Honda men Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) on pole, his team-mate Marco Melandri (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) second fastest, and third front row qualifier Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) ruled the final hour of 17 super-tough 60-minute sessions here at the last race of the season.
Dani PEDROSA , Marco MELANDRI , Sete GIBERNAU , Nicky HAYDEN
Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda Team)
In dry, sunny conditions (where rain was a possibility), these riders stamped their authority on the grid with all three occupying the top slot at various times throughout. Carlos Checa (Ducati), who eventually qualified fourth to head row two was another man who shone, but he ended up 0.5 seconds off Gibernau’s fastest time of 1m 31.874 seconds.
Ryuichi Kiyonari, standing in for the injured Troy Bayliss (Camel Honda RC211V), headed the timesheet in the very early stages – but eventually ended up just one place behind Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) in 16th. Rossi crashed with 11 minutes remaining and could do no better than 15th on his spare machine.
Sete has now secured five pole positions this season and the Spaniard is highly motivated to win a race this year. His team-mate Melandri has won in Turkey and looks in good shape to now secure the runner-up position in the World Championship standings.
Melandri is nine points ahead of Hayden, and this, combined with Gibernau’s absolute determination to finish the season on a high, make tomorrow’s 30-lap encounter look like an engrossing end of season finale.
With riders carving laps on race set-up with prospective race rubber in the first three-quarters on the hour, it was Melandri who first put his marker down on qualifying tyres with a 1m 32.318s lap with 17 minutes to go. With ten minutes remaining his time still held until Hayden then blasted to a 1m 32.217s time to stake his claim.
Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda RC211V), who had held third in the early stages, then edged up to fifth from seventh. The Roman couldn’t manage any better then that and he will start from row two in that position tomorrow.
But he did manage to split the Ducatis of Checa and Capirossi (in seventh) before Colin Edwards (Yamaha) elevated himself to sixth behind Max. Alex Barros (Camel Honda RC211V) qualified eighth and Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V), who was on pole here last year, will start from tenth.
But Sete, the master of maximising the extraordinary grip from qualifying rubber that is only designed to last two laps, was the boss here today. He will be a hard man to beat tomorrow.
He said, "We’ve been fastest in qualifying, spent most laps leading the races and due to bad luck and the occasional mistakes, we have not been able to make the most of this hard work at every Grand Prix this season. I hope to do it here, at home, in the final race of the year. I want to fight for the podium and the victory if it is possible, and finish with my best result of the season."
Marco said, "I am a bit annoyed because I made a small mistake on the last qualifying tyre and when I changed to a new one the bike was sliding around and I lost time. In any case, in the afternoon we were very competitive after suffering a little bit in the final free practice this morning. Now we are ready to give our best."
Nicky said, "After the first qualifiers I tried a bit too hard with the second set and the time just didn’t come so I was real happy to end up on the front row, especially as our pace hasn’t been that hot so far this weekend. Really looking to have a good race tomorrow. Marco will need to have to have a major problem not to keep second slot but we’re going to give it our best."
For Biaggi, this race, after a disappointing year, is vital. He said, "My main problem is on the entry into the corners – the same as it has been all season – but we are not as far off the front as we have been in the last few races. It will be hard to improve much before tomorrow but we start the race with the same drive and enthusiasm as if it was the first round of the season."
Barros said, "We eventually managed to improve the suspension settings so we should be able to get better grip at the rear. But in doing so we lost time on choosing a tyre and we got a little confused. In any case I have tested myself on race tyres and the pace might not be the fastest, but it’s still not bad."
Tamada said, "Today the bike didn’t seem so agile. In some parts of the track the rear-end didn’t allow me to open the gas as I would have wanted. Now I’ll have to analyse the telemetry data with the team to understand what to modify to be competitive in the race. I want to end this World Championship well and I hope for a nice gift for my 29th birthday."
Kiyonari said, "Over these two days we have made small steps forward and I felt a bit better with the set-up but I still wasn’t able to get the most out of the qualifying tyres and get further up the grid. Obviously I’m going to do my best though in tomorrow’s race and try and get the best result possible."
Dani Pedrosa (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) sped to his fifth pole position of the year with a last gasp pole lap of 1m 35.298 seconds. He denied local hotshot Hector Barbera (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) a dream pole at the final race of his rookie 250cc year. Barbera has been improving steadily all season – and looks capable of a maiden win.
