|Team Movistar Honda riders Sete Gibernau and Marco Melandri put their Honda RC211Vs on pole and second place on the grid for tomorrow’s inaugural MotoGP race here in Shanghai. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) will start from third, completing the front row, after qualifying today.
Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda MotoGP)
Marco MELANDRI (Team Movistar Honda MotoGP)
Team Movistar Honda riders SeteGibernau and Marco Melandri puttheir Honda RC211Vs on pole andsecond place on the grid for tomorrow’sinaugural MotoGP race here in Shanghai.Loris Capirossi (Ducati) will startfrom third, completing the frontrow, after qualifying today.
With weather conditions unpredictable and spots of rain falling in the first half of the hour-long session, it was important for riders to make the most of what could have been valuable dry early track time. As it turned out, the rain held off in the final half-hour.
Carlos Checa (Ducati) had been fastest in the three free practice sessions and another surprise showing came from Suzuki rider John Hopkins, an eventual fourth fastest. But the biggest upset of the day was Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda RC211V) who could manage no better than 14th fastest – on row five.
With rain forecast for tomorrow’s race, and the entry to the tight turn one promising to be tricky, grid position here is vital to success and reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) starts from the second row of the grid from sixth.
Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) rode a strong session to capture fifth fastest time and a second row start after running as high as third fastest at the mid-point of the hour. But the American is just over one second shy of Gibernau’s pole time of 1m 59.710 seconds.
Sete and Marco are the only riders to go under the 2 minute barrier here so far, Melandri’s time being a mere 0.163 seconds slower than his team-mate’s.
Both riders clocked a staggering 338km/h (210mph) on the 1202m main straight at this 5.281km long circuit.
Capirossi held pole with two minutes to go after stealing top spot off Gibernau, and it looked as if the Italian rider could hang onto it until the most consistent qualifiers of the season so far;
Gibernau and Melandri made the most of their Honda RC211V’s poise and power.
As track temperature rose slightly under a shining sun during the final 15 minutes the Team Movistar men got the best from their set-up and Michelin qualifying tyres to put the rest of the grid in the shade with a crushing display of superiority.
“This is very encouraging,” said Sete. “The team is working well here, and we’ve been competitive at every track so far this season. We took a big step forward here on a tricky track and the team has been brilliant. We need more points tomorrow – but I think we’re working well enough to deserve them.”
His team-mate Marco said, “I’ve enjoyed riding here from the beginning – it’s very different. The bike settings are good although the weather has been tricky. It’s good to be on the front row as second fastest and I’ll be going for a win – although I haven’t looked too closely yet at how the other riders’ race rhythms are for Sunday.”
Nicky in fifth said, “This definitely hasn’t been easy. The weather has made things difficult. In qualifying it was spitting with rain – and then the sun came out. The track surface is changing so much and there are so many tyre options that I’m not fully sorted yet. The biggest problem is the front-end of the bike.”
Alex Barros (Camel Honda RC211V) only qualified 11th after his victory two weeks in Portugal and said, “The weather has been really changeable all weekend and it’s not easy to work. If it’s dry tomorrow I should be in the low 2m 01 seconds area, or even lower. But choosing a race tyre won’t be easy.”
Alex’s team-mate Troy Bayliss (Camel Honda RC211V) lines up next to him in 12th. “We could have gone a little better than we did,” he said. “But the conditions were so variable weekend. The race could be wet or dry, you just can’t say. But I’ll be hoping to put together the best race possible whatever the conditions.”
Max knows he’s in trouble here and said, “How can I explain 14th on the grid and 1.7 seconds off pole? Cornering is more important at this track than anywhere else and my trouble is in the turns – just like at Jerez. I have to close the throttle tem metres early into the turns and ten metres too late on the exits. I’m losing a tenth of a second in each corner.”
Jurgen Van Den Goorbergh, standing in for the injured Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V), qualified 19th and said, “I’ve been trying to get the best from this amazing motorcycle but the weather has not helped. The aim was to get as many laps in as possible, although I could have used my Michelin qualifying tyres better.”
In the 250cc class Casey Stoner (Aprilia) secured his first pole in the division with a late lap of 2m 06.196 seconds to deny Dani Pedrosa (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) a second pole of the season. Andrea Dovizioso (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) qualified third with Jorge Lorenzo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) fourth.
