Jun 1, 2002
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From a press release:<BR><BR>HONDA RACING NEWS<BR><BR>MotoGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2002<BR>ITALIAN GRAND PRIX, MUGELLO<BR>Final Qualifying, Saturday June 1 2002<BR><BR>ROSSI TAKES POLE IN THE FINAL SECONDS<BR><BR>World Champion Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RCV211V) moved from fourth place to pole position after a last-gasp qualifying lap of breathtaking daring. Motivated by support from his local crowd and the sight of two factory Yamahas in the top two positions, Rossi embarked on a bold 1:51.258 lap to take pole by 0.579 seconds, snatching it from his great Italian rival Max Biaggi (Yamaha) in the dying seconds. Rossi's time was fully 2.084 seconds under the existing race lap record held by Honda legend Michael Doohan.<BR><BR>At the limit throughout the final circuit, Rossi was ebullient at his all-time great performance in this single lap but admitted that he had to ride exceptionally hard to go quite this fast around one of the quickest tracks on the championship calendar. "Today was very difficult but also very exciting," he said. "We had problems setting fast times before that and it seems that both the Yamahas are at the same level as us now. We had some problems in qualifying and we worked very hard to fix them all. We still have some of them, so it will be very difficult tomorrow."<BR><BR>Rossi confirmed that this was his best qualifying performance of an outstanding career. "My fifth pole position in a row is very satisfying -unbelievable. This pole is great, and for sure my best pole position. But we have to keep concentration for the race."<BR><BR>Carlos Checa (Yamaha) took third position on the Mugello MotoGP grid, thanks to his Friday time, edging out the late challenge of Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500) to fourth. The third Italian on the front row gave it his all to take the top two-stroke spot.<BR><BR>"We can't get to the speed of Valentino and Biaggi and we had some problems with the set-up but it was very important for me to finish the top two-stroke rider," said the former 125 and 250 World Champion. "I gave it my all and I am satisfied with my performance, even though I was still almost one second down. I still think that our lap time is very good. There will be two different races tomorrow, so it will be very hard to stay with the four-strokes."<BR><BR>Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RCV211V) finished seventh on the grid but made history in any case, setting the fastest ever top speed recorded at a Grand Prix. The 200 mph barrier was first broken today by Regis Laconi (Aprilia), who went through the speed trap at 332.3km/h. The unofficial but highly prestigious top speed competition was eventually won by Ukawa's V-five Honda, with a speed trap figure of 324.5km/h (201.635mph). Ukawa was nonplussed by his record but acknowledged that to other people it is a significant step. "To go so fast is very good for the team and Honda but it was not so much better than 199 mph!"<BR><BR>Joining Ukawa on the second row of the grid will be former 250 World Champion Tetsuya Harada (Pramac Honda NSR500) who was pleased to finish higher than three of his fellow NSR500 riders. "For half the qualifying session we had chattering problems. Finally, in conjunction with the team, we totally changed the set up and I could ride faster and with more confidence. The team really worked well and I'm satisfied about that. The left shoulder I hurt preseason is still aching and I hope it doesn't get too bad tomorrow."<BR><BR>Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) ended his pre-race preparations in ninth place, experiencing some handling quirks with his two-stroke machine. "We improved the problems we had with the bike turning, but this provoked one or two hitches that we will try to put right tomorrow. We must take too many risks to lap in the low 1:52s, although I feel comfortable lapping in the 1:53s. We must improve the bike settings a little more for the race, although it will be very difficult up against the four-strokes."<BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Kanemoto Racing Honda NSR500) took the last place inside the top 15, riding as hard as he knew on a track that rewards top speed and commitment into corners. "The bike is working OK, but we are just missing a few tenths because we are still developing the Bridgestone tyres," stated the Dutch rider. "Having said that we are not too far off the best times and with another four or five tenths we would be up there around eighth or so. The difference between being happy and unhappy is very little in terms of qualifying times this year."<BR><BR>Brilliant early season starter Daijiro Katoh (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR500)struggled throughout the second day of qualifying after experiencing a big crash yesterday. "It's a pity to be so far back on the grid with a bike that doesn't have the correct set up. It will be a very difficult race but tomorrow in the warm-up we will try a different technical solution and try to climb back to the front."