The season's opening period of timed qualifying got underway in bright sunshine here in the south of Spain today. But the hour-long session was halted in the first few minutes when an oil-spill from Alex Hofmann's Ducati skittled five riders as well as the unfortunate German himself.
Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda Team)
Dani PEDROSA(Repsol Honda Team)
The re-started session finished with Ducati pilot Loris Capirossi on pole with his team-mate Sete Gibernau alongside him as second fastest qualifier, and Kawasaki man Shinya Nakano completing the front row as third fastest man.
A Honda threesome occupies row two with Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) fourth quickest with his team-mate and MotoGP debutant Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V) in fifth place on the grid. The impressive Spanish youngster Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V) completes the all-RC211V second row in sixth. Last year's MotoGP runner-up Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V) heads row three in seventh place.
These seven riders are the only men to have turned laps in the 1m 39 second bracket. Capirossi's pole time is 1m 39.064s while Melandri in seventh posted a time of 1m 39.932s.
Confusion reigned when Hofmann's machine dumped oil on the track on the entry to turn nine just as riders were beginning to up the pace early in the session. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) was the first to go down on the spill, and Tony Elias and Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V) were two other victims. None of the six riders involved was hurt although the toll in machine damage was high.
When qualifying resumed after the clear-up operation it was plain the factory Ducati riders were the men to beat with Capirossi and Gibernau hardly off the front row placings throughout the hour, although eventual third fastest man Nakano briefly held pole just after the halfway mark.
Dani held second for a time before having to settle for fifth, but he more than made his mark on the opposition in this his first ever qualifying session on an RC211V. He is just 0.068 seconds shy of the 1m 39.666s time of his vastly experienced team-mate Hayden.
Hayden said, "The session was strange with the oil at the start. We tried some stuff early in the session but I didn't have as good a feeling as I did in the morning so we went back little-by-little to what we had. Tomorrow's race day - we've got our horse and we're going to show up and ride it as hard as we can. In the morning warm-up we're going to try some things to get the bike turning a little bit better and to try and get the tyres to last a bit longer."
Dani said, "I'm not yet at 100 per cent - I'm still very inexperienced and still have to learn step-by-step but for the first qualifying session I think the position is very good and I'm happy with it. My feeling for the race set-up is quite good because we tested here two weeks ago and this gave us a good base set-up. I'm looking forward to finally going racing because that is when we will see the real level. I hope the Spanish fans enjoy the race!"
Elias had to be content with sixth. "After the good job we did this morning I have to say that I set my sights on a front row start. I'm in the right shape to have a really good race. Tomorrow it will be important to get a good start. I'm highly motivated - the support from the Spanish fans will be like an extra gear. The bike is working well and I have improved my pace. It is a shame about the crash on the oil at the start of qualifying, which was a bit of a setback because I had to continue with my second bike."
"It was an intense day," said Melandri. "Qualifying started with a multiple crash which delayed things. It also made me ride a little cautiously because there was oil in the Nieto corner, which got in the way of the normal racing line. My priority today was set-up. We tried a few different settings as well as testing the tyres. Tomorrow should be a really nice race, very combative, with a lot of riders in the fight for the podium."
Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V), in 13th, said, "We had a race strategy to try and so we needed a few long runs to try some stuff. The first session was wet and then the crash on the oil meant we had to use the number two bike. The time's not too good and a bit far from where we should be, but the race set-up is good enough for a top ten."
Casey Stoner (LCR Honda RC211V), still recovering from a pre-season shoulder injury, said, "I'm a little disappointed because I was as fast on race tyres as I was on qualifiers. There wasn't a lot of track time so it was difficult to find a race set-up and to qualify in one session. I'm not a 'one-lap wonder' and at the moment I find it hard to put in a hot lap on qualifiers. But we've got some new forks to try in warm-up tomorrow."
Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V), down in 16th, on row six, said, "This result was not in my expectations, but now I have to try not to get down too much: the race will be tomorrow and so many other times I have been able to efficiently improve my position lap after lap."
The 250cc session belonged to Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia), but the Spanish poleman was hounded all the way to the finish of the three-quarter hour session by Yuki Takahashi (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW). The Japanese will start from second on the grid with Hector Barbera (Aprilia) alongside him and rookie Shuhei Aoyama (Repsol Honda RS250RW) in fourth.
Takahashi is 0.414 seconds off the pole time and Aoyama 0.749 seconds adrift, but of more concern is the plight of Sebastian Porto (Repsol Honda RS250RW) way down in 22nd place on row six, and to a lesser extent Andrea Dovizioso (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) on row three as 11th fastest qualifier.
Takahashi said, "We're going in the right direction, the only major problem so far has been yesterday's crash. The bike is working well and is easy to ride - which is very important in terms of the race tomorrow. The team has done a great job, now my job is to get a podium."
