Barros bags 4T win while tyre problems hinder M1


Alex Barros notched up his first win of the year with a dynamic debut four-stroke performance at the Motegi MotoGP, held October 6. The Honda rider made a strong start to feature well in the opening few laps, with Loris Capirossi (Honda), Daijiro Kato (Honda), Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team) all making up the leading group. Then, on lap four, the Brazilian took the race lead, closely followed by Kato. With the support of the home crowd the jockey-sized Japanese looked set to chase down the leader until his four-stroke expired. Seven laps later a hard charging Biaggi also became a victim of something unexpected, although his gremlin was tyre related. A risky front tyre choice resulted in a premature end to his fourth place charge. The outcome promoted the trailing Tohru Ukawa (Honda), who collected 13pts valuable points to re-take second place in the championship. Now only five points separate the Ukawa and Biaggi – 169pts to 164pts – with Barros (143pts) closing in.

Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3, 1’50.160) was the second fastest two-stroke, in ninth position with a personal best, while Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) was less than half a second behind in 14th place, with a 1’50.533. The local hero led a throng of YZR500s including Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM, 1’50.702), John Hopkins (Red Bull Yamaha WCM, 1’50.849) and Shinya Nakano (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3, 1’50.954).

Meanwhile Yamaha YZR-M1 test rider Wataru Yoshikawa (Yamaha Racing Team, 1’51.278) will start his debut MotoGP race from 19th.

Marlboro Yamaha Team
Max Biaggi 2nd, 1’49.162:
“I’m a bit sad that I couldn’t improve on my Friday best, but we’ve done a good job so far and I know tomorrow can be a good day for us. I thought I could go faster than yesterday, then with 15 minutes to go my number-one bike started to misfire. I rode back to the pits and jumped on my second bike but that machine uses a different chassis, so it didn’t feel the same, so I couldn’t push. On the positive side, at least it happened today and not tomorrow. Anyway, we’re on the front row and if we have a good warm-up session we have a good chance in the race.”

Carlos Checa 4th, 1’49.224: “I’m pretty satisfied because we’ve worked well here and the bike has improved, so I ended up quite close to pole. This time I plan to get a good start by using first gear! I don’t think I could go from last to first again! Today we focused on chassis and suspension set-up, trying to further improve front-end feeling. We’re on the front row, we’ve done a good tyre-endurance run with Michelin and if the pace is low 50s and high 49s, I know I can run up front.”

Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Olivier Jacque 9th, 1’50.160:
“I’m happy with how that went. It’s the best ever time here for a Yamaha two-stroke, which was good enough to have put me second on the grid last year. Overall it was a good session, we’ve got a great choice of race tyres and the set-up is pretty much perfect. However the last lap with a new set of tyres fitted was somewhat exciting, but I survived. I’m confident that we could improve a few places in the race, but I’m also sure it’s still going to be tough. Mind you I’m delighted to be finishing off with the two-stroke in such a positive way.”

Shinya Nakano 17th, 1’50.954: “This morning, in the free practice, I felt good on the bike, but then this afternoon, again I felt a little like yesterday – uncomfortable with the set-up. Maybe it was because I wasn’t pushing as hard so the bike felt better in practice, and when I really wanted to get the maximum out of it, for qualifying, some problems began to show through… I really don’t know why. We did make a few changes in set-up between sessions but it should have helped, not hindered.”

Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 14th, 1’50.533:
“A 50.5 was my target, and I achieved that, so I’m reasonably happy. I can do the times consistently, and that will help in the race. Overall I had no real problem with the bike’s set-up, it’s just that I can’t seem to do that one fast lap. Whatever I try with softer tyres my times remain the same, maybe I should try qualifying with rain tyres.”

Pere Riba 22nd, 1’53.131: “Last night the jetlag finally hit me and I didn’t get a wink of sleep. And with my current physical condition it just took it’s toll today. It’s probably the reason why I crashed in the morning session, as I just couldn’t concentrate. I hope things run a little more smoothly tomorrow.”

Red Bull Yamaha WCM
Garry McCoy 15th, 1’50.702:
“I went out and thought I could latch onto the back of Rossi and Ukawa for a fast lap, but then I realised they weren’t really pushing as hard as I was and it meant that I had to get past them. It cost me a bit of time but I still managed to go 2.1 seconds faster than my best ever time around here, so I’m happy with that. I’m feeling pretty good on the bike, and we’ve got a good race set-up, especially with the tyres, but we’re still lacking a little bit of development compared to the Michelins. That, combined with the advantage the four-stroke guys have got, and I think we’re doing it a little tougher than most.”

John Hopkins 16th, 1’50.849: “You wouldn’t believe it. On my first flyer I actually crashed the bike, even scrapped my leathers all down the side, including my arm, but somehow I was still able to stay on the bike. I’d just lost the front coming through the right in the back chicane. I didn’t want to crash so I didn’t let go of the thing, and I think that washed off enough speed for me to recover. I’m pretty happy with the set-up, though, and I’m confident that we’ve got a chance to improve in the race.”