Apr 19, 2002
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Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>Loris Capirossi was fastest and American teen John Hopkins was 13th-fastest in the first MotoGP qualifying session for the African Grand Prix, at Welkom, South African.<BR><BR>In his first time at the track, Hopkins improved dramatically from the first practice session to the first qualifying session. He turned a best lap of 1:40.660 in the first practice, and was 19th fastest ahead of only Pere Riba.<BR><BR>The MotoGP format features one practice session and one qualifying session for each class on Friday and Saturday, a warm-up practice on Sunday morning, and races on Sunday afternoon.<BR><BR>Former 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts was sixth-fastest in qualifying.<BR><BR>Times follow:<BR><BR>1. Loris Capirossi, Honda NSR500, 1:35.393<BR>2. Daijiro Katoh, Honda NSR500, 1:35.818<BR>3. Tohru Ukawa, Honda RC211V, 1:35.985<BR>4. Valentino Rossi, Honda RC211V, 1:36.027<BR>5. Max Biaggi, Yamaha YZR-M1, 1:36.456<BR>6. Kenny Roberts, Suzuki GSV-R, 1:36.589<BR>7. Carlos Checa, Yamaha YZR-M1, 1:36.640<BR>8. Jeremy McWilliams, Proton KR3, 1:36.866<BR>9. Shinya Nakano, Yamaha YZR500, 1:36.907<BR>10. Alex Barros, Honda NSR500, 1:36.930<BR>11. Sete Gibernau, Suzuki GSV-R, 1:37.000<BR>12. Olivier Jacque, Yamaha YZR500, 1:37.031<BR>13. John Hopkins, Yamaha YZR500, 1:37.101<BR>14. Tetsuya Harada, Honda NSR500, 1:37.218<BR>15. Norick Abe, Yamaha YZR500, 1:37.242<BR>16. Nobuatsu Aoki, Proton KR3, 1:37.249<BR>17. Garry McCoy, Yamaha YZR500, 1:37.473<BR>18. Regis Laconi, Aprilia RS3, 1:37.526<BR>19. Jurgen v.d. Goorbergh, Honda NSR500, 1:37.747<BR>20. Pere Riba, Yamaha YZR500, 1:38.652<BR><BR><BR>More, from a Marlboro Yamaha press release:<BR><BR>AFRICA'S GRAND PRIX, WELKOM<BR>First Qualifying<BR>Friday April 19 2002<BR><BR>MARLBORO YAMAHA WORKING HARD AT WELKOM<BR>Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa made steady progress during today's first practice and qualifying sessions at Welkom, ending the day fifth and seventh fastest and confident of further improvements tomorrow.<BR><BR>This is the YZR-M1's first visit to this challenging and now very bumpy circuit, which means the team crew commence their work from a base line of minimum knowledge, then work from there. This is a process they will become accustomed to whenever they race at tracks that are new to Yamaha's new four-stroke MotoGP racer.<BR><BR>"This track was totally new to the bike this morning, but we learned a lot from that session and then started making adjustments," explained M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "The main factors we're working on are chassis set-up and adjustment to the engine-braking system. This track is very bumpy, which means we need less engine braking than we had at Suzuka, for example. On the chassis side we're adjusting geometry and suspension to create more traction front and rear, and we're also working to improve turn-in."<BR><BR>BIAGGI JUST OFF FRONT ROW<BR><BR>Max Biaggi ended day one at Welkom just off the provisional front row, making good progress in his first visit to the track with his Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1s. The Italian, who qualified a fraction of a second off the front row at Suzuka two weeks ago, was fifth fastest this afternoon, 0.4 seconds off the provisional front row.<BR><BR>"Me and the team are working very hard, there's good energy within our pit box," said the four-time 250 World Champion, who won the 1999 500 GP at Welkom. "We're working towards a generally better set-up and we have a good idea of what we need to do to achieve that and of where to start from tomorrow. In the few places where we're losing time we need better rear suspension settings and also improved adjustment of the engine-braking system. There's one very, very bumpy section here which makes the bike very unstable, the bike's moving around too much, but I guess it's the same for everyone."<BR><BR>CHECA UP TO SPEED AFTER STEADY START<BR><BR>Carlos Checa made a steady start to practice at Welkom this morning, gathering information to help his engineers carry out adjustments to his bikes' chassis and engine-braking systems. Once those improvements had been made it took the Marlboro Yamaha Team man just a few laps of afternoon qualifying to dramatically raise his pace and briefly lead the session. He ended the outing seventh.<BR><BR>"Today is only the first day but already the whole picture seems quite good and we can improve from here," said the Spaniard. "This morning I didn't feel so confident in the front end and we didn't have the right amount of engine braking, so we fixed that and the chassis settings for the afternoon. We improved the front-end contact feeling to improve corner entry, which in turn helps corner exit. The track's grip level is okay but some parts are incredibly bumpy, worse even that any go-kart track I've driven around."<BR><BR>CAPIROSSI & KATOH BEAT FOUR-STROKES<BR><BR>The Honda 500cc two-strokes of Loris Capirossi and Daijiro Katoh were first and second fastest at Welkom today, just ahead of the Honda four-strokes of Tohru Ukawa and Valentino Rossi. This is no surprise since the two-stroke teams started today with three years of Welkom data behind them while the four-stroke teams started with no circuit data specific to their machines.