From Telefonica MoviStar Suzuki:
Team Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki rider Sete Gibernau was a stunning second fastest in today’s first timed practice for Sunday’s Catalunyan GP, with team-mate Kenny Roberts less than four tenths slower, on the second row of the provisional starting grid.
Both riders enjoyed the benefit of not only the latest generation of Michelin tyres, which they are using for the first time, but also a series of engine upgrades – part of the continual programme of development to the new Suzuki GSV-R, youngest of the three new-generation Japanese 990cc MotoGP four-strokes.
The power-up engine improvements include a new Mk3 crankcase, with reduced internal friction, and revised engine control mapping for the ECU. But engine designer Kunio Arase, at the track along with fellow factory engineers and factory rider Akira Ryo, was anxious to stress this is just another interim stage. Development is constant, and the factory is determined to continue the rapid rate of improvement already achieved in the bike’s first five races. Ryo, second in Japan and a wild card entry for this GP, placed 19th today, his first ride on the GSV-R on Michelin tyres. He uses Dunlops racing the bike at home in Japan.
Held in blazing sunshine at the 4.727km circuit outside Barcelona, the first session was very close. Gibernau was just eight hundredths slower than provision pole qualifier Loris Capirossi, and the first 13 riders were within one second of Capirossi’s time.
SETE GIBERNAU – Second Position, 1:45.532
“I had one or two small problems this morning, so I’m happy with the time this afternoon. You have to remember that it was only one lap, and Loris (Capirossi) helped me a lot, because I was following right behind him. The whole GSV-R package is becoming much better. The Michelins are part of the package, and we have to thank them for the new tyres. I’m hoping to have no problems tomorrow, and to pick up my pace to do strings of fast laps.”
KENNY ROBERTS Jr. – Sixth Position, 1:45.923
“I think my level is probably the closest we’ve been to the other bikes all year, especially in terms of race settings. I’m pretty comfortable, and able to do consistent laps. My time came on the fifth or sixth lap, and using race tyres. It wasn’t just one lap, tucked in, balls out and hope you survive the lap, which is what I’ve had to do a couple of times this year. The new tyres are a big jump – the biggest jump since 1999, when I changed to Michelins for the first time. The new engine also seems to be an improvement. There are a couple of kilometres more top speed and it’s a little stronger mid-range.”
KUNIO ARASE: Engine Designer
“This is the third generation of crankcase, designed to reduce further the mechanical losses. The exact way we do it is a secret; the result is a little more horsepower through the rev range. This is the first race for the new crankcases, but they have undergone extensive reliability testing in Japan. The other difference here is a refinement to the engine management mapping, which improves the performance in back-shifting by reducing engine braking. We are continuing work in that area, but the main priority at the moment is increased engine power. This engine is improved, but I don’t believe by enough. I can’t say when we will have more power, but it will be during this season.”
WARREN WILLING: Technical Advisor
“The new crankcases and mapping are another small step, and the bike is more consistent now in engine braking. The 2002 tyres are definitely more consistent, with better steering characteristics. We’re playing catch-up to an extent with getting the bike settings right for the tyres, but not with choice – like all the Michelin teams we had a choice of two this morning, and having established which variation we prefer we then got another choice in that direction. On average, the bigger footprint of the rear tyre allows softer compounds. It’s a definite improvement.”
RYO SETTLES IN
Japanese Superbike Champion Akira Ryo made a steady start to his three-stop MotoGP campaign in Catalunya, taking 18th place in the first qualifying session before Sunday’s race. Ryo’s time of 1.47.931 was just 2.468 slower than the provisional pole position time of 1.45.451 set by Italian rider Loris Capirossi,and he is confident that he can improve even further as he settles in to his first ever race outside of Japan.
Suzuki gained three ‘wild-card’ MotoGP entries for Ryo, starting with this weekend’s race in Catalunya, then moving on to the next round at Assen in the Netherlands and finally Donington Park in the UK.
Ryo gave the new GSV-R four-stroke race machine a sensational second place debut at the first round of the new MotoGP series back in April, when he took a home wildcard entry at Suzuka, leading for most of the race before losing out to World Champion Valantino Rossi in the closing laps.
Ryo’s three-race MotoGP campaign is designed to accelerate the on-going development programme of the new Suzuki GSV-R machine alongside the official factory MotoGP Telefonica Movistar Suzuki team riders, Kenny Roberts and Sete Gibernau. Ryo’s machine is identical to the other two Suzuki pilot’s bikes, but he is racing in the factory’s official blue and white livery.
Commenting on his first qualifying session, Ryo said, “All the testing and racing I have done so far on the GSV-R has been on Dunlop tyres and so I am still getting used to the different feel of the Michelin’s that we are racing on here. We have played with a number of different settings today and I think that we have made some progress. Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we will make more progress I am certain.”
