Proton Takes First Provisional Pole in Germany

Elliot Strong
by Elliot Strong
Round 9: German GP, Sachsenring First Qualifying: Friday, July 19, 2002 Jeremy McWilliams: First, 1:26.067Nobuatsu Aoki: 17th, 1:27.743

Nobody could beat Proton Team KR rider Jeremy McWilliams at the Sachsenring today. At the tortuous track where the three-cylinder lightweight 500cc two-stroke KR3 machine achieved its first good results, the Ulster rider set the pace, challenging in the later stages of the first timed session, then setting a blistering pole time at the end.

Team-mate Nobuatsu Aoki had the opposite experience, battling to find grip and ending up down the order, looking for solutions to improve his prospects in tomorrow’s second and final hour of qualifying.

This is not the first time McWilliams has put the lightweight Proton KR3 among the heavyweight opposition, but it is the first time he has been fastest. The result reflects not only that he likes the track – having twice finished on the rostrum here in the past, but also that the constant corners and changes of direction bring out the best in the sweet-handling machine.

McWilliams used the latest chassis for his fast run, after trying both the standard version and the new "wideline" frame, which is itself a development stage for the 990cc V5 four-stroke engine the team is developing for next season.

Ironically, McWilliams set the slowest speed through the trap at the end of the straight – 259.2km/h (162mph) compared with Biaggi's Yamaha at 278.2 kph (174 mph): proof of how the KR3 makes its time through the corners.

The Sachsenring is the third of the Big Four tracks that will most favour the Proton KR3 lightweight two-stroke, which sacrifices ultimate horsepower and top speed for better steering and roadholding.

Jeremy McWilliams

"This is one of the tracks that suit the bike. Our weight advantage is important here, and Bridgestone gave me a really good soft rear tire at the end… I had my race tire from Donington on the front. It was one of those laps. I made no mistakes, and everything went perfectly. I tried the standard and the new chassis today, and my best times came on the new chassis, so obviously that's the one I'll stick with from now on. It's a little more physically difficult to ride, but a lot more stable. I'm slowest through the speed trap, but I'm making up time through the first two twisty sections. I used to prefer the old Sachsenring, but after today I'm beginning to like the new one!"

Nobuatsu Aoki

"Not so good today. I am having a couple of problems. One is lack of feeling from the front tire when I am leaned far over, and the other is a similar lack of feeling from the rear when I open the gas. These are big problems at this track, where it is all corners. I think we can find a solution. It seems that the position of the swing-arm pivot is too high. We've been using this position for a few races, but at this track it seems too much. We'll do some fine tuning to the chassis tonight, and I hope it will work well tomorrow."

Chuck Aksland – Team Manager

"The top of the page is nice. Jeremy was knocking on the door at Donington, and now he's done it. It was a great effort. He's been trying both chassis, and he'll stick with the development chassis for tomorrow. They have some work to do on Nobu’s side of the pit. He's struggling for grip, but we have a few ideas on how to improve that."


1. J. McWillams (Proton) + 1:26.067,2. O. Jacque (Yamaha) + 0.111,3. V. Rossi (Honda) + 0.134,4. A. Barros (Honda) + 0.413,5. M. Biaggi (Yamaha) + 0.457,6. D. Kato (Honda) + 0.501,7. T. Ukawa (Honda) + 0.547,8. S. Nakano (Yamaha) + 0.611,9. T. Harada (Honda) + 0.619,10. C. Checa (Yamaha) + 0.644,
Get in your Inbox
Elliot Strong
Elliot Strong

More by Elliot Strong

Join the conversation