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Marlboro Yamaha: Friday press release
Down to only one rider due to the absence of Carlos Checa, the MarlboroYamaha Team is focusing all its attentions on Max Biaggi at Welkom thisweekend. The Italian, however, is also suffering minor medical ills andplaced tenth fastest in this afternoon´s opening qualifying session held inwarm and sunny conditions at the Free State circuit.
´It does feel very strange with only one rider and half the team inthe pit,´ said Marlboro Yamaha Team manager Geoff Crust. ´It´s the firsttime one of our guys has been absent since Carlos and Max joined us in 1999.Max seems to be suffering a bit, he´s definitely got a bit of a sniffle, andthere´s nothing worse than a head cold when you´re working hard and you needto breathe freely.
´The bike seems pretty good so far and the only problem we´ve reallyrun into is some chatter. But we´ll stick with the 16.5 rear slick tomorrowand dial it out, rather than try the 17, because it´s a long, hard race herewhere you need the 16.5´s longevity.´
Surface grip seems better than during GP racing´s previous twovisits to Welkom in ´99 and 2000 when dust and sand on the racing line werea major problem. Overall lap times are already well down on last year´stimes.
Max Biaggi put his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR500 on the provisional third rowof the grid with tenth fastest time at Welkom today, working hard to get thebike performing at its maximum around the bumpier-than-ever circuit. Despitea head cold, the Italian is determined to fix the chatter problems that havedelayed him thus far.
´We´re getting quite a bit of chatter from both the front and therear, though maybe the rear end is worse,´ he said. ´If we can solve thisproblem then I know we can do well when it comes to the race on Sunday. It´sjust a case of working on the suspension and overall balance of the machine.We hope to get that sorted in the morning, so we can concentrate on goingfor some good times in the afternoon. Tonight we will compare our data withwhat we got from last year. I was still injured when I raced here in 2000but I think that information can still help us.´
Carlos Checa was forced to withdraw from this weekend´s South African GPfollowing a heavy fall from his Supermotard bike during a training sessionlast week. The Marlboro Yamaha Team rider suffered a bruised kidney andheeded medical advice to miss the Welkom race. He will return to action athis home GP at Jerez on May 6. The team has not replaced the Spaniard forthis race.
´I was really looking forward to South Africa because Japan was verydisappointing for me,´ he said. ´My preparation for this season has beenexcellent and I wanted to show that I am a serious contender for thechampionship. Now my season will have to start in Jerez where I´m going tobe very motivated!´
Loris Capirossi proved once again that he is the fastest 500 rider of themoment, riding to a devastatingly fast qualifying lap, more than half asecond ahead of Valentino Rossi (Honda). Two weeks ago Capirossi blitzedSuzuka, taking pole by over eight tenths of a second.´I am working to a new system with my team this year,´ explained theformer 125 and 250 champ. ´We concentrate totally on bike settings in themorning, not even worrying about lap times and that gives me more confidenceto attack in the qualifying sessions.´
Suzuka winner and World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Honda) featuredin the leading positions throughout today´s qualifier, eventually slottinginto second in the final minutes. ´I like the track, the bike is good and Ifeel we´ve already got a good set-up,´ he said. ´I feel very confident.´Welkom 2000 winner Garry McCoy (Yamaha) moved up to third in the finalseconds, just ahead of reigning World Champion Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) whocompletes the provisional front row.
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