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Telefonica Movistar Suzuki

Telefonica Movistar Suzuki

Roberts on top until the final seconds

Team Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki rider Kenny Roberts watched powerless in the pits as the provisional pole position he had held for most of today´s first qualifying session for Saturday´s Rio GP was snatched away at the very close of business, and by less than a tenth of a second.

Roberts, who won the 2000 World Championship at this Nelson Piquet circuit one year ago, ended up second-fastest today to new champion Valentino Rossi, who stole pole with a single flying lap, after Roberts had been consistently chipping away at the time for the full hour of qualifying.

Roberts had been fastest also this morning, picking up the pace fastest at the last race of the season, and claiming no problems with the bumpy and slippery surface.

Teammate Sete Gibernau had a mixed day. In the morning free training, he was a close sixth. In the afternoon, a combination of minor mechanical problems and a wrong turning in chassis settings consigned the Valencia GP winner to an unaccustomed 13th place on the provisional grid. This gives the team a hard day´s work to try and regain ground in the second and final timed qualifying hour tomorrow.

Lap times were relatively slow today, as the seldom-used circuit was swept clean by the bikes, and rubber accumulated on the racing line. Provisional pole time was still 1.4-seconds slower than last year´s pole time.

The Rio GP is the last-ever 500cc race. From next year, the premier class will be open also to four-strokes of up to 990cc capacity.

KENNY ROBERTS – Second Position, 1:53.816

I just did everything as normal today. This is the last race of the year, and we´re still trying as hard as we can to get as high on the grid as possible. For tomorrow we need to improve the gear ratios, and also set the bike so it comes off the corners better. The tyres Michelin have brought here seem to be working fine, though I haven´t done any endurance testing yet. As for the slippery track … it didn´t feel too bad to me.

SETE GIBERNAU – 13th Position, 1:53.750

A bad session. One bike wasn´t working right, and we went backwards with chassis settings with the other one. It was easier to do the lap time this morning than in the afternoon, even though the track was better. We have to work away, and see where we went wrong. We also still have a lot of other stuff to go through. It´s a difficult situation, because our margin for error is so small. I still really like this track, so as soon as we do get the bike better I´m expecting a big improvement in lap times. I just need a little more help from the bike than I am getting at the moment.

WARREN WILLING – Technical Advisor

It´s the usual problem here – a lack of grip, that puts everything else off, and makes it hard to work out whether you have chassis problems, or if it´s just the grip. It´s also a moving target. The grip gets better with use … even in the morning session it was grippier at the end than at the beginning. It mainly affects turning. There are a couple of corners here where it is an advantage to square the turn off, but there´s not the grip to turn in hard enough, and you end up with a wider arc and at the wrong lean angle to accelerate. We´ve been working on settings to try and make the 2001 chassis have the same level of feedback as the 2000 bike. Other changes are that Kenny has gone back to the 90-degree engine after trying some other configurations, and we´re concentrating on 16.5-inch tyres, after the 17-inch proved so far off in Malaysia.

500cc, 2001

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