It looked highly likely that the front row would be an all-Honda affair until Stoner’s final efforts yielded him the pole,
but he will have his work cut out tomorrow trying to keep his Aprilia ahead of massed Honda riders who will be aiming to deprive the Australian of his second victory of the season.
Dani was the only rider to broach the 2m 7 second barrier until the final 15 minutes of the session and at one stage he was a 0.6 seconds faster than Stoner. But Pedrosa is only 0.018 seconds slower than his Aussie rival and knows he is in for a fight on Sunday.
“We’ll have to see what the weather brings,” said Dani. “I hope it’s dry but whatever happens, the set-up will change a little bit and we might have to even go for a compromise if the weather is too hard to predict.”
“I think the race will split into a lead group tomorrow, judging from the times,” said Dovizioso. “We all hope for good weather, but what happens will happen. My set-up is good here – at a track we’ve never seem before, so we’ll see how the race unfolds.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) qualified fifth on row two, with Hector Barbera (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) next to him in sixth. Yuki Takahashi (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) qualified tenth fastest.
Mika Kallio (KTM) proved the man to beat in 125cc qualifying. The Finn got the measure of the track today after being only ninth fastest after yesterday’s timed session. Marco Simoncelli (Aprilia) qualified second, Gabor Talmacsi (KTM) third and Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) fourth.
The track was still damp as 125cc qualifying began and water had pooled in the depressions in the kerb – conditions were not easy. But the top 13 riders only took ten minutes to go faster than Friday. Fabrizio Lai (Kopron Racing World Honda RS125RW) and Luthi looked strong until Talmacsi squeezed them down the grid.
With ten minutes to go the front row was covered by just under half a second until Kallio stormed to his 2m 13.535 second pole lap.
The front row is covered by 0.8 seconds, suggesting that the race might feature a breakaway by one of the faster riders. Luthi could be the man, as his race set-up is strong.
“That’s three front rows in three races,” said Luthi. “The long turn one is a problem because you’re on the edge of the tyre for so long so you need the set-up to
be absolutely perfect there. We’ve got it right now and the engine is really strong so I’m optimistic.”
Lai, who will start the race
from sixth place on row two said, “We
went out with wet settings from
yesterday and then adapted to
suit the conditions. We’ll
need to check again in warm-up
tomorrow because it looks like
things might change again.”
Both Tomoyoshi Koyama (Ajo Motorsport
Honda RS125R) and Toshihisa Kuzuhara
(Angaia Racing Honda RS125R) qualified
in the top ten in eight and ninth
places, while Alvaro Bautista
(Seedorf Racing Honda RS125RW)
managed 13th on row four.
Max BIAGGI (Repsol Honda Team)
Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol
Sete Gibernau, Movistar Honda MotoGP: 1st:
"It’s good to see that we’re competitive at yet another track and particularly here, where we arrived without any previous data to work from. I think it’s a difficult circuit but once again we’ve been at the maximum level. In the end we managed to improve the set-up of the bike quite a lot and, without doubt, that is thanks to the hard work being put in by my team, together with Honda and Michelin. We’re doing a great job, which hasn’t been reflected in the race results yet, but I know that everything will be back to normal soon and we will be rewarded for our efforts."
Marco Melandri, Movistar Honda MotoGP: 2nd:
"I’ve enjoyed myself at this circuit ever since we rode it for the first time on Friday morning. It’s a really different type of track but we ! had a good setting straight away and we’ve just worked to improve on that, eventually setting the second fastest time today, which is fantastic. I’m back on the front row and I’m going out to win tomorrow, even though I know it will be difficult because a lot will depend on the weather. It was a good battle with my team-mate Sete at the end of the session."
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 5th:
"It definitely hasn’t been easy here. The weather has made things difficult – even in the qualifying session it was spitting with rain sometimes and then the sun comes out. The track surface has been changing so much. We’ve had a lot of Michelin tyre options and we’re not fully sorted yet. My biggest problem is the front and getting it to hold the line. We’re not in a bad position on the grid although I was hoping for a front row. I didn’t get as much as I wanted from my qualifiers or as I should have. Anyhow, I look forward to race day. It’s my favourite part of the weekend. It’s where the fun’s at."