<BR><BR>With all the 250 competitors improving on their overnight pole position times the top positions shuffled frequently in the last session, leaving Franco Battaini (Aprilia) on pole position by a clear margin. Stefano Porto (Yamaha) Tony Elias (Aprilia) and Fonsi Nieto (Aprilia) completed the front row.<BR><BR>The highest-placed Honda was Emilio Alzamora (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR250) in tenth place, due to set up problems that he only solved today. "What we needed we found today," said a relieved Alzamora. "Yesterday the problems we had were with the wrong settings but now those problems have gone. I am looking forward to the race now."<BR><BR>The quickest production Honda rider was once more Haruchika Aoki (Arie Molenaar Racing Honda RS250R/W) in 13th, ahead of Robby Rolfo (Fortuna<BR>Honda Gresini NSR250).<BR><BR>A crash that saw local rider Max Sabbatani (Aprilia) treated for his injuries at the side of the track caused the final 125 qualifying session to be halted and re-started, leading to a 15 minute delay for all the subsequent sessions. Sabbatani suffered a serious leg break in the accident and was flown to hospital in Florence by helicopter.<BR><BR>World Champion Manuel Poggiali took the fastest lap in the combined sessions and thus starts from pole position on his Gilera. Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Jr Team Honda RS125R) went second after the fraught final minutes of the final session. "We had some problems with set-up of the machine yesterday and that meant that we could not set the times we needed to do," explained Pedrosa about his contrasting fortunes. "We altered our settings a lot and that allowed us to set much more competitive times. I'm glad we did because it's going to be a long, hard race tomorrow, especially in the heat, and I think there will be a big group of us at the front."<BR><BR>Alex De Angelis (Aprilia), a compatriot of San Marinese Poggiali, scored a third place start and Steve Jenkner (Aprilia) completes the front row quartet, after crashing in the last session and having to rely on his Friday provisional pole time to qualify.<BR><BR>Nobby Ueda (Semprucci Angaia Racing Honda RS125R) suffered a broken hip in his Friday crash and was declared unfit to race. Jakub Smrz (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) qualified on the second row after posting an excellent seventh fastest time. Andrea Ballerini (FCC TSR RS125R) was the fastest of the local Honda riders in overall tenth.<BR><BR><BR>HONDA TEAM QUOTES:<BR><BR>MotoGP:<BR><BR>Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda Team, 1st: "Today was very difficult but also very exciting. There was big pressure, because this is my home GP and<BR>also because the Yamahas are going very well at the moment. We have won the prize for a great last lap - I followed Aoki who was fast in the corner and I got a good tow down the straight. We have still a lot of work to do on the bike as it is still far from perfect. We've tried 3 or 4 different suspension settings and have tried several different tyre combinations. We have not so much traction and I would like more grip with the rear. We need to remain concentrated for the race tomorrow."<BR><BR>Loris Capirossi, West Honda Pons, 4th: "I gave it my all as always and I am satisfied with my performance. I would like to thank my team for the extraordinary work that they have put in over the practice sessions to give me the opportunity of clocking a lightning fast time for a two-stroke bike. It was a perfect lap, and I was right on the limit, but unfortunately it did not give me pole position. There will be two different races tomorrow as it will be difficult to stay with the pace of the four-strokes, but I will try my best to battle until the bitter end, however complicated the race may be."<BR><BR>Tohru Ukawa, Repsol Honda Team, 7th: "It would have been nice to start on the front row but the second row is not a disaster. I made a good start at Le Mans a fortnight ago and will have to make another very fast get away tomorrow. The bike is working much better now than it was when we started yesterday but we still need to make some adjustments to the suspension. This we can test in warm up tomorrow. The other area we can improve is me! Mugello has never been my favourite track and my results here show."<BR><BR>Tetsuya Harada, Pramac Honda Team, 8th: "Up to the qualifying session we kept having chattering problems. Then, together with the team I completely changed the set up and I finally could ride faster and with more confidence. The team really worked well and I'm really satisfied about that. Unfortunately, on this track which is so fast and with so many direction changes, the left shoulder I hurt this winter is still aching: I hope it doesn't get too bad tomorrow during the race. I really want to do well, especially for the team that is Italian."<BR><BR>Alex Barros, West Honda Pons, 9th: "We improved the problem we had with the bike turning, but this provoked one or two small hitches that we will try to put right in the warm-up tomorrow. It's true that I must take too many risks to lap in the low 1:52s, although I feel comfortable lapping in 1:53. We must improve the bike settings a little more for the race, although it will be very difficult against the four-strokes."