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Suzuki men on second and third row tomorrow

Suzuki men on second and third row tomorrow

Team Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki rider Sete Gibernau will start tomorrow’s Malaysian GP from the second row of the grid, and Kenny Roberts from the third, after qualifying one place lower and just two hundredths of a second slower than his team mate.

Both riders slashed their previous best lap times of yesterday by well over a second to move up the grid, in spite of hotter and more punishing conditions, and both circulated faster than the lap record, set by Kenny when he won the race here last year. And both were confident that they could have gone even faster, but for different circumstances that affected each rider.

The improvement came after switching from their preferred 17-inch rear tyres to the more popular 16.5-inch size. But the situation was not as simple as that, and there are still questions to be answered before tomorrow’s race.

The riders lost time in the morning free training session, which started off on a damp track after early rain. By the end of it, however, Gibernau was fastest, increasing the team’s hopes for a good result tomorrow.

The Malaysian GP, the third one run at the state-of-the-art Sepang circuit close to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, is the penultimate round in the last-ever all-500cc World Championship. Next year, the class will be open also to 990cc four-strokes.

SETE GIBERNAU – Eight Position, 2:06.736

At the end of that session I went into the first corner way too hot, and basically I crashed – but I managed to save it and keep going … and that was my fastest lap. I’m sure it could have been faster if not for that – but given the choice of losing time and staying on, or falling off, I’ll take the first one. I changed to a 16.5-inch tyre this morning, and found that it chatters a lot. That’s something that gets worse as the tyre wears. I don’t know which will be better for the race – a 17-inch without the chatter, or a 16.5 with chatter, but a better lap time. We’ll decide tonight, then I’ll ride it like it is, to the maximum, like I always do. Anyway, it’s a big improvement over yesterday, in lap time and position, so things don’t look too bad if we can keep going the same way.

KENNY ROBERTS – Ninth Position, 2:06.755

I’d have liked a couple more laps. I messed up my two laps at the end – my fastest laps, and I believe I could have done some damage to the lap times, and ended up higher up on the grid. But we still need a big jump to be in the top three, where we ought to be. That last session was a complete learning session for us. You’d think we’d know by now, but the results we’re getting off the different tyres are just beyond what we expected, and what we’ve experienced here before. I started the session on the 17-inch rear, which is what we’ve used to run 2:06.2 last year, but using the same tyre this year is like a complete turnaround from what we did before. I just couldn’t get entry grip or side grip. Michelin suggested trying the 16.5, and it was immediately better. It felt like a 17-inch, with grip. Now we have to go a completely different route tomorrow with the 16.5-inch.

500cc, 2001

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