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Marlboro Yamaha Team confident for season opener

Marlboro Yamaha Team confident for season opener

Max Biaggi goes into tomorrow´s Japanese GP confident of running up front in what promises to be a super-entertaining season-opener. Although the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider wasn´t able to hold on to his provisional polefrom yesterday, he ended qualifying third overall behind Loris Capirossi (Honda) and Shinya Nakano (Yamaha). Team-mate Carlos Checa was 12th, heldback by chassis set-up concerns.

Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi shares Biaggi´s optimism for tomorrow´s race at Suzuka, a fast and open racetrack that encourages races of breathtaking closeness and intensity. ´No pole position is okay!´ smiled Atsumi. ´Our main job today was to prepare for the race, so Max has beendoing a lot of tyre testing and he feels happy. Apart from Capirossi, the lap times are quite close. I expect a very close race tomorrow, and a closeand exciting season also! Carlos has some problems. He´s had a fever all weekend and had to go to hospital last night. Also he´s not getting the samefeeling he got from the bike during our recent tests here.´

Max Biaggi will start tomorrow´s Japanese GP from the front row of the grid after clocking third-fastest time in this afternoon´s warm and sunny final qualifier. Quickest yesterday, the Marlboro Yamaha Team rider found conditions more difficult today but is certain he will feature in thecontest for victory in this all-important first race of 2001.

´Front row was my target, so I´m happy,´ said Biaggi, who has suffered from a minor stomach upset this weekend. ´My chassis and suspension set-up isfine, though we didn´t make any real improvements from yesterday, which is why my lap times were so similar. Also, we had a few little carburationsettings problems. I just hope the weather stays good so we can fix that and work on some more improvements during warm-up. I expect the race to be a big fight, good for the fans, and with lap times in the sixes.´

Still suffering from the bug which struck him yesterday, Carlos Checa could only manage 12th quickest this afternoon. The Spaniard also battled minorchassis problems which caused rear-end chatter on his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR500. ´It´s strange, I´m a second off the times I did a couple of weeks back, whenI felt quite comfortable,´ he said. ´The chatter is preventing me from holding my line and that´s costing me time. We must now check the data and analyse why we´re having this problem. Maybe the bike has caught my virus! Iwent to hospital last night because I had a fever, which also came back this morning but I feel much better than yesterday and hopefully I´ll be fully recovered for the race.´

Loris Capirossi left it until the last few minutes to ride a stunning lap of Suzuka, a massive two seconds inside the existing lap record. The littleItalian had only been eighth yesterday but was confident he could improve dramatically in this afternoon´s crucial final qualifier. ´I´m very happy toget pole but I knew I could do it,´ said the former 125 and 250 world champ. ´I came into the pits, told my mechanics to keep the same settings, fit newtyres and watch the screens! Everything went as I thought it would and I´ve left my mark on Suzuka! Tomorrow will be different, I´ll have to work very hard to go for the win - there are at least six guys who can make life difficult for me.´

First-time 500 racer Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) grabbed pole in the closing stages and though he was later surpassed by Capirossi, the Japanese star isdelighted to be second on the grid for his 500 debut. ´I can´t believe I´ve done so well in qualifying for my first 500 GP,´ grinned the rookie, who wassecond in last year´s 250 series. ´But now I really feel the pressure of being at home, and racing a 500 for the first time in front of my Japanesefans, Yamaha and my sponsors. We didn´t have a great set-up when we came here two weeks ago but the bike is now well balanced. My aim for tomorrow?Just to get points, that´s all.´

Tags:
500cc, 2001

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