Alex de Angelis (Aprilia) and Jorge Lorenzo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) complete the front row as third and fourth fastest qualifiers. But although 0.644 seconds separate the pole man from the fourth front row qualifier, this is a physically demanding track and the man who wants it the most will always have a chance here.
The front row also looks good for Honda in the chase for the Constructor’s World Championship. Whichever machine, Honda or Aprilia, crosses the line first will scoop this prize as there is just one point separating the two factories in the overall standings.
Andrea Dovizioso (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) heads row two in fifth with Hiroshi Aoyama (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) alongside him in sixth. Yuki Takahashi (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) qualified eighth.
Dani said, "Tomorrow will be tricky. There are so many fast riders and with the weather we’ll just have to see what happens. We still have to make a few things right, but we’re doing OK so far."
Local boy Barbera said, "I’ve been getting better over the last few races and this ‘home’ race comes at a good time for me. It’s important, but just as important as trying to win any other race."
For Lorenzo the front row will suffice. He said, "This is a good situation for me. I’ve set my bike up to be as consistent as possible for the whole race. I want to be able to predict and then control it as consistently as possible. This is the last race of the season and I want to make it a good one."
Dovi said, "We have worked well and my Honda has improved in this qualifying session. But the bike is still not 100%. Tomorrow it’ll be very important to keep the race pace of the leaders. As usual I’ll give it my best – I want to keep my third place in the World Championship."
Pole in the 125cc class belonged to Sergio Gadea (Aprilia) who has not yet started a race from the front row. The Spaniard is joined by Mattia Pasini (Aprilia) in second and title challenger Mika Kallio (KTM) as third fastest qualifier. Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) will start from fourth.
Luthi has to finish in 13th place or higher to net the two points he needs to deny Kallio the title, even if the Finn wins the race. This is the Swiss rider’s 11th front row start of the season.
Fabrizio Lai (Kopron Racing World Honda RS125RW) qualified fifth and German rider Sandro Cortese (Klefer Bos Castrol Honda RS125R) just missed matching his best qualifying result of the season with a seventh on the grid (he qualified sixth in the Czech Republic). Tomoyoshi Koyama (Ajo Motorsport Honda RS125R) heads row three in ninth.
The Constructor’s title is also undecided in this class too. KTM has 307 points to Honda’s 294, with Aprilia on 280 points.
Luthi said, "The bike was very good. It has been all weekend. The engine is always strong, but the suspension and tyres have also been very good here. A lot will depend on the weather tomorrow, but I aim to get a good start and try to get away. If I get caught in a group – I’ll just have to keep an eye on things."
Lai said, "I’m satisfied. The bike set up is OK for tomorrow. I hoped to start from front row but I’m happy anyway. I got my time running with Luthi and I’ve studied his style: he is very fast but he is also lighter than me. The choice of the right tyre will be very important for the race and I think I can be among the front runners."
Cortese was happy with events. He said, "My best session yet. In the last six minutes I got a tow from Talmacsi and my lap time turned out all right. I like the track and if we don’t have any problems it should be a good race."
Koyama said, "Not so bad. I had a bit of front-end chatter, but we think we can fix it for the race. We’ll also make a few small chassis adjustments tomorrow when we see what the weather might bring."
Makoto TAMADA (Konica Minolta Honda Team)
Dani PEDROSA (MoviStar Honda Team)
Sete Gibernau, MoviStar Honda: 1st:
"This pole gives me a lot of pride and I want to dedicate it to the people who continue to believe in me, my family and myself. Even though a lot of people have focused on the negative side of the season, in my view, there have been a lot of positive aspects: we have been fastest in qualifying, spent most laps leading the races and due to bad luck and the occasional mistakes, we have not been able to make the most of this hard work at every Grand Prix. I hope to do it here, at home, in the final race of the year. I want to fight for the podium and the victory if it is possible, and finish with my best result of the season."
Marco Melandri, MoviStar Honda: 2nd:
"I am happy with the result of the qualifying – to start from second is very good, although! I am a bit annoyed because I made a small mistake on the last qualifying tyre and when I changed to a new one the bike was sliding around and I lost time. In any case, in the afternoon we were very competitive after suffering a little bit in the final free practice this morning. Now we are ready to give our best and tomorrow I will do everything I can to finish second in the Championship."
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 3rd:
"I’m real happy to get on the front row. It’s so important round here –this must be one of the hardest tracks in the calendar to pass on. After the first qualifiers I tried a bit too hard with the second set and the time just didn’t come so I was real happy to end up on the front row, especially as our pace hasn’t been that hot so far this weekend. Really I’m looking to have a good race tomorrow. Marco will need to have to have a major problem not to keep second slot but we’re going to give it our best. I know everyone will bring their ‘A’ game as a lot of guys are going real fast out there. I expect a barn-stormer of a race."