<BR><BR>"The track is so much more bumpy than last time we came here, so it's really difficult to ride but I still like the layout," said Capirossi, who battled long and hard for provisional pole with Rossi, the pair swapping the lead no less than six times. "On my fastest laps I made the difference through the fast rights at the end of the lap."<BR><BR><BR><BR>More from a Suzuki press release:<BR><BR>SUZUKIS TAME THE BUMPS AT WELKOM<BR><BR>Phakisa Freeway, Welkom<BR>Friday, April 19, 2002<BR><BR>TEAM Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki rider Kenny Roberts Jr set sixth-fastest time during today's first qualifying session for Sunday's South African GP, putting the new four-stroke GSV-R Suzuki in a threatening second-row position on the provisional starting grid.<BR><BR>Team-mate Sete Gibernau had challenged for pole earlier in the session, moving up to second fastest. Then a minor tumble spoiled the rest of the session and though he continued to improve his speed, the time he'd lost meant that he had lost overall position as the battle for the front row saw lap times slashed throughout the thrilling hour-long session.<BR><BR>Practice began in perfect sunny conditions at the tortuous 4.242km Phakisa Freeway circuit outside the small mining town of Welkom, where the 1.350 metre altitude saps engine horsepower. Past problems of poor grip seemed less acute, with lap times already below the previous race record, and with one more day of practice remaining. Complaints this year concentrated on the worsening bumps at the circuit, with some riders almost thrown out of the saddle at certain points.<BR><BR>The Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki riders also felt the bumps, but to a lesser degree - the chassis set-up and suspension of the all-new 990cc four-stroke GSV-R racer giving both Roberts and Gibernau a relatively smooth ride.<BR><BR>KENNY ROBERTS - Sixth Position, 1:36.589<BR>"I can feel the power loss compared with Suzuka because of the lower air pressure. The four-stroke is not so sensitive as the two-stroke, though. The main problem for me is that I have to open the throttle wider, which puts me in a more awkward position coming out of the turns. Today was one of those days of trying to get through tyres and get a good set-up. The track is extremely bumpy. Through most of the session I stuck with kinda lazy settings, that gave a softer ride - but lap times and overall grip were not so good. At the end we tried something that steered better and had more grip, and the time was better. The flip side is the bike was more nervous and harder to ride. We need a bigger window, to give more margin for error. We'll try to find that with chassis settings that will improve the grip."<BR><BR>SETE GIBERNAU - 11th Position, 1:37.000<BR>"I had a tumble that spoiled my session and cost me time. We also had a lot of things to test, which made it harder. All the same, we kept on getting better through the afternoon and we have finished most of the routine testing. The main thing is I was not hurt and we can try to keep on improving tomorrow. It's hard to know what is the best for the bumps. We'll try it again both ways - the bike hard and soft - and see which will be best for the race."<BR><BR>GARRY TAYLOR - Team Manager<BR>"Neither Kenny nor Sete were really complaining about the bumps, which is surprising. When I went out to watch on one of the bad spots, where they start braking into the first tight corner, it really didn't look too pleasant. Our bike seemed to cope better than the others - so thanks to Ohlins for the good suspension."<BR><BR>More from an Aprilia press release:<BR><BR>Régis Laconi and race-configuration RS Cube make good progress. Fast-lap performance needs improving for the starting grid.<BR><BR>Régis Laconi and the RS Cube did not manage maintain the morning's positive trend when Régis came eighth in the free practice, 1.3 seconds from race leader Rossi. Régis wasn't entirely satisfied with the tyres long used in the qualifying sessions, and made 18th best time on race tyres. The first taste of the new race tyres, with a taller tread and new profile, gave positive results. It was also necessary to work on the settings to make sure the Cube was able to follow the considerable ruggedness of the occasionally very uneven Welkom circuit. Tomorrow's tests will focus on finding the ideal set-up for the race, but also on better use of the qualifying tyres, which failed to provide the five or six tenths improvement required to move up the timing screens. Provisional pole goes to Loris Capirossi, followed by Katoh, Ukawa and Rossi.<BR># 55 Régis Laconi – (MS APRILIA RACING) – 18th 1'37.536<BR>"My first impression of these new race tyres is good", said Régis Laconi. "I was using them when I made eighth quickest time this morning and the fast lap in today's qualifying sessions. The tyres which worked well up to the second intermediate time were not so good in the final stages of the fast lap. Times were constant, and thus satisfactory for the race, but there's time yet to get a good place on the grid. The engine certainly notices the altitude, and response comes a little late. There's a bit of acceleration missing – but the situation's the same for everyone. With the wind and sand, the track isn't perfectly clean, but on the most used and "clean" trajectories, you can avoid part of the problem. I'm happy with the race configuration of the RS Cube: it didn't take too much to set it up for the unevenness of the track - just a few careful tweaks to the Suzuka setting made it perfectly rideable. Now we need to work on improving the fast lap time to get a better place on the grid than we got today." <BR>