Jerez Final Qualifying

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
A dominant quartet of Honda riders monopolised the front row during Jerez final qualifying, with one four-stroke and three two-stroke riders earning the right to lead off Sunday’s 25-lap race. Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RCV211V) rose to the challenge of his NSR500-mounted rivals to take his third successive pole position start in three attempts. His pace was such that he lapped over half a second faster than his own 2001 pole position time, although he could not quite match the time he set in the final untimed qualifying session in the morning.

Rossi’s closest challenger proved to be Brazilian Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) heading up Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500) and first time MotoGP front row qualifier Daijiro Katoh (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR500). The new era of four-stroke competition in the premier GP class continues to provide close qualifying results, with the top 17 riders all within two seconds of Rossi’s time...

Rossi, who has never finished any Jerez race in a position lower than fourth, is confident that he has the necessary set up and speed to win his second race in his championship defence. “I love this track, and with this weather it’s a beautiful place, better than when we came for the test in November! We worked very fast on the bike, especially in the rear of the machine. We made good improvement compared to yesterday, we tried a lot of tyres and lot of different settings, and at the end of the day the bike worked very well and made a very good lap. If we did not have the wind it would have been possible to make an even better one, but this was still a fantastic lap.”

Barros was in determined form in qualifying, leapfrogging his team-mateCapirossi in determined fashion as he strove to put his two-stroke ahead of Rossi’s RCV. His hopes for the race rest on whether he can make the best use of the available tyre choices. “I tried as hard as I could in qualifying, but in the race I’m not sure if we will be able to stay with the four stroke because of tyres. So I’m not sure if we can begin to answer the question of whether it is possible to win yet. For me this is a new machine and it took us so long to understand and find a good way. This is the third race but finally I can ride like I can ride. The machine is still not 100% of its potential so I think we can improve. The changes to the front fork helped me a lot.”

Loris Capirossi was content to start his Jerez race from the front row butwas concerned that the four-stroke Hondas may be too strong over a fullrace distance. “I am happy with the work my team did after the firstpractice session when I was nearly last, and pleased with the set up of mybike today. Today I have concentrated my efforts on preparing for the racerather than doing an ultra-quick lap time, so my position on the grid iseven more pleasing. But to beat the four-stroke, at this track, will bedifficult.”

Front row MotoGP rookie Daijiro Kato expressed his happiness to start fromthe leading positions this time round. The 2001 250 champion statedafterwards, “This is my first time on the front row, my first time doing afront row media interview in this class. I think that it will be a closerace. The four-strokes have a little advantage over us be I will do my bestto try and win.”

The first non-Honda rider was Carlos Checa (Yamaha) who edged out thesecond Honda four-stroke ridden by Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RCV211V).Ukawa was philosophical about missing out on a front row start. “I’m nothappy but I’m not unhappy,” he said. ”Sixth place is not that bad. Weworked really hard to get a good combination for the tyres and suspensionand I’m confident for tomorrow.”

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