Portuguese GP Final Qualifying

Elliot Strong
by Elliot Strong
From Honda Racing Information

Final Qualifying Portuguese Grand Prix, Estoril, Portugal

MotoGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2002
PORTUGUESE GRAND PRIX, ESTORIL
Final Qualifying, Saturday September 7 2002

World Championship leader Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V)qualified on the front row of the grid in third place as changeable coastalweather reduced today's final hour of qualifying at Estoril in Portugal tojust 20 minutes of dry track time. Daijiro Kato (Fortuna Honda GresiniRC211V) qualified second in only his second ride on the potent V5four-stroke. While Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) completes a frontrow headed by Carlos Checa (Yamaha).

Tricky conditions caused by a rain shower moments before final qualifyingbegan meant that some riders couldn't better their Friday times. ButRossi's team dialled in chassis changes towards the end of the session asthe damp track dried to hoist the Italian onto the front row.

"The conditions were better towards the end," said Rossi. "The last 15minutes were okay when it was dry and there was less wind than yesterday.We tried some new settings to cure some problems I had under braking andthat's now fixed. I was much happier out there after that. Tyres are goingto be an issue tomorrow and we may have to make some adjustments intomorrow morning's warm-up session. The weather is likely to be the biggestfactor now."

Daijiro Kato (Fortuna Honda Gresini RC211V) continues to make the most ofhis switch to four-stroke power and his tidy riding style paid dividends indifficult circumstances. "The track was very slippery," said Kato. "I washaving some problems finding rear grip, but I got into a rhythm when Icould run a few laps on my own. Tomorrow's going to be very tricky in termsof tyre choice and we'll just have to wait and see what the weather brings.I ride much better without strong winds and I think it will be a great racetomorrow."

Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500) was one of the few riders not toimprove on yesterday's time. "We only had 20 minutes dry track time," saidthe Brazilian. "And this affected the results. When the track was dry wewent out with used tyres to test for wear and we also had carburationchanges to make because we fitted a new engine in the morning. Wheneverything was sorted out I could ride more aggressively than yesterday,but I was probably riding more cleanly yesterday. I don't know if I couldhave got pole position or not, but I am sure I could have gone under 1m40s."

Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons NSR500) ended the day on the second row inseventh spot. "Even though we could only get out for 20 minutes, weimproved the handling and found a tyre that worked well," he said. "On myfirst flying lap I was held up by Kato and on my second I made a mistake.The race will be difficult and I hope that it either rains or it's reallyhot, because in these unsettled conditions everything becomes complicated.Either way, the second row is okay. The track had less grip today and maybethat's why I'm the only two-stroke rider who improved his time today."

Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V) starts from eighth on the secondrow. "With the session shortened because of the weather we got caught out,"said the Japanese. "We should have stuck with the settings we had thismorning and tried different tyres this afternoon. Instead we seemed to gobackwards. It's a shame because yesterday things were going pretty well.Anyway we still have the warm-up to improve things and a second row startis better than the third row."

Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Kanemoto Racing Honda NSR500) rode to his secondbest qualifying position of the year in tenth place despite not feeling hisbest. "I felt bad out there," said the Dutchman. "I was sweating even morethan yesterday and it was difficult to concentrate. On the positive sidethe bike set-up and tyres are good. I didn't go out in the early laps andtried to conserve energy for the race. We'll all have to stay cool in thefirst turn in the race. I got hit in turns one and two at Brno and I don'twant it to happen again. If I get a good start I feel sure I can run well.I just hope I feel a bit better tomorrow."

Tetsuya Harada (Pramac Honda NSR500) lines up on the fifth row in 18thplace. "Conditions were difficult," he said. "But they were the same foreveryone. Those who could find a workable set-up quickly for the 20 minutesof dry track time have an advantage and the rest of us will have to makethe most of warm-up tomorrow. Either way, the weather and the race willalways provide a few surprises."

Robby Rolfo (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR250) kept himself on the front row ofthe grid in fourth place for tomorrow's 250 race despite crashing duringthe final ten minutes of the session. He ran back to pit lane where hisspare bike was ready for him, but he couldn't better his Friday time, whichproved enough anyway. Sebastian Porto (Yamaha) rode to his first ever poleposition, Marco Melandri (Aprilia) and Fonsi Nieto (Aprilia) were secondand third qualifiers.

