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May 18, 2002

Updated Post: Rossi On Pole For Polini Grand Prix De France, Roberts Ninth, Hopkins 19th

Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>Final MotoGP Qualifying Results From Le Mans:<BR><BR>1. Valentino Rossi, Honda RC211V, 1:36.046<BR>2. Carlos Checa, Yamaha YZR-M1, 1:36.122<BR>3. Max Biaggi, Yamaha YZR-M1, 1:36.193<BR>4. Tohru Ukawa, Honda RC211V, 1:36.223<BR>5. Daijiro Kato, Honda NSR500, 1:36.349<BR>6. Jeremy McWilliams, Proton KR3, 1:36.507<BR>7. Loris Capirossi, Honda NSR500, 1:36.515<BR>8. Tetsuya Harada, Honda NSR500, 1:36.525<BR>9. Kenny Roberts, Suzuki GSV-R, 1:36.617<BR>10. Shinya Nakano, Yamaha YZR500, 1:36.714<BR>11. Nobuatsu Aoki, Proton KR3, 1:36.752<BR>12. Norick Abe, Yamaha YZR500, 1:36.771<BR>13. Olivier Jacque, Yamaha YZR500, 1:36.785<BR>14. Regis Laconi, Aprilia RS3, 1:36.933<BR>15. Alex Barros, Honda NSR500, 1:36.997<BR>16. Sete Gibernau, Suzuki GSV-R, 1:37.130<BR>17. Jurgen vd Goorbergh, Honda NSR500, 1:37.186<BR>18. Jean-Michel Bayle, Yamaha YZR500, 1:37.311<BR>19. John Hopkins, Yamaha YZR500, 1:37.707<BR>20. Jose Luis Cardoso, Yamaha YZR500, 1:38.261<BR><BR><BR>More, from a Red Bull Yamaha press release:<BR><BR>FRENCH GRAND PRIX <BR><BR>SATURDAY 18TH MAY - OFFICIAL QUALIFYING<BR><BR>Jean- Michel Bayle 18th 1.37.311<BR>"I lost a bit of time at the start of the session as I had some problems with my front brake lever as the position was not right for me. I then rode the second bike and it all seemed okay. I am pretty happy with the engine and chassis set up, my main concern however is with the tyre choice and we are working hard to find the right compound for tomorrow. At the moment we are working to match the tyres and bike setting and find the best solution that will suit me for tomorrow."<BR><BR><BR>Christophe Bourguignon(Race Engineer - Jean- Michel Bayle)<BR>"We had problems early on with the front brake lever setting so we lost some time there early on but after this was adjusted we basically followed our plan for the qualifying. Jean-Michel has done a fantastic job and it would be interesting to see what could be done if had more time on the bike. Tonight we will try to improve the set-up so he is more comfortable on the bike for the race tomorrow." <BR><BR><BR>John Hopkins - 19th 1.37.707<BR>"I was really pleased with my practice this morning but that did not convert to the afternoon session. The mechanics have fixed the front - end problems from yesterday by lifting the rear suspension to give the front more weight so I am happy with how that feels. I have found a harder compound Dunlop tyre which suits me here and I rode most of the session on that tyre today. I need to work on the last section of the track and I aim to finish in the points again tomorrow."<BR><BR><BR>Colin Davies (Race Engineer - John Hopkins)<BR>"We have found a good tyre choice for the race and we have found a solution to the front end problems from yesterday. We are happy that John has improved on his time from yesterday and this morning and of course we would have liked him to qualify a bit higher but we are happy that he is always improving."<BR><BR><BR>Peter Clifford - Team Manager<BR>"An absolute superb effort from Jean-Michel Bayle. I certainly did not think he could step on the motorcycle and be a mere 1.2 seconds from pole after only having half as much practice time as everyone else has. It shows not only that he is a superb motorcycle rider but that the motorcycle and the tyres have great potential. We of course wonder what Garry could do with this machine on the top of his form.<BR><BR>"John Hopkins made a great qualifying session this morning and was 13th for the hour, but it did not quite come together for him the same way this afternoon. I am sure he will have a great race tomorrow."<BR><BR>For more information visit<BR><BR><BR>More, from an Aprilia press release:<BR><BR>Régis Laconi and the Cube 9 tenths from today's pole<BR><BR>A good qualifying session for Régis Laconi and the Cube, coming in just 9 tenths from Rossi's pole position. After the free practice in the morning on a track which was still wet in some places, Laconi went flat out in the afternoon and achieved an important result for the new four-stroke project from Noale: the Cube shortened the gap from the time needed to win the pole. It is going to be essential to make a good start tomorrow from fourth row.<BR><BR># 55 Régis Laconi – (MS APRILIA RACING) – 14th - 1:36.933<BR>"It was a good qualifying session, and my fast lap at the end was fine. I was behind Rossi and I gave it all I'd got, taking the Chapelle corner very aggressively. A good lap: I took it to the limit and put myself in provisional eleventh place. Then other riders moved up the ratings and I lost the third row of the starting grid. We worked hard, late into the evening yesterday, to get the bike right. We've eliminated the instability when braking which penalised me a bit yesterday, and the calibration of the engine brake has been put right. The gap separating us from the pole - nine tenths - shows we've made huge progress. Now we need to choose the best tyres for the race: I've got a few ideas but we haven't made the final choice yet. And, of course, I'll need to make a good start. Tomorrow we'll be approaching the first curve at high speed - about 250 kph - so it won't be easy to obtain a good position in order to gain ground right from the start, but I sure want to do a good race on my home track."