More, from Yamaha:
Checa set for a front row start
Round: 6 – Catalunya MotoGP
Date: 14 June 2002
Sweltering heat greeted the 21-bike contingent for the opening qualifying session of the Catalan MotoGP, held June 14. Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) set the early benchmark for his home event before finishing the day with the fourth fastest time. The Spaniard held provisional pole position until a five-way bullfight began between Loris Capirossi (Honda, 1’45.451), Sete Gibernau (Suzuki, 1’45.532), Tohru Ukawa (Honda, 1’45.619), Checa (1’45.787) and Valentino Rossi (Honda, 1’45.842) – the quintet finishing in that order with only 0.391 seconds separating them.
Max Biaggi’s (Marlboro Yamaha Team, 1’45.948) best put him seventh fastest – 0.497 seconds off pole, and only 0.025 seconds behind sixth-placed Kenny Roberts (Suzuki, 1’45.923). The YZR-M1 mounted Italian was closely followed by the ever-improving John Hopkins; the young American posting a 1’45.967 aboard the Red Bull Yamaha WCM YZR500 to be eighth fastest.
Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin, 1’46.264) completed day one in 12th, just ahead of Shinya Nakano (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3, 1’46.328), while the most recent Red Bull Yamaha rider replacement, Alex Hofmann, completed the lineup in 21st with a 1’49.063.
Marlboro Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 4th, 1’45.787:
“We’re very focused for this weekend, but so far we’re quite far from where we want to be. We had a few settings problems this morning and, although we worked hard to improve things this afternoon, we’ll need to make a few more changes for tomorrow. The heat means that everyone’s lap times aren’t fantastic, and while I wasn’t using a soft tyre at the end of the session, I was trying my maximum on my best lap. Tomorrow I’ll need the bike to keep rolling more easily through the corners, and I’ll also need better feeling on the corner exits. But compared to before, we’re okay. This was never a good track for us with the 500, but this bike already feels better here. Now we’re working to make sure it’s even better at the end of the weekend.”
Max Biaggi 7th, 1’45.948:
“We had a few little problems this afternoon, which held me back a bit. The power didn’t seem to be consistent, sometimes I would lose power out of a corner, other times it would be fine. But I’m not too worried; it’s always better to have your problems in practice rather than in the race! All being well, we should have more time to work on settings tomorrow. We started this morning with a base setting we came up with at Valencia, then we made a small change for this afternoon and now we need to further adapt the bike to this track, mostly working on the front-end. There’s more to do but I feel we should be okay here for race day.”
Red Bull Yamaha WCM
John Hopkins 8th, 1’45.967:
“I think half a second is the closest to pole position that I’ve been so far this year. I’m really happy with my performance throughout that whole session, but I know I can still improve as I made a few small mistakes, even on my best lap. We also think we can modify the set-up to improve the feedback too, which should help.
Hopkins closes in on the leaders
“The grip levels weren’t great, I think it’s a combination of the high temperatures and the circuit beginning still a little dirty. I focused on finding a race set-up rather than just a fast lap. I only put on a softer rear in the last few minutes and I couldn’t have timed it better. I got out just behind Capirossi and Gibernau when they put in their fast laps and it was great to see what they can do.”
Alex Hofmann 21st, 1’49.063:
“I’m just trying to get to know the bike at the moment. I focused on learning how the bike will respond with each chassis modification, this way I have a better understanding of its limitations, and mine. Feel is the main thing I’m looking for, and we’ve got some ideas to help improve things in that area, and then we’ll look at improving the grip.”
Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin
Norick Abe 12th, 1’46.264:
“It is so hot out there today! These are very difficult conditions to be riding in, not only for the rider but the bike too. When it is this hot the bikes tend to lose power, and the tyres lose grip. I did try a softer tyre in the last few minutes, and it help to better my time, but it wasn’t enough to make much of a difference to my position. We have some things we’d like to try with the front set-up, so that the bike turns in better, and then we’d like to look at improving the drive off the turns.”
Pere Riba 18th, 1’47.571:
“I’m quite happy with that, even if I am still only 18th. The time is not that much better than what I did during the test earlier in the year, partly because of the high temperatures, but I’m feeling much more comfortable now at this speed. I can feel what the bike is doing where before I was just guessing. The test we recently had in Valencia really helped out in this regard, as track time is just what I’ve been needing all along.”
Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Shinya Nakano 13th, 1’46.328:
“We concentrated on one bike this afternoon, using a chassis geometry based on what we ran here last year. It seems to have been a good choice through the medium and high-speed sections of the circuit, but I’m lacking some feel from the front in the last stage. Tomorrow we’ll try a few things that should improve the front-end feel. I hope that will be the case, for my fan club at least, which has come all the way from Japan to watch me race this weekend.”
Olivier Jacque 21st, 1’49.063:
“I just can’t seem to get the feedback I need from the front of the bike, which is crucial around here for a fast time. Combine the lack of feel with the limited grip we have in these conditions and I just don’t have the confidence to push hard. The crash I had didn’t help either. It was only my second lap on a new set of tyres and I wasn’t even pushing hard. We’ll have a good think about it tonight and hopefully come out fighting tomorrow.”
Even more, from Red Bull Yamaha:
HOT LAP HOPKINS ON THE FASTEST 2 STROKE YAMAHA
John Hopkins the 19 year old American rookie has put in another exceptional performance in Friday’s qualifying session in Barcelona aboard the Red Bull Yamaha YZR 500. Finishing 8th in the scorching 34 degree temperature, Hopper is very pleased with his performance in this his sixth MotoGP event of his career.