Max Baggi, Repsol Honda: 5th:
"We have improved over every session so far this weekend and I’m pretty happy to finish where we are at the moment. This morning was not so good but we make some adjustments in the right direction and things come better. My main problem is on the entry into the corners – the same as it has been all season – but we are not so far off the front as we have been in the last few races. It will be hard to improve much before tomorrow but we start the race with the same drive and enthusiam as if it was the first round of the season."
Alex Barros, Camel Honda: 8th:
"We eventually managed to improve the suspension settings so we should be able to get better grip in the rear wheel but in doing so lost time on choosing a tyre and we got a little confused. In any case I have tested myself on race tyres and the pace might not be the fastest, but it’s still not bad. We also tried to make some changes to the forks, but there was no improvement, so we kept yesterday’s setting. Overall we’re not a hundred percent yet, but it’s rare for that to happen anyway, so in general I’m quite happy."
Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda: 10th:
"Today the bike didn’t seem so agile. In some part of the tracks the rear didn’t allow me to open the gas as I would have wanted. Now I’ll have to analyze together with the technicians the telemetry data to understand what to modify to result competitive in the race. I want to end well this championship and I hope to conquer for my self a nice gift for my twenty-ninth birthday."
Ryuichi Kiyonari, replacement rider for Troy Bayliss at Camel Honda: 16th:
"I really disappointed to not have been able to do any better in practice, but that’s just the way it went. Over these two days we have made small steps forward and I felt a bit better with the set-up but I still wasn’t able to get the most out of the qualifying tyres and get further up the grid. Obviously I’m going to do my best though in tomorrow’s race and try and get the best result possible."
Dani Pedrosa, MoviStar Honda: 1st:
"We have done a good job in qualifying today although the race is tomorrow and that is the most important thing. I think we have found quite a good set-up although during this evening and tomorrow morning, we will try and improve a few small things. As far as the race is concerned, we will have to see what the weather and track conditions are like – there are a lot of fast riders and I am sure it will be difficult. It will also be special for me because it is my last in 250cc, the last of the season and it’s at home. It is really important to get a good start here and I will try my best to finish as high up as possible. Hopefully, everything will be okay."
Hector Barbera, Fortuna Honda: 2nd:
"Racing at home is always a special motivation, but I have also improved over the last two races. Valencia is a circuit that I like a lot, all my fans are here and you can tell the difference. Tomorrow we could get the result I have been fighting for all season. We have been working well since Australia and the final date of the season could be one to remember, at least for me."
Jorge Lorenzo, Fortuna Honda: 4th:
"It was not a good situation for me, because I have not been able to lap really fast throughout the day because I didn’t feel comfortable on the bike at any point. The most positive thing is that this is the last race of the year so we will wait and see what happens. In the last few races, I have been a bit unlucky but things change quickly and I am sure we will start next season with a good run."
Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Honda: 5th:
"We have worked well and my Honda has improved in this qualifying session. But the bike is still not 100% ok. Tomorrow it will be very important for me to keep the race pace of the leaders. As usual I’ll give my best: I want to keep my third place in the World Championship standings."
Hiroshi Aoyama, MoviStar Honda: 6th:
"We are still suffering a bit with the front end although we have managed to adapt and take half a second off our time from yesterday. In the afternoon we made a few changes to the front fork that didn’t work well and we went back to the configuration from the morning. In the end, when I went out to do my fastest lap there was too much traffic and I didn´t have time to get a clear run to improve my grid position. Anyway, second place is not bad, I think I have been consistent all weekend and now I just need to keep up that pace with a couple of tenths off it."
Yuki Takahashi, Scot Honda: 8th:
"I like this track and I’m satisfied with the second row of the grid. If I’ll start well and I don’t lose contact with the front runners I can do the best race of the season and a good end is a good omen. Next year I’ll run for the same team to collect the results that I lost this year because of my lack of experience".
Jakub Smrz, Molenaar Honda: 11th:
"All day I have had problems with the rear end, no grip and some slides. I came into the pits to change tyres but did only a few laps before they started sliding. When we changed the suspension to make it a bit softer on the spring it was a lot better. For the last few laps I put in a soft tyre and ran some very good laps. My fast lap would have been even better if I have not made a small mistake. The engine is very good and if I get a good start I know I will have a good race."