"Conditions were a major factor this afternoon," said Rolfo. "I tried adifferent front tyre and I was going well. It's a real pity about thecrash, but I'm okay. My race bike will be fine for tomorrow and we'll lookat the carburation in the warm-up to get a bit more feel between throttleand engine. A lot will depend on weather conditions because it could soeasily be different from warm-up to the race. We'll see."

Emilio Alzamora (Fortuna Honda Gresini NSR250) qualified on the second rowof the grid in seventh place as he bounces back after surgery on bothwrists. "My muscles are still a bit weak," he said. "But I should be okayfor the race and a second row start will be fine as long as I make the mostof it. Rain is the one thing I don't want tomorrow - wind I can handle.I've just got to make sure I get my season back on track here."

Leon Haslam (By Queroseno Racing Honda RS250R/W) put in his best qualifyingperformance of the season so far with 14th place. "This is better," saidthe young Briton. "But we've still got a long way to go. We should be ableto run a good pace in the race, but the weather could make it a bit of alottery. Either way we'll just keep putting in maximum effort."

Haruchika Aoki (Arie Molenaar Racing Honda RS250R/W) lines up on the fourthrow in 15th alongside Haslam. "Yesterday was okay, today not so good," saidAoki. "I had a bit of chatter from the front end that I didn't haveyesterday and we don't know why yet. The track is dirtier than yesterdayand the bumps are still a problem. We'll check the computer data and workthrough a solution tomorrow."

In the 125s Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Jr Team Honda RS125R)grabbed the fourth pole position of his career by shaving more than half asecond off his Friday time as rain hit the final minutes of the session.Manuel Poggiali (Gilera) and Youichi Ui (Derbi) did not better their Fridaytimes and fill second and third places, respectively. Steve Jenkner(Aprilia) completes the front row.

"Getting pole is important at this track," said Pedrosa. "When you're assmall and light as me it gives you a big advantage at the start. The firstcorners are tight and the risk of crashing high, so the start is crucial.We've still got a few suspension changes to try, but the bike steers welland I know how it will respond in the race. The long straight will makeslipstreaming very important in determining the final result."

Mika Kallio (Red Devil Honda RS125R) continues to impress and heads thesecond row of the grid in his rookie season.

HONDA TEAM QUOTES:

Daijiro Kato, Fortuna Honda Greesini, 2nd: "In respect to yesterday my bikehas really improved: this means that we have worked in the rightdirection. Without the strong wind I can ride much better. It's a pityabout the short time we had at our disposal, I should have done better butanyway I'm really satisfied. For tomorrow I think that it will be a greatrace: I'd like to stay in the battle with the first group of riders."

Fausto Gresini: "Somebody asked me if it's possible to get used to stay atthe front, but I answered that it's impossible to do: it's too beautiful tothink that. Kato is a hero, a really good racer and he confirmed he can gofaster in any situation, also when he is stressed with little time to workwith. It's difficult to make a prediction about tomorrow, I can say for theteam and the rider it will be a really new experience. Our objective is tofight with the best riders, especially with Rossi, who is the man to beat.To put the Honda on the front row is greatly satisfying and it means thatwe have done our work well."

Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda Team, 3rd: "The weather conditions were badand we lost a lot of time this morning and for at least half the afternoonsession. The last 15 minutes were good with not as much wind as the firstqualifying session. Although I'm in the same position as yesterday I haveimproved my time. We seem to have found better settings now. I now have funwith the bike, which I didn't at Brno. Some of the problems have beenfixed, especially in the braking area. We will make a few more adjustmentsin tomorrow's warm up and I hope it is possible to make a good race if theweather is OK."

Alex Barros, West Honda Pons, 4th: "The practice session was reduced toonly 20 minutes and obviously this affected the results. When the track haddried we went out with used tyres to test the wear for the race and afterthat we had to improve the fuel setting because we ran with a new enginethis morning. When everything was finally sorted out I could ride even moreaggressively than yesterday and could attack the bike but that probablystopped me from improving on my tyres from yesterday when I was riding morecleanly. I do not know if I could have got pole position or not, but I amsure I could have gone under 1:40".

Loris Capirossi, West Honda Pons: 7th: "Even though we could only go outfor 20minutes during the session, we improved the handling in that time andwe found a tyre that worked well. However, in my first flying lap I washeld up by Kato, and in my second I made an error that slowed me up. Therace will be difficult and I hope that it rains or that it is very hotbecause these unsettled conditions make everything much more complicated. Ithink that a place on the second row of the grid is not bad and we can do agood race. The track today has less grip and maybe that is why I am theonly two-stroke rider who improved his time today."

