Brno GP Final Qualifying

Elliot Strong
by Elliot Strong
From Honda Racing Press Information:

Final Qualifying Czech Grand Prix, Brno, Czech Republic

MotoGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2002
CZECH GRAND PRIX, BRNO
Final Qualifying- Saturday August 24, 2002

TWO HONDAS ON BRNO FRONT ROW

The top three positions in the premier MotoGP class were once more filledby four stroke machines; two out of the three being the impressive 990ccHonda RC211V V5. History was made when the magic two minute barrier wasbreached at Brno by not one but all top three riders.

A stunning four-stroke MotoGP debut from 2002 season rookie Daijiro Kato(Fortuna Honda Gresini RC211V) looked to have been good enough to earn therecent Suzuka 8-Hour winner the right to start from pole position, until alast lap charge from Max Biaggi (Yamaha) deposed him to second. Anonetheless brilliant performance from Kato was underlined by his abilityto go faster in each section of qualifying, finishing the final practiceday with an excellent 1:59.740, well inside the previous qualifying bestand only 0.094 from the eventual pole time.

Kato, who has not had the chance to properly test his new machine, due toDorna regulations banning any teams from mid season try-outs, waspleasantly surprised by many aspects of his introduction to prototypefour-stroke racing.

"I am very pleased to have got second qualifying placeduring my first race on the RCV," he said. "It has meant getting used todifferent tyre and suspension set-ups and so on but I have found it easierthan I imagined it would be. We have been fast even from the first day, andwe have made improvements each time we went out. Now I am happy with therace set-up."

Clear World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V),missed out on a chance to go for pole in the last few seconds, unable toget out of pitlane in enough time to start a final lap at the long Brnocircuit. He was nonetheless only the third rider to lap under thetwo-minute mark, setting a best of 1:59.997.

"We lost some time yesterday looking for ideal settings and we ended upwith not enough time to get out of pitlane and set a final fast lap today,"confirmed a somewhat rueful Rossi. "We had only two minutes left but thatwas not enough to let me out and across the line to start another lap. Itwould have been nice to get pole but third position, on the front row ofthe grid is not so bad. At the end I am quite happy really."

Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500) made his re-entry to the MotoGPclass after suffering a wrist injury a fruitful one, setting fifth fastesttime on his two-stroke machine. Still not fully fit, the Italian rider hadevery season to be delighted with his pre-race performance. " I am quitehappy with this second day of practice and I have considerably improved mytimes," said Capirossi. "We still have not made a decision on tyreselection for the race itself, which will be very tough. Regarding my rightwrist, aside from the pain, I still need to recover a little bit offlexibility but this will be a question of time."

Eighth place means a second row start for Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda TeamRC211V) and put all three four-stroke Hondas in the top two echelons afterqualifying. The Japanese rider made steady progress with set-up during theweekend, as he explained. "The set-up has been getting better and betterand the times show that. We've had some front-end chatter problems, but Ithink we have cured most of them. I am not too concerned about startingfrom the second row, because I've started from this position five timesalready this year. As long as I make a good start it isn't really a bigproblem."

A disappointing day for Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) still saw himqualify just inside the top ten, somewhat de-tuned after practice crash. "Iam disappointed because I expected to be up at the front of the field,"said the Brazilian. "It's clear that the fall I suffered during the morningfree practice conditioned all we did this afternoon. I really don't know ifit was something on the bike not functioning correctly or if it was simplydown to my riding."

Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Kanemoto Racing Honda NSR500) was just over onesecond from the new pole time, finishing his pre-race work in 13th place,just missing out on a third row start - which may prove important accordingto the rider himself. "I would rather be one row ahead because you don'tknow what can happen in the first chicane," said van den Goorbergh. "Ourtime is not so bad, good enough for the front row I think last year. Butthis is a very competitive season. I did not quite reach my target lap timeof two-minutes flat, but I am still satisfied because it was the maximum Icould do."

Tetsuya Harada (Pramac Honda NSR500) had a tough qualifying, finishing anunaccustomedly lowly 17th overall. "We tried to improve my feeling from thebike mid-corner by adjusting the set-up, but without achieving the resultswe hoped for," explained Harada. "At the end I also used a new Dunlop tyrewhich we have never tested before, so I did not want to push too hard, justto avoid making a mistake."

