Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) marked a return to form by being the only Michelin runner to make it onto the front row of the grid here in steamy Sepang. He will line up as second fastest qualifier behind Loris Capirossi (Ducati) on pole and in front of John Hopkins (Suzuki) who qualified third.
Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda MotoGP)
Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda Team)
Conditions were far hotter and drier than yesterday and it made for a punishing hour of qualifying on the wide, sweeping turns of Sepang’s 5.548km of tarmac. Bridgestone and Ducati clearly had a tyre that worked well here in qualifying and Michelin riders will be expecting their rubber to perform in tomorrow’s gruelling race.
Kenny Roberts (Suzuki) headed the timesheet as the session began and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) was also among the fastest men at the outset. But with 36 minutes of the hour remaining Capirossi put in a lap of 2m 02.162 seconds to stun the grid with his early pace.
At the halfway point the order was Capisossi, Roberts, Hopkins, Carlos Checa (Ducati), Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda RC211V) and Nicky Hayden at the top. Then Checa sped to second fastest and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) climbed up the order to fourth.
The pressure to perform here in the closing races of the season is immense and it told on Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) who fell for the second time during qualifying over the two days. He ended up in 15th and will have a huge amount of work to do in tomorrow’s race.
Alex Barros (Camel Honda RC211V) was another man who crashed in the final minute of the session and the experienced Brazilian will start the race from 11th on the grid on the fourth row.
The final ten minutes were a blur of frantic activity as riders pitted to put on qualifying tyres and Gibernau was the sensation of the dying moments as he powered his RC211V to provisional pole when it looked as if none but Bridgestone-shod riders would head the grid.
With five minutes left on the clock the front row comprised Gibernau, Hopkins and Capirossi. Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) elevated himself to fourth to head row two and Rossi moved up to sixth before Capirossi rode a stunning pole lap of 2m 01.731s to close proceedings.
Gibernau was the only other rider under the 2m 02s barrier, and significantly just over a second covers the top ten qualifiers. Tomorrow’s race will be tough on tyres and riders and whoever has the edge in tyre life will be at a distinct advantage in the closing laps.
Sete said, “I don’t think my fast lap really reflects the reality. Our race pace doesn’t have winning potential and we’ll have to work hard to find it tomorrow. We’ve got some problems that we didn’t detect here in pre-season and we can’t get the best out of the engine yet.”
Nicky, in sixth on row two said, “We’re much better off today than we were yesterday. We just made a few little changes on the bike and it all felt much better this morning. It just felt like I was riding stronger today than I was yesterday. But my consistency in the afternoon in the heat is not where it should be. I’m going to have to make a huge step tomorrow. I don’t want to run round at the back – I’m looking for a good race but I know it’s going to be hard.”
Marco Melandri (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) qualified in ninth, despite a badly cut foot from Motegi, and said, “The work the team has done to prepare for the race has been affected by my physical condition; I’m struggling to change direction and, in the left-hand corners, I can’t use the rear brake. Every time I push down on the rear brake the stitches are stretched and it really hurts. I’ll try and give my best tomorrow but I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay on the pace for the whole race.”
Alex Barros, in 11th, said, “I’m disappointed with this result more than anything because I didn’t expect it. We worked well in all three sessions beforehand, but when the decisive qualifier came around, we came up against too many problems. We still don’t know why, but this afternoon I didn’t have confidence in the front and I wasn’t able to battle for a top grid position. I set a time similar to this morning, and that’s not normal. Now we will try to understand why the front suspension isn’t working as I would like and we hope that tomorrow in the warm-up things go better.”
“I’m really disappointed with this situation,” said Max on row four in 12th. “We spent a long time with the team yesterday looking at all the data so we could make a better set-up for the machine. It was pretty obvious that we had not made the big improvement as soon as I went out this morning – same this afternoon. Even with the qualifying Michelins I didn’t go any faster. I just know that at the moment we don’t have the pace to fight for the victory over 21 laps.”
Makoto Tamada was upset with 15th and said, “I’m disappointed because I can’t take two crashes like these. As soon as I try to push a little bit more I find myself on the ground without even noticing it. I don’t know what to think anymore. I have some bruises and the thing that worries me most is the pain in my right hand. We see how things are during the warm-up tomorrow.”
Shane Byrne (18th), standing in for the injured Troy Bayliss (Camel Honda RC211V), said, “It’s not easy to get to grips with a bike like this in a few hours, but the team is giving me all the support I need. Yesterday I wasn’t able to get a good run in the dry, but this morning we made the first changes and the bike improved considerably. In the afternoon we continued down the same line, although we still haven’t improved the power delivery under acceleration, and in the corner exits I’m not as fast as I would like.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW), fresh from his triumph at the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, secured his second pole of the season with a masterly display of speed. The Japanese man tops the grid 0.081 seconds ahead of his team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW), with Alex De Angelis and Casey Stoner (both Aprilia) in third and fourth.
Dani is still feeling the effects of his Motegi crashes but feels happier with the bike here while Hiro is riding the crest of a wave of success that began in Japan. Andrea Dovizioso (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) qualified sixth fastest with Hector Barbera (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) joining him on row two as eighth quickest qualifier.
Jorge Lorenzo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) is not riding here in Malaysia after being suspended for this race for his rash last lap overtaking manoeuvre at Motegi last weekend where he skittled himself and Alex De Angelis.
“I crashed early on,” said
Hiro. “Then I went back
to the pit and changed my way
of thinking. Now I’m on
the pole and a full one second
faster than I was before I crashed.
After Japan I now feel very confident
in my riding.”
Dani said, “We did a very good job this morning and the pain is not so bad, but this track is very hard physically because of all the changes in direction. It’s very important to be on the front row here and the bike settings are better than they were in Motegi because we’ve had more time to work on them.”
Dovi said, “We’re not at 100% here and we have work to do before the warm-up tomorrow morning. We’ve got two different solutions to try and if we don’t find an answer then the race will be very hard for us tomorrow.”
Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) put his stamp on 125cc qualifying with a powerful ride to pole despite dislocating his shoulder last weekend and suffering acute bruising to both ankles in his crash. He starts the race nearly three tenths of a second faster over a lap than second fastest qualifier Mattia Pasini (Aprilia). Gabor Talmacsi and Mika Kallio (Both KTM) qualified third and fourth.
Mike Di Meglio (Kopron Racing World Honda RS125R) qualified tenth, having been the fastest rider yesterday, while Tomoyoshi Koyama (Ajo Motorsport Honda RS125R)
starts from the third row tomorrow from 11th. Fabrizio Lai (Kopron Racing World Honda RS125RW) qualified 13th fastest.
Luthi said, “Sure this is a big surprise and a pleasant one. It was clear to me from last Sunday after the accident that, if I went to Sepang, I would ride at 100%... none of this 'I am only 60%’ talk. So far this has been the best strategy. The bike is perfect. The problem with my feet has cleared up and my shoulder has responded to treatment. This pole position is good, it will show the others I am here to race for the win.”
“This is the first time I have raced at Sepang and I must say I don’t really like it,” said Koyama. “The small corners spoil the track for me. My chassis and suspension are working really well here but the engine is running at over 60 degrees and that has cost me power. The bike doesn’t accelerate fast enough off the corners and I’m a little down on top speed.”
Marco MELANDRI (Team Movistar Honda MotoGP)
Alex BARROS (Camel Honda)
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 6th:
“We’re much better off today than we were yesterday. We just made a few little changes on the bike and it all felt much better this morning. Just felt like I was riding stronger today than I was yesterday. The bike was better than I was showing – I gotta’ do my part. We’re all in this together. Was third this morning and sixth this afternoon on qualifiers.
I’m not where I want to be for the race. My consistency in the afternoon in the heat is not where it should be. I’m gonna’ have to make a huge step tomorrow if I’m gonna’ make anyone proud. I don’t want to run round at the back tomorrow – I looking for a good race but I know it’s going to be hard.”
Max Biaggi, Repsol Honda Team: 12th:
“I’m really disappointed
with this situation. We spent
a long time with the team yesterday
looking at all the data so we
could make a better set-up for
the machine. It was pretty obvious
that we had not made the big improvement
as soon as I went out this morning.
Same really for this afternoon.
Even with the qualifying Michelins
I didn’t go any faster.
There seems not to be too much
grip from the back of the machine
and we lose time everywhere. I
would like to think we can battle
hard in the race – for sure
I will give my 100% as I always
do – I just know that at
the moment we don’t have
the pace to fight for the victory
over 21 laps. As I said yesterday,
and all year, I do have great
confidence in my team and we still
have time to change things before
the race – not much but
we still have time and with time
we have hope.”
Alex Barros, Camel Honda, 11th:
“I’m quite disappointed with this result more than anything because I didn’t expect it. We worked well in all three sessions beforehand, but when the decisive qualifier came around, we came up against too many problems.
We still don’t know why, but this afternoon I didn’t have confidence in the front and I wasn’t able to battle for a top grid position. I set a time similar to this morning, and that’s not normal.
Now we will try to understand why the front suspension isn’t working as I would like and we hope that tomorrow in the warm-up things go better.”
Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda: 15th:
“I’m disappointed because I can’t take two slips like these, as soon as I try to push a little bit more I find my self on the ground without even noticing it. I don’t know what to think anymore, now we’ll check my physical conditions, I have some bruises here and there, the thing that worries me the most is the pain at the
right hand. In any case we’ll verify tomorrow my conditions during the warm up.”
Shane Byrne, GB, racing as replacement rider for Troy Bayliss, Camel Honda, 18th:
“It’s not easy to get to grips with a bike like this in so few hours, but the team is giving me all the support I need. Yesterday I wasn’t able to get a good run in the dry, but this morning we made the first changes and the bike improved considerably. In the afternoon we continued down the same line, although
we still haven’t improved the power delivery under acceleration, and in the corner exits I’m not as fast as I would like.
When the time came to use the qualifying tyre I was a little lost. The first two laps didn’t go too well and I knew it, but the last one seemed really good and I hardly made an impact. Anyway, tomorrow we will try to find something to try in the warm-up and then we will see how the race goes.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, MoviStar Honda: 1st.
“This second consecutive pole is very important for me after the victory in Japan. At the start of the session I made a mistake and I crashed. From then on I found it really hard to get back into the session and I didn't have any rhythm.
In the end I changed my bike and changed my mind! I just gave it plenty of gas although it is true that Dani helped me.
I expect it will be very hot in the race and it won't be easy, but I hope to maintain a good pace until the end of the race.”
Dani Pedrosa, MoviStar Honda: 2nd:
“In general we've had two good sessions today and I can say that I feel more confident about the set-up of the bike here than I was in Japan. In the afternoon it was more difficult because the heat made the bike slide more and the wind picked up a little but even so we have a good setting for the race.
The important thing is to be on the front row and, even though I lost pole at the end, I'm hoping to get a good start and achieve the best possible result.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Honda: 5th:
“We are still not 100% ok.
We have to work in order to find
other solutions to try during
the warm up. If I have to race
in these conditions it would be
difficult to take a victory. After
the tyres change, I had some problems
and I couldn’t improve my
time but, above all, I’m
thinking about the bike set up
for the race.”
Hector Barbera, Fortuna Honda: 8th.:
“The bike has worked well over both days although I was hoping to be higher up today. However, the second row is not bad. We must keep working like this and then the results will come. It was a shame that I ran into traffic as I was trying to post my fastest lap and I could not make up lost time.
Tomorrow will be a very hard race although I’m hoping for a good result.”
Alex Debon, Wurth Honda BQR: 12th:
“Not so bad, I’m happy with my qualifying. The third row of the grid will be good for my start. The bike is not so bad either, engine is really good and I’m happy
with the chassis and suspension settings. I hope the race is much like the Japanese GP where I started 15th and finished ninth.
Here I’m 12th and I will be aiming to finish better than that.”
Jakub Smrz, Molenaar Honda: 13th.:
“Not so bad this time in qualifying. Yesterday we had some slides so we changed the suspension a little and it’s much better. But it was my second bike that was the best and with a few minor changes I will have a good race on that bike. The only difficulty I have is holding a perfect line in the fast corners
but we are working on that for the warm up before the race.”
Dirk Heidolf, Kiefer Castrol Honda: 15th:
very hard and very hot out there in the high temperatures but I like it, we can race here 17 times and I’d be happy.
I ran the H Dunlop tyre today, it’s the hardest but I think that’s what we need for the race. I have to take it a bit easy in the first couple of laps then I can move. Yesterday
the bike was good but for some reason I could not relax on the bike and didn’t find a good rhythm. Today it was so much better and the bike is really good. I set my fastest lap on
the very last lap and it could have been even better but I had a little ‘High side’ in the first corner and that cost me time. I’m only 3/10ths of a second from the four riders
in front of me on the grid.”
Radomil Rous, Wurth Honda BQR: 16th:
“Today was very good for me. The chassis, suspension, tyres everything worked really well. This is my second race at the track and I like Sepang, I prefer all tracks with fast corners. I set my time on the tyres I have chosen to race on and that’s positive. The only problem we have is with engine temperature but not too much.”
Yuki Takahashi, Scot Honda: 18th:
“My bike is ok but this
track is difficult to learn. Yesterday
I wasted time due to the rain
shower and today, in free practice,
I made too many mistakes in the
choice of the best lines to take.
I think I have improved but starting
from the position at the back
will condition my race.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Fortuna Honda is serving one race suspension and will not start.
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda: 1st:
“Sure this is a big surprise and a pleasant on. It was clear to me from last Sunday after the accident that, if I went to Sepang I would ride at 100%, none of this ‘I am only 60% talk.’ So far this has been the best strategy. The bike is perfect and I fell
OK. The problem with my feet has cleared up and my shoulder has responded to treatment. This pole position is good, it will show the others I am here to race for the win.”
Mike Di Meglio, Kopron Racing World Honda: 10th:
“The bike is ok and I could make a good race tomorrow even if, after three sessions in which I was in the front row, now I’m going to start from the third row. The morning my setting choices didn’t work in the afternoon. When we have understood the mistake we immediately changed the tyres
but in the last few laps I have found traffic on track and I couldn’t improve my time. Tomorrow I have to start very well but the bike is really fast and I’m confident for the race”.
Tomoyoshi Koyama, Ajo Motorsport Honda: 11th:
“This is the first time I have raced at Sepang and I must say I don’t really like it, the small corners spoil the track for me. My chassis
and suspension are working really well here but the engine is running at over 60’ and that has cost me power. The bike doesn’t accelerate fast enough off the corners and I’m a little down on top speed. I could not put in a good time attack in the qualifier because there was too much traffic when I wanted to try for a fast lap. Still
I made my time alone and I’m happy with that. ”
Fabrizio Lai, Kopron Racing World Honda: 13th:
“During the free session we found a good set up and feeling with the bike but in the afternoon the temperature increased and the morning choices were no longer effective. The bike had no grip: I almost slipped off twice. The engine is ok and I’m confident, too.”
Aleix Espargaro, Seedorf RC3 Tiempo Holidays Honda: 14th:
“I am happy because I have finished in my best position of the weekend.
Like this I have more chances to make a good race. I have some doubts about the tyre because I don’t know if the one I have used to make my time will last the entire race, and that we have to wait and see. My aim is to make a good start and see how long I can be near the top positions.”
Alexis Masbou, Ajo Motorsport Honda: 15th:
“Not so bad this afternoon.
This is my first time at Sepang
and I like the track. We had some
carburetion problems this morning
but after lunch I set much better
lap times so I’m pleased
about that. Now the bike is running
real good, suspension is good
and the engine is strong. I know
which tyres I will use in the
race so I am happy.”
Alvaro Bautista, Seedorf RC3 Tiempo Holidays Honda: 20th:
“It has been a bad practice for me.
We have tested the hard tyre thinking about the race but it seems it doesn’t work as we would like. After that we have used a softer tyre to try and improve my time but I have not been able to and that has put me on the fifth row. I will have to make a good start and again do my best and see if I have the chance to make a good race.”
Sandro Cortese, Kiefer – Bos - Castrol Honda: 22nd:
“The tyres are sliding front and back we have done some work to do on the suspension to stiffen it up a bit. Because the bike was behaving the same way as in Motegi, sort of bumping effect on the front end under heavy braking. The engine was running at 63’ and is a little down on power against some others.
Still, I like the track and if we can fix a few small things I will have a good race.”
Toshihisa Kuzuhara, Angaia Racing Honda: 27th:
“At the start of final qualifying I crashed so I lost time. When I went out again I got behind Mika Kallio but he slowed and I couldn’t get a really fast rider to follow to set fast times. The bike is better than at Motegi and I now feel I am riding a real machine. I believe
that everything is going in a good direction, even if it does not show in my times today.”