Haga Seventh in First Qualifying

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    Round: 2 – Australia
    Circuit: Phillip Island
    Date: 3 March 2006
    Temp: 36ºC
    Weather: Sunny

    Noriyuki Haga was the fastest of the Yamaha men in today’s opening qualifying session for round two of the Superbike World Championship, held at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia.


    Haga, who yesterday celebrated his 31st birthday, ended the day seventh fastest, just over a second behind provisional pole sitter Troy Bayliss (Ducati).

    Having chosen to test in Qatar rather than Australia in the winter break, both Haga and his Yamaha Motor Italia team-mate Andrew Pitt struggled to find ideal settings for their YZF-R1s. Haga complained of a lack of rear traction, while Pitt started off using the same settings that took him to a podium finish in Qatar six days ago. The local rider, who this weekend is wearing a new helmet design based on that of 1987 500cc Grand Prix world champion Wayne Gardner, also had the added disadvantage of carrying a ‘flu virus. Despite this he still managed to make the top 16 in a time less than one and a half seconds from pole.

    Sandwiching Pitt on the provisional grid are Yamaha Motor France duo Sebastien Gimbert and Norick Abe. Having tested at the circuit in January, the squad came to Phillip Island with a good base setting for their machines – although they were unable to match their testing times in the scorching weather. Yamaha Motor France’s third rider, Japanese newcomer Shinichi Nakatomi was able to set a personal best time around the circuit to end the day 24th, despite an off-track excursion. All three suffered chatter problems but are confident of finding an improvement for tomorrow morning’s final qualifying session.

    Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia)
    “We need to try and find more rear traction tomorrow. We tried many things today but couldn’t quite find the correct setting. I think that it will be better tomorrow. We have a good idea of what we must do and the team will change many settings overnight. It is not so bad though. We did not test here, so we are starting from zero with the settings. Considering this we are quite close to the fastest times.”

    Sebastien Gimbert (Yamaha Motor France)
    “When we came here at the start of the year I was able to do 1:34.6 lap times, so although we are close I am still two tenths of a seconds slower than at the test. I had some problems with chatter today but we have some ideas on how to improve this. The times are very close but I am confident we can make some improvements and make the superpole.”

    Andrew Pitt (Yamaha Motor Italia)
    “We are still trying to find a good balance around here. We tried the Qatar settings but they are just not working around here. I think we have found a good direction though. This is a more demanding circuit and we need to get more weight over the front to make it more stable. We’ll make a few changes overnight and see how things go in the morning.”

    Norick Abe (Yamaha Motor France)
    “I came here with different settings on my two bikes: one set-up as we used it in Qatar and the other with the settings we finished our test around here. I preferred using the settings from the test, although we weren’t able to match our testing times. In the afternoon we changed the settings and I think we went too soft as we had a chatter problem and traction was not as good. We went back to a harder setting at the end and were able to do a 1:35 lap, which was better but not good enough. We have found a good direction though, and I think tomorrow will be much better.”

    Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha Motor France)
    “After Qatar last weekend it has been good to come to a track I know from our test. I was not fully fit when we were here in January so already we are going faster and finding things we have to change. I also had some problem with chatter and if we can fix this I can go faster tomorrow.”

    Massimo Meregalli (Team Coordinator – Yamaha Motor Italia) “Nori needs more rear traction but he has had a long discussion with his crew chief and suspension technician and they have a good plan tomorrow. Andrew has found it difficult here today but I am sure that he can turn it around and put in a good qualifying display in front of his home fans.”

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