HONDA TEAM QUOTES:

Daijiro Kato, Fortuna Honda Gresini, 2nd: "From yesterday the situation hasfurther improved: the RC211V is a fantastic machine and my feeling on thebike is better each time I go out onto the track, after only 24 hours Ialready understand a lot more about the machine. I'm not too sorry to losepole, Biaggi is always really fast here at Brno and the most importantthing for me is the race and not a record lap. Tomorrow the race will be adifficult fight, however, I'll sleep well. I don't have a prediction forthe race but sure I'll fight for a top position."

Fausto Gresini: "Im so happy to live at such an extraordinary moment: Ididn't think that it was possible to be so competitive in such a shorttime. Kato rode very well, and he is fast without effort, he's a greatchampion. I don't care about the lost pole poition: maybe we'll have lesspressure on us. Now we need to be calm. For the race I'm optimisstic, Ithink that Daijiro will be with the lead group, I think the only problemwill be tyre choice. We will decide that in the warm up tomorrow. However,a debut like this could seem to be a dream but it's a reality! The RC211Vis without doubt a fantastic bike."

Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda Team: 3rd: "At the end I am quite happyreally. I am close to Kato and Biaggi which is OK. Third position and onthe first row will do fine. We lost some time yesterday searching for thebest settings. Today we have been working hard to find the best raceset-up, which I am happy with. In the end we ran out of time to make thatlast big push for the pole position. I could see the circuit clock said 3minutes but it has no seconds. There were really just over 2 minutes leftso I had no time."

Loris Capirossi, West Honda Pons: 5th: "I am quite happy with myperformance during this second day of practice as I have considerableimproved my times. I think that we have found a good setting for the bike,although I must work hard to get the best out of my bike. We still have notmade a decision on tyre selection for the race itself, which will be verytough. Regarding my right wrist, apart from the pain, I still need torecover a little more flexibility but this will be a question of time."

Tohru Ukawa, Repsol Honda Team: 8th: "The bike set-up has been gettingbetter and better all weekend and the times show that. We've had some frontend chatter problems but I think we have cured most of it with the set-up.I'm really not too concerned about starting from the second row. I'vestarted from this position five times already this season and as long as Imake a good start it really isn't a big problem."

Alex Barros, West Honda Pons: 10th: "I am disappointed because I expectedto be up at the front of the field. It's clear that the fall I sufferedduring the morning's free practice conditioned all our work in theafternoon. I really do not know if there was something in the bike that wasnot functioning correctly or if it was simply down to my riding. Anyway wemust look over everything to put our minds at rest and I hope to be in topform for the race."

Sito Pons: "After two month's absence through injury, Loris hasdemonstrated exactly the kind of rider he is, and it is clear that he hasfollowed an intensive rehabilitation programme over the summer. For us itis very important that he is back on the track and to see him up amongstthe leaders again is a tremendous source of satisfaction. Meanwhile, Alex'sfall during this morning's practice caused him to have some doubts in thebike's settings and lose some confidence, but he has the ability to getover it immediately and tomorrow he will be ready to put in another greatperformance."

Jurgen van den Goorbergh, Kanemoto Honda, 13th: "I'm not unhappy with myposition. My time today would have seen me on the front row last year! Wechanged a few things on the rolling chassis last night, and again improvedfrom he morning free practice session and they helped a lot, particularlywith tyre performance. I have a little front end chatter right now, if wefix it I'm pretty sure I will run in thee 2m 02s bracket in the race, atworst low 2m 03s. Of course I'm still not happy with that time, but step bystep we are getting there."

Team owner - manager Erv Kanemoto: "That was better, the changes we madecertainly worked. The tyres are definitely better with the set-up we rantoday. We have a couple of more slight changes to make to the set-up beforethe warm-up, mainly to get rid of the front-end chatter. If we get it rightit will be an interesting day tomorrow. It's hard to believe that 16 guyswent faster today than last year's lap record, two and four-strokemachines. We are definitely looking forward to the race. If we hold themomentum we've built up over the last two days, and the weather holds,we'll run well."

Tetsuya Harada, Team Pramac Honda: 17th: "Trying to improve the feeling ofmy bike in the corners we have modified the set up of the setting withoutachieving the results we hoped. We have been forced to use yesterday'sregulations but we lost too much time. At the end I also used a new Dunloptyre never tested before so I prefer not to push hard for avoiding anymistakes."

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