Alex Barros, Camel Honda: 11th:
"The weather has been really changeable all weekend and even today it began to rain halfway through the session. So I put on the first of my soft tyres and then the second straight after, and I improved half a second, but obviously not enough to beat those who used them at the end. It’s a bit annoying after the weekend we’ve had, because by the end of the session I was riding as quick with the race tyres as with the qualifiers. I’m now on the fourth row when I could have been in fifth or sixth place for sure. However with the weather so unstable as this it’s not easy to work. If it is dry tomorrow I should be able to ride in the low 2’01s or even less, but choosing the race tyre won’t be easy because we have tried a few things but nothing has been able to make the endurance. If it rains meanwhile, it will be much easier because you know what tyres you will use, and that’s that."
Troy Bayliss, Camel Honda, 12th:
"We could have gone a little better than we did, but the conditions were so variable all weekend. I’ve no idea what it will be like tomorrow, perhaps we can decide in the warm-up and try a few things, but we have to wait and see, the race could be wet or dry, you just can’t say. I will be hoping to have a good race though, and will try to get the best result out of this as possible."
Max Biaggi, Repsol Honda Team: 14th:
"Fourteenth on the grid, with more than 1.7 seconds gap from the pole: how to explain my performance today especially after last race’s third place? In this circuit cornering is much more important than everywhere else and it’s exactly in the turns that my bike shows its biggest problems. It’s the same condition I had to face in Jerez. I must close the throttle ten meters before entering the turn and open it ten meters after going out. I’m losing more than one tenth in each corner: if you multiply it by the 14 turns of the track the count is right. It must be evident that the top speed doesn’t count when you have to corner and here we spend 80 % of the time banking over.
It seems that the bike that made me struggle in Spain comes back here in China, surprisingly after the good race I did in Estoril. There I got the podium, a few meters from Rossi, so no one can tell that I forgot how to ride. The situation is very heavy. I must start once again from the back of the grid, with no chanceto fight for the positions I deserve."
Jurgen van den Goorbergh, Konica Minolta Honda: 19th:
"Today I have surely got to know much better the Honda RC211V, but the weather conditions of these two days didn’t allow me to develop the incredible potential of this bike.
In the last few minutes of the qualifying session I could have used much better the qualitative tyres that Michelin has given us, but today’s objective was to cover as many laps as possible.
It’s clear that a rider always aim the highest positions, but with the Team we decided to don’t concentrate to conquer a top position on the starting grid, as today it couldn’t be possible. The work done allowed us to have at my disposal a comfortable bike which will consent me to fight to conquer some championship points.
I want to thank the Konica Minolta Honda Team for the work they are doing for me. I really appreciate them because they have a true professional way to work and are great persons. I never expected such a gift."
Dani Pedrosa, Movistar Honda 250cc: 2nd:
"Today was much better than yesterday because the track conditions improved and it made a big difference. Two dry sessions allowed us to improve certain parts of the bike and now we just need to choose the tyre. I hope the race takes place in the same conditions tomorrow because if it rains it will be a lottery. Pole position was not our objective but it is important to be on the front row because the first section of the track is quite tricky, a bit narrow, and it will be important to get a good start and stay out of trouble."
Andrea Dovizioso, Team Scot Honda: 3rd:
"Two tenths from the pole position is a good result. Now I’m not worried for tomorrow because I feel to have good chances even if the weather conditions will have a great influence on the race.
The bike and also the cyclistic are ok, of course the choice of tyre will depend on the weather. I hope in a dry race but also on wet I’m ok. Pedrosa is the best rider to beat but, race by race, I feel stronger and ready to face him! "
Jorge Lorenzo, Fortuna Honda, 4th:
"I was not down, but I realise that I lack confidence in myself. Each time I get closer to the leaders it grows and confidence in this sport is very important. My riding style has changed, I am not riding as I did in 125 and I try to save the tyres as much as possible. The team understand me more all the time, but they are not completely sure of me yet. I must keep on working, I’ve improved my starts and I hope to show that tomorrow."
Hiroshi Aoyama, Movistar Honda: 5th:
"I missed out on a front row start right at the end of the session because two riders got in my way when I was on a fast lap. Despite that I’m looking forward to the race – fifth place is a good starting position and even though this is a strange circuit my feeling has improved in every session. I think that Dani will get away and it will be difficult to follow his pace, but I will give my maximum to make the most of the opportunity we have here."
Hector Barbera, Fortuna Honda: 6th:
"I went better today than yesterday but I’m still some way behind pole. I’ll start from the second row, but I was more than second behind pole. We are heading in the right direction although I was a position better off in Portugal. I hope to have a good race, though, and my rhythm is good. We need to do some more work on the tyres but we are not in bad shape."
