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Biaggi and Checa present their new Yamaha M1 4 stroke bikes to the media

Biaggi and Checa present their new Yamaha M1 4 stroke bikes to the media

Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were present in their home countries on Thursday and Friday, to officially present their new Marlboro Yamaha Team line-up, and the M1 four-stroke bikes they will use in next season´s MotoGP World Championship. The Spaniard was first to unveil the bike to the Spanish media at an event in a cava cellar in St. Sadurni d´Anoia, 30km from Barcelona, while the Italian had his ceremony 24 hours later in Milan.

Both of them showed off their beefy new 990cc machines in full Marlboro livery to their eager national press contingents, and took time to talk about the four-stroke experience. Commenting on how he must change his riding style, Biaggi remarked, ´Corner entry is completely different compared to the two-stroke 500 that I used to race. With the four-stroke, the approach to corner is a little slower than with the 500, there´s a lot of engine braking from the rear wheel, so you´re not so heavy on the front brake.´ The Italian, who was runner-up in the 2001 Championship, added, ´Once I get used to this different feeling it will become the natural way for me, but at the moment I´m still learning. Yamaha are now working on giving me an engine with less engine braking which should be more comfortable for me; I´ll try that engine later this month.´

Carlos Checa is the proud owner of a Yamaha R1 road-bike, and so has a little more experience with the four-stroke than his colleague, ´I´ve never raced a four-stroke, I got the R1 just for fun. It was a hobby for me, because we could enjoy modifying the bike for the track. I studied engineering at college so I like that kind of thing. Once we got the bike right I could do some really good lap times, I actually preferred the feeling of the R1 to the 500. And the bike also helped me to understand about racing four-strokes. The four-stroke gives more traction both on corner entry and exit. The engine braking helps to hug the bike to the ground into the corner, so you can use more corner speed, though it does take a lot of work and focus to achieve that. And when you open the throttle the power is very smooth and progressive, so you can open the throttle earlier. That´s why I prefer four-strokes.´

The Spaniard was unlucky not to have won at least one race last season, and will be hoping to improve on his sixth overall in the standings, ´ It´s going to be a very unusual year because there´s so many different combinations of machine. Over the last few years it´s been two-stroke V4 500s on Michelin tyres, now we have three, four and five-cylinder four-strokes, plus the 500s and three different tyre brands. I think this is good but it will take a while to see which factory has chosen the correct direction, which bike has the best combination, which bike has the best overall balance. I think every race will be different, with each bike enjoying advantages at some tracks. For this reason it´s going to be a really great championship for the fans.´

Biaggi himself will be hoping that he can wrest the title from his compatriot Valentino Rossi´s grasp, and said, ´ I think we´ve already got some idea of how the bikes are performing. We already know that the Honda is fast but we don´t know much about the Suzuki and Aprilia. Anyway, I´m relying on Yamaha to keep working, to come up with something good. We already have a good base set-up but it´s too early to say how the championship will go.´

Despite all the four-stroke activity, the two riders are firmly established 500cc riders, and Checa explained how the two bikes compare, ´The two bikes actually feel quite similar, it’s just the engine braking, power delivery and weight that are different. Of course, the four-stroke does have some disadvantages. The minimum weight limit is 15kg more than the 500s, and you feel that extra weight when you’re braking hard, which takes some getting used to. At tracks like Le Mans, where it’s all heavy braking and acceleration, maybe the 500s will be better. But the four-strokes will have the advantage at tracks that are faster and more sweeping. And, of course, we’re just starting with the four-stroke, so the bike should get better and better. We’re already expecting an improved engine when we start our 2002 testing in late January.´

The Marlboro Yamaha Team has seen a few changes this winter, with Davide Brivio installed as a new Team Director and other changes to the engineers working on the bikes. ´ I think we have a good group within the Marlboro Yamaha Team,´ said Biaggi. ´I feel that Yamaha are putting in more effort than ever before, which shouldn’t be a surprise because this is a brand new project for everyone. To make the YZR-M1 competitive enough to win, everyone must make a big effort.´

Checa has seen his Chief Mechanic change, with Mike Webb being replaced by Antonio Jimenez. ´I had an excellent relationship with my previous crew chief Mike Webb and I think we did a good job together. But for sure having Antonio makes a difference, because when things get tense at a GP, you need to be very, very precise with your words, and we both speak the same language. Also, I’ve worked with him before, when I was riding 250 and then 500 Hondas, so he understands what I need. I’ve also worked before with my new data technician Daniele. I think we have a great team this year, with Yoda and Suzuki joining us. ´

The next tests for the Marlboro Yamaha team will take place at the end of the month in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.

Tags:
500cc, 2001, Carlos Checa, Max Biaggi

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