Dirk Heidolf, Kiefer-Bos-Castrol Honda: 12th:
"It’s good, very good. We tested a few things after Turkey and the bike feels much better. We tested here in the winter and I didn’t have the feeling with the Honda I have today. This morning we had a big problem with the rear tyre sliding. Dunlop gave us a special tyre to try but it was no better. In the afternoon we ran with a standard rear tyre and it was immediately better. The engine is in standard ‘A’ kit form and is as good as it can be and the bike is handling really good, I have a good race set up so I’m happy."
Alex Debon, Wurth Honda BQR: 13th:
"Not so bad. I have a small problem with my hand but its nothing serious. The balance of the bike is very good and handles well enough just the rear tyre has to work so hard here but with my race set up and a good engine, same as at Motegi, I will be OK. I need a good start because I have to take as many points from this race as possible, I want to finish tenth in the championship."
Arturo Tizon, Wurth Honda BQR: 22nd:
"I have improved a lot in three races and now I’m running consistent lap times alone. I’m beginning to feel very comfortable on the bike, the front end doesn’t feel like it’s going to close on me. The only problem I had today as when breaking hard the rear end gets very light and a little difficult."
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda: 4th:
"The bike is very good, it has been all weekend, I feel really comfortable riding. The engine is always strong and today we have good chassis and suspension settings. We have yet to decide which tyres to run but that will depend on the weather. In qualifying, on my fast lap I made one small mistake when I passed Espargaro at the last corner. I am still on the front row and that’s what we wanted from the qualifying session. The time gaps between the top ten riders are very small so I expect a hard race with a big group of riders fighting for the podium places. My job will be to get a good start and go. If I can lead and go away I will but if I’m dragged back into the group I will have to analyse the situation at the time."
Fabrizio Lai, Kopron Racing World Honda: 5th:
"I’m satisfied: the bike set up is ok for tomorrow. I hoped to start from front row but I’m happy anyway. I got my time running with Luthi and I’ve studied his style: he is very fast but he is also lighter than me. The choice of the right tyre will be very important for the race and I think I can be among the front runners".
Sandro Cortese, Kiefer-Bos-Castrol Honda: 7th:
"That was a really good session my best yet. In the last six minutes I was hooked up with Kallio and Talmacsi and the lap time was very good. I raced here in the Spanish Championship last year and I like the track all practice and qualifying has gone without a single problem. I’m very happy with the bike, engine, chassis and suspension. I will run the Dunlop D tyre. I have no race strategy, just get a good start and go for it!"
Tomoyoshi Koyama, Ajo Motorsport Honda: 9th:
"Not so bad. I have some front-end problems but its just a little chatter, I’m sure the team can fix it for the race. We have small chassis adjustments to make because the rear wheel was sliding a bit so we will have to wait and see what the weather is like tomorrow before we make suspension and tyre choice. "
Mike Di Meglio, Kopron Racing World Honda: 10th:
"The chain came off and I re-entered to the box walking. Therefore I lost the chance to start from the front row of the grid. Tomorrow I have to make a good start and make sure I don’t lose the contact with the leaders".
Aleix Espargaro, Seedorf RC3 Tiempo Holidays Honda: 14th:
"I am not very happy with my qualifying. The rear end of the bike is sliding badly and I have to work hard to hold my lines. The engine is strong and if we can sort out the problem with sliding I will b OK for the race.
Alexis Masbou, Ajo Motorsport Honda: 18th:
"I had a crash in the qualifying session, in the downhill. It was spectacular but not fast and I’m OK but several parts of the bike are not so good. The front wheel has buckled and we broke off a few pieces. Still my engine is better than it was yesterday and the bike was handling good here."
Manuel Hernandez, Angaia Racing Honda: 19th:
Alvaro Bautista, Seedorf RC3 Tiempo Holidays Honda: 22nd:
"I crashed my number one bike, not fast, I’m OK but I did a lot of damage to the bike. Anyway I had to use the back up machine and it is not set up so well, I still have problems getting it to turn into the corners. The team has fixed my number one bike so I have 20 minutes of the warm up to find a good race set up."
Sacha Hommel, Molenaar Honda: 39th:
"I had a crash yesterday which affected my performance this afternoon. I damaged one front fork leg in the crash and today it gave me problems half way through the qualifying session. When it showed up I should have gone into to the pit but there was not much time left. I didn’t realise the extent of the problem."