Yuki Takahashi, Team Scot Honda: 10th:
"Today I have finally found the right setting after many solutions adopted in this two days of practice. I feel ok on dry and wet conditions but I prefer a dry race. I would like to improve my performance race by race. I’m learning the Le Mans track on computer!"
Alex Debon, Wurth Honda BQR:14th:
"I’m very happy with qualifying. I like the circuit its difficult and very technical. Yesterday I was faster, I was in seventh place, but today I had a front tyre problem. The track is very difficult in the wet – dry conditions the characteristics can change in 10 minutes. The bike is good, my engine is strong and the set up is much better. I am confident that I will have a good race."
Dirk Heidorf, Kiefer Bos Castrol Honda: 18th:
"Qualifying was not so bad the set up was good we just had to work a little on suspension. I came into the box to change tyres and found a good group to run with but Lorenzo was at the front but when he saw us behind he closed the throttle. But I ran the last lap alone and ended up 18th. I hope to get a good start and have a good race."
Radomil Rous, Wurth Honda BQR: 20th:
"This morning I had a crash in the long fast corner, I just lost the front end but I’m OK. But still I improved my time by three-seconds. The track is very technical but I’m sure I will improve more in the race because my engine is strong and the handling is not so bad, even in the long corner."
Jakub Smrz, Molenaar Honda:
"We made some changes to the suspension settings for the qualifying session. At first it was not too bad but when I got faster I could feel it needed to be better. We tried a harder rear but we will go back to a setting we had on the front yesterday ready for the warm up and see if the bike feels better for me."
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda: 4th:
"Everything is working really wel. This is my third front row start in three races so I have to be happy. When qualifying started on Friday it was difficult to find a good set up fpr the long corner after the start finish straight you are riding for so long on the edge of the tyre it’s difficult to stop the bike moving around. But the team worked well, brought me in to the pit to change tyres and a little on the set up and that has improved the feeling through that section so and I’m sure I will be OK for the race."
Fabrizio Lai, Kopron racing World Honda: 6th:
"The setting of the bike was perfect for a wet track but we had some problems getting the rear end to stick in the dry. Now we have a short time to find a new setting, and more over on a new and complex track like this one."
Tomoyoshi Koyama, Ajo Motorsport: 8th:
"I’m happy with the second row. We had wet and dry practice and in the qualifying session it was dry so changed the gearbox to put in a shorter second gear and we improved. Tomorrow I hope to get a good start and run with the top group. This track is new for all rides so I think I will have a good race tomorrow."
Toshihisa Kuzuhara, Angaia Racing Honda: 9th:
"After the wet practice yesterday we changed the set up to find a better balance for the bike and we have found the right direction. We still have some small problems but we will work on them tonight in time for the warm up."
Mike Di Meglio, Kopron racing World Honda: 12th:
"Like Fabrizio (Lai) I have some rear-end grip problems but today I had a better feeling with the track and improved my time. Now we have to better the setting for the race, even though I am quite satisfied with the solutions we found today."
Alvaro Bautista, Seedorf RC3 Tiempo Holidays Honda: 13th:
"This is the second qualifying session in the dry and the feeling with the bike is much better than yesterday. We had some front-end chatter at some corners and a problem with the front tyre in the fast corner. We know what we have to do to improve the handling by front fork adjustments and a different tyre in time for the warm up tomorrow morning."
Aleix Espargaro, Seedorf RC3 Tiempo Holidays Honda: 16th:
"Yesterday I was third fastest but that was not real because it was wet. Now I am in a more normal position. The front tyre is a little worry but I am very optimistic because the bike is very fast."
Alexis Masbou, Ajo Motorsport: 19th:
"Not so bad we had some setting problems in the morning but the bike was better in qualifying. The track is very technical and it’s hard on tyres. Towards the end of the qualifying session I had a clash with Espargaro coming off a corner but no problem."
Sandro Cortese, Kiefer Bos Castrol Honda: 18th:
"The bike is good in the conditions the only real problem I had today was in the long fast corner. It is s struggle in the lower gears, the bike is on it’s side for too long. Still I’m happy with my qualifying in the circumstances."
Raymond Schouten, Molenaar Honda: 32nd.:
"At the beginning of the session I felt good on the bike but the setting was not the best so I came in and changed the suspension a little to make it stiffer but we had gone in the wrong direction. There was not much time left so I tried for a fast lap but got caught up with other riders and didn’t get a good time. We know what we have to do on set up for the morning warm up so I’m not worried."