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Jun 27, 2002

Rossi On Pole, Biaggi 2nd, Roberts 3rd, Hopkins 10th In First MotoGP Qualifying Session At Assen

From a press release issued by Team Suzuki:<BR><BR>KENNY GOES THIRD ON PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW AT ASSEN<BR><BR>Assen, Netherlands – First Practice, Thursday June 27, 2002: <BR><BR>Team Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki riders Kenny Roberts Jr. and Sete Gibernau claimed third and 16th places in today's first qualifying runs for Saturday's Dutch TT, at the revised Assen circuit in the north of Holland.<BR><BR>Gibernau didn't get into his stride, but Roberts was on top form, vying for pole, and ending up less than two tenths off the fastest time.<BR><BR>Factory Suzuki rider Akira Ryo put his Suzuki GSV-R in 21st position, after spending his first day making acquaintance with the long and hard-to-learn 6.027km Assen circuit, which the reigning All-Japan Superbike Champion is seeing for the first time.<BR><BR>All three riders were enjoying the benefit of a new chassis, with revised stiffness ratios and improved handling; as well as much improved throttle response on initial opening: another improvement found at successful tests at Catalunya after the GP there two weeks ago. This demonstrates the continuing rapid progress of the new V4 four-stroke Suzuki, brought to the tracks a full year earlier than originally planned, for race-development in the first season of the new MotoGP class.<BR><BR>Assen, the longest track of the year, has been changed this season, with a revised section not only increasing paddock space but also making for lower average speeds and a longer lap time. The old Veenslang and back straight section, taken under full throttle by the best riders, now runs into slower kinks, with the former flat-out run now seeing riders close the throttle and gear down for the later corners.<BR><BR>Some welcomed the changes, but Kenny Roberts was worried about the safety implications of the section that has replaced the back straight.<BR><BR>"If you lost it or had any sort of problem on the first right kink, which is really fast, you could run off and go straight across the track further down, after the left kink. The kinks make it dangerous. They should be considering making it straight there again. The problem is the track doubles back on itself," said Roberts.<BR><BR>One more day of practice remains, with the unique Saturday race day to follow.<BR><BR>KENNY ROBERTS Jr: Third Position, 2:01.836<BR>"This is the closest the Suzuki has been to the top guys so far. There are some elements and things from the Barcelona tests that have given us more confidence. It's nothing major, but every little thing is of benefit, although the setting direction we're going in now is further from Barcelona settings than I had expected. We still need big steps in stability in the fast sections and under braking, and those are the biggest areas for me. I'm happy with the qualifying position, but I was also happy in qualifying eighth in Barcelona, because my lap times were consistent enough for the top five. My main aim in Barcelona was to finish in the top five, and it's the same here. Third today is good for the team and the pit crew, but I have more interest in working on carrying those lap times over to the race."<BR><BR>SETE GIBERNAU: 16th Position, 2:03.908<BR>"We have a lot of work to do. I wasn't able to do the tests at Barcelona, but we were pretty confident Kenny found something good. We've been trying to adapt it to this race-track, but what we were doing was in the wrong direction, and it just didn't work. I'm pleased that Kenny has gone fast, because we can see the bike can do it. We know what we did wrong. Now we will try settings more in Kenny's direction, and I'm confident we can also be fast. The only worry is if the weather changes, and we don't have a dry session tomorrow."<BR><BR>WARREN WILLING – TECHNICAL ADVISER<BR>"The new chassis doesn't change basic geometry. On average it is stiffer than the previous chassis, but with the balance of the stiffness ratios addressed differently. It's a step along the way, rather than the chassis we want to end up with. It worked well at the Barcelona tests, and not everything worked the same way here – but that is as expected. This is a much more dynamic circuit, with fast corners with the throttle open, and big suspension movements over the crowns and when changing direction. You need to adjust the front-rear balance more with the damping, because of the suspension movements, and we've found a good direction on that.<BR><BR>"The change to throttle response comes from an alteration to the engine mapping that we tried successfully after the race in Barcelona. (Roberts describes the effect as taking away "the spike" of power that came on first throttle opening.) It was something we'd be cautious about trying on a race weekend, but testing gives you the chance to try bigger steps. It's addressed some problems we'd been having in the area, but again it's only another step. Again, it's not a cure-all."<BR><BR>GARRY TAYLOR – TEAM MANAGER<BR>"It's good to see Kenny up there – especially in a hot session like today, with everyone trying that much harder for lap times in case it rains tomorrow. Sete is obviously having problems, and we'll be giving them our full attention."