<BR><BR> <BR><BR>More, from a Marlboro Yamaha press release:<BR><BR>FRENCH GRAND PRIX, LE MANS<BR>Final Qualifying, Saturday May 18 2002<BR><BR>MARLBORO YAMAHA M1's BEST-EVER GRID PERFORMANCE<BR>Marlboro Yamaha Team riders Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi played a starring role in this afternoon's enthralling final qualifying session at Le Mans, qualifying a superb second and third quickest for tomorrow's French GP.<BR><BR>The pair were in brilliant form as the sun came out at the legendary French venue, Checa twice snatching pole from Valentino Rossi (Honda) and<BR>ending the session a tantalising 0.076 seconds behind the series leader. Biaggi was also flying, ending the day just 0.071 seconds off his team-mate. This is the M1's best-ever qualifying performance and the first time both riders have made the front row together. Checa qualified fourth in Japan, Biaggi fourth in South Africa.<BR><BR>"I'm very happy, everyone has been working so hard and things are now going well for us," said YZR-M1 project leader Ichiro Yoda, who has been returning to Japan after each race to continue M1 development. Last week he returned with new parts for the bike's radical electronically controlled engine-braking system which the riders tested at Mugello in Italy. "This is the area we have especially been working on and this is why both our riders can now do good lap times. Also, this track is good for Yamaha's chassis. Last year Max and Carlos got first and second here and our set-up info from that weekend helped us get the best chassis settings today. People say this is a Yamaha track because it's a 'heavy braking' circuit but in fact that isn't the case because there are a lot of downhill corner entries, so riders can't brake so hard. Now I'm looking forward to the race, both our riders times' were consistent today and thanks to Michelin both have good tyre choices."<BR><BR><BR>CHECA A FRACTION OFF POLE<BR>Carlos Checa continued his awesome Le Mans form today, battling with Valentino Rossi for pole position throughout a thrilling final qualifying session. The Marlboro Yamaha Team man was ahead with just one minute to go, then Rossi squeezed ahead by a fraction. Fastest yesterday, Checa is confident that he will be fighting for the YZR-M1's first victory in tomorrow's race.<BR><BR>"I feel more comfortable on the bike, that's why I'm able to ride fast," said Checa who has been ultra quick and super consistent throughout the past two days. "We've been working very hard to improve the engine-braking system, so now I'm able to ride into corners more consistently and with more control and therefore faster. That's why I was able to fight for pole, like I did in Japan, and that's why we will be able to fight for victory tomorrow; I think the race will be very open. This is also a good track for our chassis."<BR><BR><BR><BR>'HUGE IMPROVEMENT' FOR BIAGGI<BR>Max Biaggi was delighted with his second front-row start of the season, just 0.177 seconds shy of pole position. Like team-mate Checa the Marlboro Yamaha Team man is making the most of engine braking system developments introduced during the team's two-day test session at Mugello last week. Biaggi's bike is the fastest, clocking 295.2kmh, 2kmh quicker than Rossi's RCV.<BR><BR>"This is a huge improvement from the previous Grand Prix, thanks to the new parts we received ten days ago," said Biaggi, who outpaced Rossi's team-mate Tohru Ukawa by 0.030 seconds. "The improvements in engine braking make the bike better in every way, so we can now use the machine how we like to use it. We weren't able to ride like this until we got these parts and<BR>the great thing is that we can now continue working to make even more progress. I was losing some time in the third intermediate, but we've an idea of how to improve on that for tomorrow. We're certainly more competitive now but winning will still be difficult."<BR><BR><BR>ROSSI TOPS CLOSEST-EVER GRID<BR>Valentino Rossi took his fourth-successive pole position today, but this is the hardest he's had to fight all year. The times were incredibly close, with less than two tenths of a second covering the front row and an all-time record of 2.215 seconds covering the entire 20-rider grid. "Today was difficult because the times are so close," said the Italian. "And I think tomorrow will also be very difficult because the Yamaha has improved so much; it will be a hard fight."<BR><BR>French star and 2002 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Jean-Michel Bayle returned to GP action today, replacing injured Yamaha rider Garry McCoy. The former Supercross king last rode GPs in 1999 and qualified 18th today.