Sito Pons: "After the great performances of Alex and Loris on Friday, wherethey were both on the front row of the grid, we had higher hopes for today,but we can maintain our potential during the race. Today was a complicatedsession due to the unsettled climatic conditions, but I think that bothAlex and Loris are ready to put in good performances tomorrow and are verydetermined to give it their all."

Tohru Ukawa, Repsol Honda Team, 8th: "With a shortened session due to theweather we really got caught out with timings. We should have stuck withthe settings we had this morning and tried different tyres in thisafternoon. Instead we seemed to go backwards. It's a shame, as yesterday itwas all going pretty well. Anyway, we still have the warm up tomorrow toimprove things and a second row start is better than third!"

Jurgen van den Goorbergh, Kanemoto Honda, 10th: "I felt bad out there,sweating even more than yesterday. My heartbeat is almost twice as high asyesterday, it was difficult to concentrate. But on the positive side thebike et up and the tyres we have are a good combination didn't go out inthe early laps, I wasn't going to learn much and I have to conserve energyfor the race. In e race I hope we all stay pretty cool at the first turn. Igot hit in both turn one and two at Brno and I don't want it to happenhere. If I make the start I'm sure I can run with the group early on,everything is working well. I just hope I feel a bit better tomorrow."

Team owner - manager Erv Kanemoto: "That was a difficult session butbasically for the race we have a good set up. Practice has been prettysmooth, we hope the race goes as well as practice. I'm pretty sure we willbe consistent in the race. Jurgen is riding really well, if he gets a goodstart he will be in there, the times are really close. It should be a goodrace tomorrow. Jurgen has a good chance of taking a good result here. "

250cc:

Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda Gresini, 4th: "It's a pity that I crashedbecause I lost a big part of the session. No damage, luckily. The problemwas the front tucked under. I started immediately again, with my secondbike. But that was not set up like my number one bike. Then we did not havethe time we needed. Tomorrow I will use well tested settings and I'm sure Ican be a contender."

Emilio Alzamora, Fortuna Honda Gresini, 7th: "I did the same time again asyesterday, but on a track in worse condition, therefor I am satisfied withmy qualification. Tomorrow I have only to concentrate on getting a goodstart and ride an attacking race. I'm really optimistic."

Fausto Gresini: "Today we made a lot of experiements and tried new thingsthat were not convincing. Roberto's crash only complicated the situation,tomorrow we will return to the settings of yesterday, that were reallygood. We are really optimistic for this race, even if it will be a bigfight."

Haruchika Aoki, DeGraff RS250R-W Honda, 15th: "� had a lot of front wheelchatter, diffeeeerent to norml for his bike. We have checked mmany thingsso far but don't know exactly what it is. We have changed things and willhave to wait for the morning warm up to see if we have been successful. Theengine was noyt at it's best early in the session but we hhavve it unningreally well now. Te chatter is the problem, everything else is OK."

125cc:

Daniel Pedrosa, Telefonica, MoviStar Honda, pole position: "Getting pole isimportant in this circuit, because when you are small and light it adds toyour advantage from the start - even more so with the very small timedifferences that separate us. The first corners are very tight, and therisk of crashing will be high, so it will be very important to make a goodstart. With respect to our suspension problems, I can't say they havedisappeared, but at least I'm able to steer the bike where I want it, and Iwill go into the race knowing exactly how it will respond. Normally therace will be in groups, with a lot of strategy. The long straight will makeslipstreaming very important in determining the final result."

Mika Kallio, Red Devil Honda, 5th: "I'm happy, everything is very good, theengine is particularly strong, very fast. The suspension and tyres areworking well and I'm looking forward to the race. I'm running good linesaround the track and it's good to know other riders were using me to get atime, very encouraging. You could say I'm confident of having a good racetomorrow."

Mirko Giansanti, Scott racing Honda, 7th: "I'm very happy, this is thefirst time I have been as high as seventh on the grid this year. The bikeis just great, both engine and chassis settings. I think I will have a verygood race tomorrow. I have to thank my team for this, they had a hard jobbut they did it well."

Joan Olive, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 12th: "I am not happy. I wasted thesession looking for slipstreams that never came. It was my own fault, andwhen I tried to solve it, it started to rain. The only positive aspect isthat I haven't lost my third-row grid position. The setting of the bike iscorrect, because the morning session was dry and we were able to find goodsettings. Tomorrow I will have to be alert at the start, and try to go withthe leading group."

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