<BR><BR>FRIDAY OFFICIAL QUALIFYING TIMES ASSEN, HOLLAND<BR><BR>1. V. Rossi (Honda) 2:01.691<BR>2. M. Biaggi (Yamaha) + 0.025 <BR>3. KENNY ROBERTS Jr (TELEFONICA MOVISTAR SUZUKI) + 0.145<BR>4. L. Capirossi (Honda) + 0.292<BR>5. A. Barros (Honda) + 0.328<BR>6. C. Checa (Yamaha) + 0.545 <BR>7. T. Harada (Honda) + 0.794 <BR>8. T. Ukawa (Honda) + 0.805 <BR>9. J. McWillams (Proton) + 0.935<BR>10. J. Hopkins (Yamaha) + 1.073 <BR>16. SETE GIBERNAU (TELEFONICA MOVISTAR SUZUKI) + 2.217<BR><BR><BR>From a press release issued by Marlboro Yamaha:<BR><BR>DUTCH GRAND PRIX, ASSEN<BR>First Qualifying, Thursday June 27 2002<BR><BR><BR>MARLBORO YAMAHA IN THE HUNT FOR POLE AT ASSEN<BR><BR>Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1 riders Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa were once again in the thick of the action at Assen this afternoon, Biaggi going fastest in the closing moments before ending the session a close-run second, Checa in sixth.<BR><BR>The Assen track, fastest venue on the MotoGP World Championship calendar and nicknamed 'The Cathedral' by race fans, has undergone minor changes to its layout this year, but that hasn't really changed the circuit's high-speed zigzag character which dominates the minds of riders and their engineers.<BR><BR>"The most important aspect of performance that we work on here is high-speed direction change," says M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda. "After this morning's session we adjusted suspension and geometry to improve manoeuvrability, but we still need to work some more in this area. We also need to improve front-end stability, so we have to make a compromise between that and direction changing."<BR><BR><BR>BIAGGI A FRACTION OFF POLE<BR>Max Biaggi celebrated his 31st birthday at Assen yesterday, and today he came within 0.025-second of giving himself the perfect present--provisional pole position for the Dutch TT. The hard-riding Marlboro Yamaha Team man ran in the top four throughout this afternoon's first qualifier, then upped his pace in the final minutes, moving into provisional pole with moments to go. But seconds later old rival Valentino Rossi (Honda) sneaked ahead. Two weeks ago at Catalunya Biaggi scored the fast-improving M1's first-ever pole position.<BR><BR>"We're looking for agility and I know we can improve for tomorrow and race day," said Biaggi. "We've been working on suspension and geometry and the bike feels better than it did this morning. Our pace isn't so bad, we came very close to pole, and it's important to be up front here on day one in case it rains tomorrow. The new part of the track around Veenslang and Ruskenhoek is quite difficult to get right but it's okay. I crashed this morning, I ran across some dirt on the track and lost the front."<BR><BR><BR>CHECA SIXTH AND COMFORTABLE<BR><BR>Carlos Checa ran in the top four throughout most of this afternoon's first qualifying session, slipping to sixth in the final minutes, though still only 0.545 seconds off pole. The Marlboro Yamaha Team star, who led the first half of the recent Catalan GP, is feeling cool, calm and confident as he works to perfect his M1's chassis performance for the revised Assen layout.<BR><BR>"The changes they've made around Veenslang make life more difficult for us," explains Checa. "Four-stroke MotoGP bikes are faster and heavier than 500s, so they have more inertia which makes it harder for us to change direction at high speed. At the moment the bike seems a bit too heavy through the direction changes. We've improved our suspension set-up which has helped, and I know I can go faster if we make it even better. Overall I feel comfortable, but I must say I preferred the old track layout. The new section feels narrow and the changed double right (Duikersloot) doesn't have camber like the rest of the track; you used to be able to go in there with more speed."<BR><BR><BR>ROSSI'S LATE CHARGE TO POLE<BR>World Championship leader Valentino Rossi left it until the final minute of qualifying to grab provisional pole. The man who's won five of six races so far this season worked throughout the day to get his RCV working to his satisfaction. "We only really got it right for our final run," he said. "The bike is stable here but it's difficult to get through the direction changes, so we've been working on suspension, geometry and tyres to fix that."<BR><BR>Two-stroke riders Alex Barros and Loris Capirossi dominated much of the session, their lighter 500s suiting Assen's flowing nature. "The absence of heavy braking and acceleration helps us here," said Capirossi, who ended the day in fourth place.<BR><BR><BR>PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW<BR>1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Repsol HONDA Team (RC211V) 2:01.691<BR><BR>2. MAX BIAGGI (ITA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 2:01.716<BR><BR>3. Kenny Roberts (USA) Telefonica Movistar SUZUKI (GSV-R) 2:01.836<BR><BR>4. Loris Capirossi (ITA) West HONDA Pons (NSR500) 2:01.983<BR><BR>6. CARLOS CHECA (SPA) Marlboro YAMAHA Team (YZR-M1) 2:02.236<BR><BR><BR>From a press release issued by Red Bull Yamaha:<BR>Qualifying No. 1 Thursday, 27th June 2002<BR><BR>HOPKINS AND HOFMANN RIDE THE FASTEST 2 STROKE YAMAHAS<BR><BR>The two youngest riders in today's Moto GP session, Red Bull Yamaha's Hopkins and Hofmann, had a solid first qualifying aboard the fastest two stroke Yamahas. Coming home in 10th and 12th positions respectively the young guns finished ahead of many experienced Moto GP riders and both are confident that tomorrow they can do just the same, if not better.<BR><BR>John Hopkins: 10th 2:02.764<BR>"We tried a combination of different settings in the session today and we improved a little bit each time. We're working towards a good race set-up and using the information from our recent test here to put together something special for tomorrow and race day.<BR><BR>"I feel like I'm really strong coming off the back straight away out of the left/right and I'm making up time there every lap. It's easier to change direction quickly there on the 2 stroke so I'm passing guys there with ease.<BR><BR>"We put on a some good tyres in the last few minutes and that¹s when I got my best time.<BR><BR>"I improved from this morning's time by almost a second and I'm putting in faster times today then when I tested here, so that¹s a good effort."<BR><BR>Colin Davies (Race Engineer - John Hopkins)<BR>"We tried a lot of different things in this session and it took John some time to get use to all the chassis changes we were making. We've got a few things to work on tonight but I'm confident that we'll find the best race<BR>settings before Race Day."<BR><BR>Alex Hofmann: 12th 2:03.187<BR>"I'm really happy with this result and I'm feeling very comfortable on the bike this weekend. The set-up is how I like it now and the bike feels really good and smooth. My rhythm here on this track is good and I'm finding a good line around the track. I'm very happy with the tyres we used in this session also, great qualifying tyres.<BR><BR>"The third row position is great and I'm in front of many experienced riders like Nakano, Gibernau and Jacque so I'm pleased."<BR><BR>Christophe Bourguignon (Race Engineer -Alex Hofmann)<BR>"Everything went to plan this afternoon for Alex and the crew worked really well. We've already got our basic settings for the race and we already have an idea of the tyres that we will use for the race."<BR><BR>Peter Clifford - Team Manager<BR>"It was a good practice session for both guys today. I'm particularly pleased with Alex's 12th place. "We must thank Dunlop for helping us to be the fastest 2 stroke Yamahas but then the guys still have to ride the motorcycles."<BR><BR><BR>More, from a press release issued by Proton Team KR:<BR><BR>PROTON SETS TOP SPEED AT ASSEN<BR><BR>Round 7: Dutch TT, Assen First Qualifying: Thursday June 27, 2002<BR><BR>Jeremy McWilliams: Ninth, 2:02.626<BR>Nobuatsu Aoki: 13th, 2:03.491<BR><BR>Proton Team KR riders Jeremy McWilliams and Nobu Aoki qualified on the third and fourth rows of the provisional grid in today's first timed practice for Saturday's Dutch TT, with McWilliams also setting fastest top speed through the traps at the revised Assen, demonstrating the lightweight three cylinder machine's huge ability through the high-speed kinks that characterise this classic circuit.<BR><BR>A top speed of 249.1km/h outranked even the swiftest of the new 990cc four-strokes, Valentino Rossi's V5 Honda, which ran through the traps at 244.2km/h, and also set provisional pole time. This is a novel experience for the Proton crew, usually at a top-speed disadvantage at tracks with long straights instead of the complex kinks and swerves of Assen.<BR><BR>Both riders were using the standard chassis here, rather than the revised version McWilliams tried at the last round in Barcelona - reflecting the different demands of the complex circuit, with fast kinks and camber changes as well as long corners, putting maximum loads on suspension and chassis. The better-developed standard chassis gave less margin for error.<BR><BR>The Assen circuit has been slightly altered, with the back straight section replaced by fast kinks that introduce an element of braking where before there was none. This is another area of performance where the KR3 excels, contributing to McWilliams's high top speed reading.<BR><BR>Possible rain threatens tomorrow's final day of qualifying, putting a premium on the lap times achieved today, for Saturday's race.<BR><BR>JEREMY McWILLIAMS<BR>"When I saw we'd set the fastest top speed, I thought: that's pretty good. I'm using the standard chassis, because we understand it better, and this race-track puts an awful lot of force into the suspension through the fast corners and changes of direction, and we might have been a bit lost with the new chassis. The new section is pretty difficult, but there's not so much of a straight, which is good for us. The grip level is really improved on the sections with new surface, all the way from the hairpin to the start line. I like the new section, but it won't be to everybody's taste. Then again, I've always liked dangerous race tracks, so it gets my vote. So far, the Bridgestones are working well with grip and durability. Maybe this track is kinder to tyres, but I have no complaints."<BR><BR>NOBUATSU AOKI<BR>"I'm still struggling with front grip. It's better than at Barcelona, but the problem is still there. Bridgestone seem to keep improving the rear tyre. They're working on the front as well, but the grip balance is not so good for me, with the rear becoming too strong. We've been working on front fork settings to try to help, but so far today we couldn't find the right setting. I had a fairly good lap time, but that was really concentrating and working hard. It should be easier, and it should be faster. The new track is better for the KR3 ... because it is really hard to pass. But we need to get in front first!"<BR><BR>KENNY ROBERTS - Team Owner<BR>"It seems to be going okay - both guys are fairly happy. We're at the race-tracks now that should suit us better than Mugello and Barcelona, so I am reasonably confident we can solve the little problems we have now and go for a good race."<BR><BR>