Hopkins performance today, positions him as the fastest 2 stroke Yamaha in the session and sees him again in Fridays Top Ten list, a feat he accomplished for the first time at the Italian GP, 2 weeks ago.
Only a mere 0.125 seconds behind the reigning World Champion, Valentino Rossi (in 5th position), Hopper clocked the Fastest Top Speed for a 2 stroke Yamaha at 306.6km, ahead of his nearest 2 stroke Yamaha rival Shinya Nakano.
Newcomer to the team, German Alex Hofmann, made history today as the first German ever to ride a 500cc Yamaha 2 stroke. Hofmann improved on this mornings practice session by 1.719 seconds and with each lap, the young 22-year-old begins to understand the performance of the YZR 500.
This weekend, the Red Bull Yamaha riders line up as the 2 youngest riders on the MotoGP grid.
JOHN HOPKINS – 8th – 1’45.967
“I’m getting more comfortable on the bike now, I’m learning to understand it more at each race and I am working in really well with the team and my mechanics.
“I’m pretty happy with my performance today and I feel like I found my rhythm fast here. I had a full two dry days testing here in March and I know about the track straight up so I can concentrate on the bike from first thing Friday morning.
“We have a lot of work to do tonight, to select the tyres for the heat here; we will be working on the grip and our race set-up. I am focusing on the beginning of the race and the start so I can get stronger here. I want to be on the second row on Sunday and I will do all I can to achieve that.”
ALEX HOFMANN – 21st – 1’49.063
“I am feeling better on the bike with each lap and getting more comfortable on the 500 and I am making progress. We are fighting for grip on the rear in these hot conditions and I have been sliding a lot in this session and going sideways. So we have to make some changes for the set-up for tomorrow to improve this.”
Peter Clifford – Team Manager
“Just another step forward for John and its incredible to see how steady and sure his progress is. We have to thank Dunlop for the work they are putting in, which is helping with John’s progress.
“It’s only Alex’s second day riding with the Team and it was another professional and intelligent session as he gets use to the motorcycle.”
More, from Aprilia:
Laconi and RS Cube make third provisional row with ninth time in qualifying practice.
With 9th quickest time in the qualifying sessions today, Laconi has placed the RS Cube on the third provisional row for the start, just 6 tenths from the (again provisional) pole scored by Loris Capirossi. Régis’s time, 1’46.057, was clocked during the final sorties in this afternoon’s session after the rider mounted qualifying tyres. The minimal gap from today’s leader shows that yet another step forward has been made in developing the Cube, and that the tests at Mugello straight after the Italian GP made a yet another considerable improvement. The qualifying tyres gave some good results, and tomorrow’s work will concentrate on choosing the race tyres and testing them over a distance.
# 55 Regis Laconi – (MS APRILIA RACING) – 9th – 1’46.057
“We worked hard this morning with the bike in qualifying configuration. I tried a front tyre that gave a great sensation and let me break harder and take the corners faster. So I’m feeling quite relaxed and happy with the Cube in “qualifying mode”: now we’ve got to work on the best race configuration. The distance from today’s best time is really minimal: just 6 tenths. I think that says a lot about the bike’s potential. And that’s not all: in terms of speed, we made third fastest today, and we’ve only got two Honda four-strokes in front of us. We’ve sure go the power. Tomorrow, we’ll sort out the fine details to make sure we have a good race. The track’s full of potholes, which are annoying but I’ve got the secret for solving the problem: I’ll just go faster!”.
Second quickest time, first provisional row for Marco “Macio” Melandri in sweltering Catalunya
Blistering heat in the 250 practice sessions too. Tough work for Marco Melandri, but certainly not easy for the others either. Once the Ravenna-born rider was satisfied with the set-up of his Aprilia RSW 250, he turned his full attention to the choice of tyres for a race which is going to be truly gruelling due to the extreme weather conditions, with over 30 degrees in the shade and almost 44 on the tarmac.
A number of different tyre solutions were tried out and, in the end, the best choice turned out to be a slightly softer mix than had been used at the start of the session.
# 3 Marco Melandri – (MS APRILIA RACING) – 2nd – 1’48.490
“Taking into account the scorching heat, we started the session using really hard tyres, but then towards the end – just 10 minutes before time was up – we tried out some softer ones we’d used in other races. Things got better and I went off to see if I could get provisional pole. It’s a pity De Puniet managed to go faster – I very nearly made it. The slightly softer tyres seem much less easy to handle when you need to control the bike in a skid, while harder ones don’t have this problem. Now we’ll need to see if the choice we’ve made can last out an entire race. Tomorrow we’ll be doing all the various tests. If the heat keeps up like this on Sunday, it’s the tyres that are going to make the difference. Otherwise, I’m very pleased with the set-up of the bike and I’m fully confident things’ll go well in the race the day after tomorrow.”
MotoGP Team Press Releases From Catalunya
© 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
From Telefonica MoviStar Suzuki: