Spanish star Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) scorched onto the front row here at this desert circuit as second fastest qualifier. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) starts from pole and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) was third fastest qualifier completing the front row.
Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda MotoGP)
Marco MELANDRI (Team Movistar Honda MotoGP)
Gibernau won here last year and despite suffering from the front-end grip problems that plagued most riders here, he coped well with the conditions where track temperatures were nudging 50 degrees.
Sete showed his form early in the session when he slotted himself into provisional pole and then set about working on a race distance set-up. But his early time of 1m 58.136s was soon bettered by Colin Edwards (Yamaha).
As the hour-long session wore on the track got grippier as more rubber was laid down on the relatively fresh asphalt and the first rider to make an assault on pole with super-grippy qualifying tyres was Loris Capirossi.
The Italian immediately snatched the top slot and held it for seven minutes before Gibernau clocked a time of 1m 57.274s to grab it back. The order with ten minutes remaining was; Gibernau, Capirossi, Edwards, Rossi, Tony Elias (Yamaha), Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki), Marco Melandri (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V).
Capirossi then raised his game even further with a 1m 56.934s lap and became the first rider to dip below the 1m 57 second barrier. Marco Melandri meanwhile had elevated himself to third on the grid.
Then in the final five minutes 12 of the 19 riders pitted almost simultaneously to fit qualifying tyres and make their final bids to improve their grid positions. Capirossi went even faster to record a time of 1m 56.917s – a record qualifying lap almost two seconds faster than last year’s time.
Rossi moved up to third fastest while Nicky Hayden stayed in eighth on row three. Marco slipped back onto row two as fifth fastest man with a time of 1m 57.468s. The race pace is expected to be somewhere in the region of 1m 58.5s lap times tomorrow.
Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) managed to qualify tenth on row four, but Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda RC211V) and Alex Barros (Camel Honda RC211V) struggled here and could no better than 13th and 14th respectively – on row five.
Shane Byrne, standing in for the injured Troy Bayliss (Camel Honda RC211V), qualified 17th.
Sete said, “Yesterday we went in the wrong direction in the afternoon session but today we got back on the right track. We did a great job preparing for the race in the final session, the tyres and the settings are already decided. I was able to set a good rhythm, with quality laps, and even though I just missed out on pole at the end we are on the front row, which is important.”
His team-mate Marco said, “It was a shame I wasn’t able to make the most of the qualifying tyres at the end of the session because when I went out there was a lot of traffic on the track. From a physical point of view I am better. I’ve started to put more force on the footpeg and it hurts a little more, but the doctors at the Clinica Mobile are looking after me and I know I’ll be in good shape for the race.”
Nicky, in eighth, said, “Not really where we want to be. We had a pretty good run of qualifying this season and I haven’t been on the third row since way back in Portugal. The main problem we have is with the front-end of the bike. It’s vague into corners and I was hoping that we would carry on with the real solid start we had yesterday but we haven’t been able to continue with that momentum. We’ve got a lot of work to do before the race to get a good set-up.
Tamada said, “We are improving, but still not enough. At the beginning of the afternoon practice I had three fast riders in front of me and I used this to work out where I lost most time. On acceleration I couldn’t keep up with them, worst of all in the fourth sector of the track. The feeling with the front part of the bike has improved, but the bike still slides a bit too much in the turns.”
Max was despondent. “The strange thing about today was that we seemed to get a better speed with the race tyres on than with the qualifiers,” he said. “I really can’t explain what’s going on at the moment. I had really hoped that these disastrous grid positions that we had at the start of the season were in the past. Here we are again starting from the fifth row. My lap time is 1.7s off pole position.”
“The bike is going well,” said Barros. “We’ve found a good base set-up, and we have a good rear tyre, but we can’t get a front tyre to complete the package so I can ride fast. It’s a real shame because there’s not much we can do in this situation. Even by changing my style of entering the corner as much as I can, I still can’t brake as hard as I would like, because I would risk losing the front and crashing. Tomorrow will be a very difficult race.”
Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne said, “In this last practice session things went decidedly better. My lap times with the race tyres are very close indeed to those I did with the qualifier in, and they’re consistent too. Obviously I couldn’t make the most of the soft tyres. I had three, and with the first I was slow. With the second I began to understand how to get the best out of it, but then when I put the last one in, I realised that there was no time left. Anyway, if I can get a good start tomorrow and ride at today’s pace consistently I should have a good race.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW), who had to sit out the Malaysian Grand Prix after a disqualification, stormed back with a vengeance to record his fourth pole of the season so far. Alex de Angelis and Casey Stoner qualified third and fourth while series points leader Dani Pedrosa (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) will start from the front row in fourth.
Lorenzo had been quickest yesterday too and although Stoner had a grip on pole in the early stages of this final session, Jorge relieved the Australian of it in the final 20 minutes before Dani staked a claim with a 2m 02.692s lap with ten minutes to go.
Lorenzo immediately responded with a time of 2m 02.469s before de Angelis then sped to a 2m 02.303s lap. Jorge’s enforced holiday obviously did him some good. The hungry Spaniard then shaved a further three tenths of a second off his previous best to snatch pole back again – and keep it.
Andrea Dovizioso (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) will start tomorrow’s 20-lap race from row two as sixth fastest qualifier. The Italian is just over half a second off the pole time. Hiroshi Aoyama (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) lines up alongside him in seventh.
Lorenzo’s team-mate Hector Barbera (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) will start from ninth, while Yuki Takahashi (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) made it into the top ten qualifiers for the fifth time this season in his rookie year.
“I’m very happy with this,” said Lorenzo. “This morning we had a lot of front-end grip problems, but this afternoon we took a whole second off our lap time and now we can do some more fine-tuning in the warm-up tomorrow to be ready for the race.”
Dani said, “The team did a great job for me this afternoon. The bike could do with being a bit faster and we’ve got work to do on the engine for tomorrow. But I’ve got to forget about last weekend and get on with the job tomorrow in what will be a tough race.”
World Championship points leader Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) did not get the grid position he wanted here, being baulked by other riders as he tried to put in his fastest laps. His title rival Mika Kallio qualified on pole with his team-mate Gabor Talmacsi second fastest (both KTM). Mattia Pasini (Aprilia) starts from third with Julian Simon (KTM) fourth.
Fabrizio Lai (Kopron Racing World Honda RS125RW) heads row two as fifth fastest qualifier, while Luthi has to make do with row three in ninth. Mike Di Meglio (Kopron Racing World Honda RS125R) lines up alongside him in tenth.
Luthi said, “I’m feeling good. Conditions improved today in qualifying and the bike was fast and the chassis very good. We’ve still got a bit of work to do on the suspension in warm-up tomorrow. But the problem today was traffic and people looking for a tow – that made things difficult for me.”
“We’ve worked well over the three days,” said Lai. “I though I had a chance of pole but there was too much traffic on my flaying lap and it didn’t happen. This is a long track and if you get held up it’s hard to keep your speed up. It will be a tough race tomorrow.”
Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda Team)
Makoto TAMADA (KOINICA MINOLTA Honda Team)
Sete Gibernau, Movistar Honda MotoGP: 2nd:
“Yesterday we went in the wrong direction in the afternoon session but today we got back on the right track. We did a great job to prepare for the race in the final session and even though we start an hour later tomorrow, the tyres and the setting are already decided. I was able to set a good rhythm, with quality laps, and even though I just missed out on pole at the end we are on the front row, which is important. Tomorrow the objective is to fight for the podium and get out of this hole at last. I’m convinced that when we do so we’ll be stronger than ever.”
Marco Melandri, Movistar Honda MotoGP: 5th:
“In the morning we set a good pace and this gave us room to try some different geometry settings with the bike in the afternoon, although they didn’t help us improve. It was also a shame that I wasn’t able to make the most of the qualifying tyres at the end of the session because when I went out there was a lot of traffic on the track. From a physical point of view I am better. I’ve started to put more force on the footpeg and it hurts a little more but the doctors at the Clinica Mobile are looking after me and I know I’ll be in good shape for the race.”
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 8th:
“Not really where we want to be. We had a pretty good run of qualifying this season and I haven’t been on the third row since way back in Portugal. The main problem we have is with the front end of the bike. It’s vague into corners and I was hoping that we would carry on with the real solid start we had yesterday but we haven’t been able to continue with that momentum. We’ve got a lot of work to do before the race to get a good set-up. As always, if you start back on the third row you’ve gotta’ make a good start and stay out of trouble and get with the front guys early. It’s a big ask but I don’t want to be making excuses after the race and I know how important points are at the moment.”
Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda: 10th:
“We are improving, but still not enough. At the beginning of the afternoon practice I had three fast riders in front of me and I used this situation to understand where I lost most of the time. I noticed that during acceleration I couldn’t make it to keep up with them, most of all in the fourth sector of the track. The feeling with the front part of the bike has improved, but the bike still slips a bit too much during the turns. This problem has slowed me down during the last fast lap not allowing me to improve even more my fastest lap time. Tomorrow morning during the warm up we’ll have only the time to try two different tyres solution to understand which one to use in the race.”
Max Biaggi, Repsol Honda Team: 13th:
The strange thing about today was that we seemed to get a better speed with the race tyres on than with the qualifiers. I really can’t explain what’s going on at the moment. I had really hoped that these disastrous grid positions that we had at the start of the season were in the past. Here we are again starting from the fifth row. My lap time is 1.7s off pole position. I know that last year in the race here I started from the back because of the penalty – I can nearly accept that situation but the one we have now I just don’t understand.”
Alex Barros, Camel Honda, 14th:
“I don’t have too much to say about these sessions because the situation hasn’t changed much since yesterday. The bike is going well, we’ve found a good base set-up, and we have the rear tyre set-up well, but we can’t get a front tyre to complete the package so I can ride fast. It’s a real shame because there’s not much we can do in this situation. Even by changing my style of entering the corner as much as I can, I still can’t brake as hard as I would like, because I would risk losing the front and crashing. Tomorrow will be a very difficult race.”
Shane Byrne, Camel Honda, 17th:
“In this last practice session things went decidedly better. My lap times with the race tyres are very close indeed to those I did with the qualifier in, and they’re consistent too. Obviously I couldn’t make the most of the soft tyres. I had three, and with the first I was slow. With the second I began to understand how to get the best out of it, but then when I put the last one in, I realised that there was no time left. Anyway, if I can get a good start tomorrow and ride at today’s pace consistently I should have a good race.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Fortuna Honda: 1st:
“In the morning I’m not sure why I was uncomfortable but I was going slow, but in the afternoon I improved lap by lap. If we had be given a bit more time I could have gone even faster than my pole mark, but I have to be satisfied. If the bike works this well in the race, and my ridings is as good, I think we can have a good chance tomorrow. But I am not obsessed about it: I want to finish first, then think about getting on the podium, then think about winning.”
Dani Pedrosa, MoviStar Honda: 4th.:
“We’ve got a few engine problems. We’ve got no top end and it’s not too great on the bottom end either. It is not carburetting too well and it’s not as fast as it should be. We’ve improved over the two sessions but we still haven’t completely solved the problem. I suppose it’s because of the heat, but it’s difficult. The other riders are going quick but, more than that, the problem for us at the moment is the bike. It’s just not working well and I can’t ride at 100%. I’m losing quite a lot of time down the straights and also in some corners. There is a particular section where I’m really struggling and others where it’s a little better. It’s a very demanding circuit, especially on the front end, but if we can improve the engine situation I’m confident of our chances in the race.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Honda: 6th.:
“I’m satisfied because today we improved our performance. A lack of three or four tenths of a second to the leaders in qualifying is not a big problem for me. We have had the same problem at other times. Like other riders I have problems with feel from the front-end: the tyres are used up too quickly. Finding the right set up to save the tyres will be fundamental for the end of the race.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, MoviStar Honda: 7th.:
“We’ve got a few engine problems here, I suppose because of the heat, but my confidence has improved from yesterday. We’ve made a few changes and I feel more confident with the front end, which is really important at this circuit. It will be extremely hot during the race and it will be hard to stick it out in the front group. But I’m confident of getting a good start and pushing hard over the first few laps to stay in touch with the leaders.”
Hector Barbera, Fortuna Honda: 9th:
“Things did not go well. I was fastest this morning but I had a few problems when I put in on the qualifying tyres and also got stuck in traffic. The most important thing is to be enjoying yourself and with hard work and effort we’ll get there. Tomorrow will be better.”
Yuki Takahashi, Scot Honda: 10th. :
“Tomorrow a good start and follow a fast rider will be very important for me: this strategy helped me in Malaysia. I think we can do it because we have solved the suspension problems we have found the right set up for the race ”
Jakub Smrz, Molenaar Honda:14th. :
“I’m satisfied with qualifying, especially after not riding yesterday due to my crash. I’m one second faster than last year. We have some small problems with the front-end setting but that is part suspension part tyre and we know what to do in the warm up. The engine is not bad it has good acceleration but I need more top speed. Overall I’m really happy because when I woke up this morning I felt as if I had been beaten up with a baseball bat, the crash was really heavy.”
Alex Debon, Wurth Honda BQR: 19th. :
“I am 18th on the grid and that’s bad for me and I’m not so happy with it. The engine is not so bad but I have a big problem with the front tyre and whichever ones I use they are not so good after 5-laps. It will be a hard race tomorrow but if I get a good start I will be OK.”
