final 20 minutes of the second Portuguese MotoGP qualifier, held September 7, it became a last chance dash to claim pole position for Sunday’s 28-lap main event. Carlos Checa leapt out of pit lane aboard the Marlboro Yamaha YZR-M1 determined to improve on his Friday time, and up until five minutes from the chequered flag the Spaniard was the only rider to do so. Then, with three minutes remaining, Checa clocked a 1’39.819 to set the fastest combined lap; returning to the pits for a fresh rear tyre before repeating the feat – improving his time further with a 1’39.793 to chalk up his first YZR-M1 pole of the year.

The Spaniard simply out-classes the competition, with Daijiro Kato (Honda) his nearest rival on the day – 0.075 seconds behind with a 1’39.868. Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1’39.984) set the third fastest time, while Friday’s provisional pole man Alex Barros (Honda, 1’40.112) found himself relegated to fourth after he was unable to improve his time.

Brno MotoGP race winner Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team, 1’40.147) came through on his final lap with a 1’40.147 to lead the second row ahead of Jeremy McWilliams (KR, 1’40.308). While Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) led the Yamaha two-stroke charge in 13th with a 1’40.969, the Japanese was one of eight riders unable to improve their times in the shortened session.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 1st, 1’39.793:
“I’d been out earlier but the track was still too wet. 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 the out lap, then I had to go for it, you just couldn’t waste any chance. 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 of them, the bike and me – we all 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 5th, 1’40.147: “First of all, my compliments to Carlos, he did a great job today. 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.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 13th, 1’40.969:
“We had such a bad day, weather-wise, that there wasn’t enough time to find the best set-up and put in a good lap time. What made it worse for me is that I tend to need time to get into a rhythm before I can do a good time, today that was just not possible. Now, being back on the fourth row is only going to make tomorrow’s race very difficult. I guess I’m going to have to find some Norick nitro to get off the line quick enough. We did make an improvement to the setting today, although we do need to fine-tune it a little more, and I’m sure with a little more time I would have.”

Pere Riba 20th, 1’43.782: “Because of the weather this morning, we did… nothing really, and then this afternoon again it was a problem. It is very important in my situation to get as many miles under my belt as I can, but it was not possible. We did try one change, and it was a little better than yesterday, but I was unable to improve my time.”

Red bull Yamaha WCM
John Hopkins 15th, 1’41.092:
“No, I’m not really happy with how the session went. We really didn’t get that much time out there today, which meant that it was difficult to assess any progress we made with the set-up. We’d made quite a few changes to the bike over-night, and being unable to test them this morning put extra pressure on us this afternoon. It felt better but we still have some work to do. We were really focusing on trying to get a good time in this afternoon, but the track grip didn’t seem to be as good, so we were kinda lost there. Even so we’re pretty confident with the race tyres we have for tomorrow, but you never know it might just rain and we’re all back to square one.”

Garry McCoy 16th, 1’41.169: “I think I probably could have gone quicker but we lost some time with the rain this morning and I didn’t get to do anywhere near as many laps as I wanted to. We tried a few tyres today that we hadn’t tried yesterday, and I’m confident they’ll be the ones we’ll choose from for the race. There’s nothing really wrong with the set-up, I just think the way today panned out – the lack of fast laps – cost us a chance to do any better.”

Gauloises Yamaha WCM
Shinya Nakano 17th, 1’41.231:
“It didn’t go how I planned today, the bike was quite difficult to change direction on, for some reason, and basically the set-up is missing something. We’re just not sure what it is, although the main problem seems to be with the front-end. I think we have some work to do tomorrow morning if we want a good race result.”

Olivier Jacque 19th, 1’41.535: “We’re still suffering from the chatter problem we had yesterday. We tried a few chassis changes but we never really had the time to explore them fully. It’s been a very frustrating weekend so far.”