Marlboro Yamahas fight back in Sepang


After a tough opening qualifier for the Malaysian MotoGP, Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa returned to form on day two, held October 12, to place the factory YZR-M1s second and fifth on the grid respectively, for tomorrow’s 21-lap main event. Biaggi was determined from the outset, the first of the 22-bike field to improve on his Friday time, and the fastest overall qualifier with less than 30 seconds remaining on the clock. The Roman produced a 2’04.536, which looked unbeatable until Alex Barros (Honda, 2’04.487) found another 0.049 seconds to take his first four-stroke pole.

Checa’s qualifying story was somewhat similar, he’d qualified on the front row with a 2’05.031, just behind third placed Daijiro Kato (Honda, 2’04.680), only to have the Honda mounted Loris Capirossi (2’04.785) dislodge the Spaniard by 0.246 seconds at the chequered flag. Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM, 2’05.400) improved on his Friday time by 0.343 seconds, but fell back four places on the grid to ninth. The Australian was 0.212 seconds behind eighth placed Valentino Rossi (Honda, 2’05.188).

Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin, 2’05.800) found himself just outside the top ten, while the now four-stroke-mounted Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3 pair, Shinya Nakano (2’06.451) and Olivier Jacque (2’06.580), qualified 16th and 17th respectively, after a day of suspension woes.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Max Biaggi 2nd, 2’04.536:
“First of all, my congratulations to Barros for pole, now he owes me a pizza because he was chasing me for his fastest lap. I felt I did my best out there today. We made some changes last night and then some more suspension adjustments this morning, which found us some competitiveness, though it’s always difficult to make the bike perfect. I used different compound front and rear tyres this afternoon and just tried my maximum for a good lap time. This race is going to be very tough on tyres, but I’m sure I’ll go well tomorrow.”

Carlos Checa 5th, 2’05.031: “We worked all day towards the correct race-distance set-up, then we fitted new tyres at the end and went for it. Today we made quite a few changes to the bike, back to stuff we know better. It was just slight modifications to geometry and suspension that improved the overall balance, which I feel confident will make a useful difference to our race performance. Maybe we can still make some more improvements – we’ll probably try a few more things in warm-up.”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
Garry McCoy 9th, 2’05.400:
“On my final run I made a small mistake at the last hairpin and that cost me some time. I was expecting to go faster and, if it wasn’t for that, I think a second row start would have been possible. In the end it was ninth, and that’s ok against all these four-strokes, but it’s going to be tougher in the race. Even when I’m pushing flat out those four-strokes can just power by like you’re standing still. My race tyre choice will come down to what the track temperature will be tomorrow afternoon, and considering the choice we could do with it being a little cooler than today.”

John Hopkins 19th, 2’06.857: “It wasn’t a great way to end a session. I’d just lost the front under brakes, it let go that quick I didn’t have a chance to save it. I guess I’ve now got to concentrate on tomorrow and hope we make the right tyre choice for the race.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 11th, 2’05.800:
“It’s getting better, but overall it’s not the greatest position. At the beginning of the session I was following Rossi, which helped to get into the 0’05s earlier than I would have if I was on my own, and that was lucky. It also made continuing at that pace easier and helped with setting up the bike for tomorrow. Although it was a good time Capirossi was even faster, and he’s the guy I hope to race with tomorrow. If I’m going to do that I’ll need a good start from back here.”

José Luis Cardoso 21st, 2’08.028: “It was difficult this afternoon. This morning I managed a very good practice result, 12th fastest, but this afternoon the track condition was much hotter and the set-up we had earlier didn’t seem to work as well when it really mattered. We tried a few different ideas, but it didn’t make the difference that we were hoping for. We started to make some progress by the end of the session, but we ran out of time to put in a fast lap. We’ll continue with this tomorrow morning and see how things go.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Shinya Nakano 16th, 2’06.451:
“It was a tough day. This morning started off ok, but then, on about lap ten, I lost the front and crashed quite heavily. It meant that my only bike was too damaged to continue and I missed the rest of the session. Then this afternoon I ran into some set-up problems that cost me around 20 minutes. Obviously to lose that much time while trying to adapt to a new bike can be quite costly. At the moment the biggest issue is front-end feel, and that’s got something to do with the set-up we’re running. We did make some progress in that department, but it was too late in the session to take any advantage of it.”

Olivier Jacque 17th, 2’06.580: “I’m sliding all over the place. I can’t seem to find the right line for the four-stroke at the moment, and so far I’m still not feeling totally at home on it, yet. It’s difficult to say exactly why, I guess it’s because the whole four-stroke thing is so new to me, and I don’t have the knowledge to unlock the secrets in such a short time.”