<BR><BR>Sito Pons: "Capirossi maintained his front-row position in spite of the fierce challenges from his competitors. If he gets away well tomorrow he must try and stay with the four-strokes. Barros is further back but he is lapping with pace too and should be looking to be in the lead group."<BR><BR>Antonio Cobas (Technical Director): "The lap times have come down, even though conditions were worse than on Friday as it was much hotter and the tyres reached very high temperatures. It looked as though the riders that don't use Michelin tyres fitted special qualification compounds because they made dramatic improvements in the last few laps."<BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh, Kanemoto Honda, 14th: "Not the top ten in qualifying but we found a better set-up today and I was even more comfortable on the bike than yesterday. This morning we ran a 1m 54.4s lap time, this afternoon 1m 53.040s. I was hoping for 1m 52.8s but got a big rear wheel slide on my fast lap! But I'm happy with my time because I can run in 1.54 in the race. The tyres will run the distance and be consistent. Late in the race, with many laps on the tyres, I might get some chatter which will make running into a couple of the corners a little difficult, because they are bumpy. I'm not disappointed with 14th on the grid. We don't have a qualifying tyre as such and with the current high level of the competition qualifying is now crucial. "<BR><BR>Team owner - manager Erv Kanemoto said: "With a few changes we made overnight we were 0.5s faster than yesterday. There are a few things we need to work on for the warm-up, all small things, then we should be even better. From what we've seen so far the tyres will be consistent throughout the race and a top ten finish is possible, if all goes well. Tonight we will analyse the data and take it from there.<BR><BR>"From here we go to Brno to test on Tuesday and Wednesday. Going back where we have tested a few times before with Bridgestone will be very interesting. We will be able to check the progress we, and the tyres, have made since we were last there, 10 months ago."<BR><BR>250cc<BR><BR>Emilio Alzamora, Fortuna Honda Gresini, 10th: "With respect to the free practice of this morning the situation has really improved. Yesterday my problems was not having perfect settings which made me slow, especially when changing direction, these have now gone. Now I'm waiting for a really hard and difficult race. In the race I want to take the most points possible to be in Barcelona, my home GP, in a good position in the championship."<BR><BR>Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda Gresini, 14th: "I'm satisfied because at the end of qualifying I understood what the problems were with my bike. Now we can improve before the warm-up and work hard to get back and climb up the championship classification. Tomorrow I will do my best because this is my home grand prix."<BR><BR>Fausto Gresini: "I'm really sorry that we cannot start from the front row. The team wanted to do well at our home GP, especially Rolfo, who cares a lot about this race. I'm confident that tomorrow my riders will fight hard and they will give their maximum to give the Italian sporting public a good result."<BR><BR><BR><BR>125cc<BR><BR>Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 2nd: "We had many problems this weekend but at least we found a way out of them, and I am comfortable with the machine. We still have a few little details to clear up but in general we found the correct direction. At the end of the session I was behind Poggiali and that made it easier for me to do my best lap. Tomorrow the race will be very long. It's a difficult circuit, and the straights are very long, and all the riders closely matched. We'll see what happens."<BR><BR>Jakub Smrz, Elit Grand Prix Honda, 7th: "In that session I was with Simone Sanna and we were on pole time for the first two sections, then we ran into two slow riders which cost us time. I feel really good about this race, and the team is smiling, better than the long faces we had at Le Mans. The bike is good and I just have to decide on the tyres and make a couple of small adjustments for the warm-up."<BR><BR>Mirko Giansanti, Scott Racing Honda, 11th: "I ad a problem with my gear shifter in the last session and that held me back. I was having to shut the throttle a little to change gear. We don't know what the problem is yet but I'm sure the team can fix it for the race. Other than that everything is OK."<BR><BR>Andrea Dovizioso, Scott Racing Honda, 12th: "Today was not so good for me, I have some front wheel chatter, it's not easy to get a fast time in those conditions. But I hope to get a good start in the race, if I do I hope for a good race."<BR><BR>Masao Azuma, Tribe by Breil Honda, 19th: "I lost the back end and highsided off the bike. The bike was destroyed but I'm OK. I'm a lucky man because both Nobby (Ueda) and Sabbatani crashed at the same place and were definitely not lucky. My spare bike is close to the number one bike so I will have a good bike. But I'm so far back on the grid it will be a difficult race for me."