Dirk Heidolf, Kiefer Castrol Honda: 23rd. :
“No good at al today in qualifying. The engine is good but we have some problems with the front forks the bike is has a kind hopping effect, very difficult under heavy braking into the corners I am loosing a lot of time because of that. We have the warm up to get things right for the race. But I just don’t feel good on the bike I am fighting it all the way in the fast corners. I know I have to be fast in he first five laps if I am to take anything out of the race tomorrow. We had the same experience last year and got it right for the warm up so we hope for the same tomorrow.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Fortuna Honda is serving one race suspension and will not start.
Radomil Rous, Wurth Honda BQR: 27th. :
“It was difficult for me today the engine had was running at 74 degrees and had no acceleration or top speed The chassis is good but you need power at this circuit. We will work on the engine tonight and I’m sure the tam will improve the engine for the warm up but that will not help my grid position.”
Fabrizio Lai, Kopron Racing World Honda: 5th. :
“Over the two days of practice we have worked very well and I am content with the bike settings. On my flying lap trying to overtake Pirro I lost the front end. I missed the pole by just a little bit because of heavy traffic on my next fast lap. Tomorrow will be a difficult race overtaking will probably be on the straight because the track is dirty and will not allow us to risk too much.”
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda: 9th. :
“I feel good my condition has improved. In qualifying the bike was fast and my chassis settings very good we have a little work to do on suspension before the warm up but nothing else. The only problem I had setting a better time in qualifying was with De Rosa he was looking over his shoulder waiting for a fast rider when he saw me coming he moved across onto the racing line and ruined my lap. He made things very difficult for me. I waited awhile and tried again but I found him again and he crossed onto my line a second time. After that my rhythm had gone and it was impossible to set a faster qualifying time. But I know I could have gone faster so I’m not worried with my ninth place on the grid.”
Mike Di Meglio, Kopron Racing World Honda: 10th. :
“I have a good feeling with my Honda on this track, which is completely new for me. The bike was good on the last lap of qualifying but there was so much traffic and that was an obstacle for everybody including me.. I have to make an attacking race but in this temperature and on a dirty track that is certainly not going to be easy.”
Alvaro Bautista, Seedorf RC3 Tiempo Holidays Honda: 12th. :
“Qualifying was very nice today. We found good chassis and suspension settings and the front and rear tyres are perfect. We will race with the H compound tomorrow. I tried the D tyre but using that tyre made the front end move around too much going into the corners. Tomorrow it will be very hot and hard race but if I get a good start and get with the leaders I will have a good race. I have a good feeling about tomorrow it will be important to save the tyres for the final laps.”
Alexis Masbou, Ajo Motorsport Honda: 15th. :
“This is my first time at Doha and I like the track very much. I’m only in 15th place on the grid but that’s because I kept getting caught in traffic. It will be a close race tomorrow but I hope to get away with the first group.”
Tomoyoshi Koyama, Ajo Motorsport Honda: 16th. :
“I had a front brake problem late in the qualifying session and could not go faster, I pulled into the pit with a lap to go so could not improve my time. Apart from that the bike is very good. The engine is fast even if the engine is running at 62’. We have a good chassis setting and I am happy with the H tyre we will use. I know I can run faster than in qualifying so if I get a good start everything will be OK. It will be a slipstreaming battle and I like that kind of racing very much”
Aleix Espargaro, Seedorf RC3 Tiempo Holidays Honda: 17th.:
“Not so bad in qualifying this afternoon. This morning I was a long way down the grid because we had a front end problem, using the softer compound tyre the front wanted to turn in. We changed the front suspension a little and put on an H compound and it was much better. I did 15-laps on the tyre so it will be good for the race. My bike is very fast and it was running at 220 km/h consistently. I set my time with Simoncelli so if I get a good start I am confident that I will have a good race.”
Sandro Cortese, Kiefer-Bos-Castrol Honda: 21st.:
“Qualifying was almost good but in the last couple of laps I was behind Pesek and when I went for my fast lap he blocked me in the final section and I lost 3/10ths of a second. The front end ’bumping’ effect under braking has been fixed and I’m happy with the bike. The engine is fast and I did 18 laps on the H tyres we will use in the race. I have made good starts in the last five races so if I get another fast start tomorrow I will have a good race.
Sascha Hommel, replacement rider for Raymond Schouten on the Molenaar Honda: 36th.:
“The bike is good and the team very helpful, I have improved with every session so I am happy with that even though it’s the first time I rode the bike or raced at this track. The track is not so bad. We didn’t decide the front tyre yet because the H compound did not work too good for me.”