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Marlboro Yamaha Team: Marlboro Yamaha stay on top for Battle of Britain

Marlboro Yamaha Team: Marlboro Yamaha stay on top for Battle of Britain

Marlboro Yamaha Team star Max Biaggi will start tomorrow´s British GP from pole position, following this afternoon´s damp final qualifying session which prevented his rivals from outdoing his super-fast time from yesterday´s dry first qualifier. Team-mate Carlos Checa will start the race, halfway distance in this year´s 500 World Championship, from the third row of the grid.

A downpour soaked the Donington track at lunchtime, and by the time the 500s went out there was only a narrow dry line. By the end of the session, however, the circuit was mostly dry and three riders did manage to improve their times from yesterday, Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) clocking a remarkable lap to move up to the front row, simultaneously demoting Checa to row three.

´The weather affected everything today,´ said Marlboro Yamaha Team director Hiroya Atsumi. ´But the main thing is that Max stayed on pole. I´m sure he could´ve gone faster this afternoon if there´d been no rain, because it´s normal for riders to lap quicker on day two, as they improve machine settings and get to grips with the track. Max had a little crash this morning, when we went the wrong way on chassis settings, but he looks strong for the race. Carlos was very good in the dry this morning so we feel he can ride a good race tomorrow.´

Today´s weather was worse for Biaggi´s World Championship rival Valentino Rossi (Honda), who crashed heavily yesterday, ending the session 11th. He was unable to improve in today´s tricky conditions and will start the race from row three. ´But we´ve seen Rossi get bad starts before and come through,´ added Atsumi. ´He´s very strong when he races, so I´m sure he´ll come through tomorrow.´

BIAGGI ON POLE FOR CRUCIAL GP

Max Biaggi secured his second pole position of the year this afternoon, even though he was unable to get close to his Friday best, set on a fully dry circuit. The Italian knows this is a particularly crucial encounter for him and World Championship leader Valentino Rossi. The pair are currently separated by 21 points, and Rossi´s third-row grid position could give Biaggi a vital edge tomorrow, though the Marlboro Yamaha Team man isn´t so sure.

´We´ve seen people win races from the third row of the grid, it´s happened before,´ said Biaggi after taking the tenth pole of his 500 career. ´Anyway, I´m not thinking about that, I´m concentrating on my own race. I´m happy to be on pole, though the conditions made it impossible for me to improve today. Everyone waited until the last five minutes to have a go, but it was still risky, and there was no point in me pushing hard because I knew my Friday lap would be hard to beat. Instead I worked at set-up but we didn´t really have enough time to try anything, so we´ll try another fork setting in morning warm-up. I crashed this morning because we tried an old fork spec which didn´t give me any feeling. The front unloaded on a bump and down I went.

´Thirty laps is going to be tough. As always the crucial factor will be tyre choice and who uses their tyres the best. I just hope it´s dry, you get a truer race that way.´

CHECA JUST MISSES SECOND ROW

Carlos Checa was the unluckiest man of today´s session, when he was dislodged from row two in the final seconds. Nonetheless, the Marlboro Yamaha Team man is confident he can have a good race tomorrow.

´It´s a bit disappointing to be knocked back a row but the important thing is that I feel good on the bike,´ said the Spaniard who was fastest man on the track for much of the session. ´We changed the set-up for today, moving more weight to the front, to get rid of the front-end push I´ve been having. I improved my times this morning and I tried to beat my Friday qualifying times this afternoon, but when I fitted a soft rear, I got some rear-end chatter and that spoiled things.´

Tags:
500cc, 2001

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