Shuhei Aoyama said, "Even with my lap time and my position on the grid I'm not that happy. I can improve here and I think there is more to come from the bike too. The base set-up is good and so are the tyres so we have a good chance tomorrow and I'm aiming for the podium."
The only thing I can say is we are all working hard," said a dispirited Porto. "But the bike is not how I want it and I'm trying to adapt my corner entries and exits to compensate, but we have not made enough progress so far."
Dovi said, "Unfortunately I haven't been able to improve the bike and my lap times are still the same as last year. We've made changes but we haven't made any progress and I can't ride at my maximum. My race potential is higher than 11th place but making the podium will be hard."
Mattia Pasini snatched pole in the half-hour of 125cc qualifying from Alvaro Bautista (both Aprilia) in second with Lukas Pesek (Derbi) third fastest and Julian Simon (KTM) completing the front row in fourth.
Reigning World Champion Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) could do no better than 17th and he will start from the fifth row of the grid. Luthi is suffering the after effects of a pre-season crash when he broke his collarbone. The best Honda-mounted qualifier is Gabor Talmacsi (Humangest Honda RS125R) in sixth on row two.
Fifteen-year-old Bradley Smith (Repsol Honda RS125R) qualified 25th in his first ever Grand Prix while experienced campaigners Mike di Meglio (FFM Honda RS125R) and Fabrizio Lai (Seedorf Racing Honda RS125R) are 11th and 26th.
Talmacsi said, "The bike was quite good today but the carburation was not working well. We made some changes but then we had a problem with the quickshift. But I'm optimistic for the race and happy to be the fastest Honda qualifier."
"I was in pain from my collar-bone yesterday," said World Champion Luthi. "I had to have a pain-killing injection before this session but never felt one hundred percent. We have a lot of work to do on the bike for tomorrow because I had a few slides and there are set-up details to work out. The engine is perfect though."
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team: 4th:
"It would have been nice to be on the
front row - I mean Capirossi put down a smoking lap. The Michelin
qualifying tyres worked pretty good today - it's been a while since I rode
on real qualifying tyres and they're fun. Some of our problems were cured
with qualifiers so I'm not thrilled with fourth but it's respectable and it
gives us a chance. The session was strange with the stop for oil at the
start. We tried some stuff early in the session but I didn't have as good a
feeling as we did in the morning so we went back little-by-little to what
we had. Tomorrow's race day and we've got our horse and we're going to show
up and ride it as hard as we can. In the morning warm-up we're going to try
some things to get the bike turning a little bit better and to get the
tyres to last a bit longer, and to see if I can make some progress at my
end. I'll need a good start. This Jerez crowd is unbelievable - tomorrow's
going to be fun and I'm ready."
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team: 5th:
"This session was difficult because riding on qualifying tyres is not so easy and you have to plan very well in terms of riding the lap and with the set up of the machine. We made some mistakes with the planning, and yet I think my position is good. I'm not yet at 100 per cent - I'm still very inexperienced and still have to learn step-by-step but for the first qualifying session I think the position is very good and I'm happy with it. My feeling for the race set-up is quite good because we tested here two weeks ago and this gave us a good basic set-up. I'm looking forward to finally going racing because that is when we will see the real level. I will hope the Spanish fans enjoy the race!"
Toni Elias, Fortuna Honda: 6th:
"I'm really satisfied with the result. After the good job we did this morning I have to say that I set my sights on a front row start. I'm in the right shape to have a really good race. Tomorrow it will be important to get a good start. I'm highly motivated - the support from the Spanish fans will be like an extra gear. The bike is working well and I have improved my pace. It is a shame about the crash at the start of qualifying, which was a bit of a setback because I had to continue with my second bike."
Marco Melandri, Fortuna Honda: 7th:
"It was an intense day. Qualifying started with a multiple crash which delayed things. It also made me ride a little cautiously because there was oil in the Nieto corner which got in the way of the normal racing line. My priority today was the set-up of the bike. We tried a few different settings as well as testing the tyres. Tomorrow will be a really nice race, very combative, with a lot of riders in the fight for the podium."
Kenny Roberts, Team Roberts: 13th:
"We had a race strategy and needed a few long runs to try some stuff we brought here. The first practice was in the wet so we didn't get to try it. Then the crash on the oil after two laps of the second practice meant we had to use the number two bike. That meant everything was off the table. The qualifying time is not too good we are way off where we should be. We tried a few sets of qualifying tyres with the second bike but I set the time on race tyres. The race set up and race tyre we have is still pretty good and we will be in the race and in the top 10."
Casey Stoner, Honda LCR: 15th:
"I am a little disappointed because I was just as quick on race tyres in the morning sessions as I was on qualifying tyres. I haven't had a lot of track time and it is difficult to try and find a race set-up and qualify all in the one session -- I'm not a one lap wonder and I find it hard to push on qualifying tyres, especially when I'm not comfortable with the set-up. The stoppage for the oil spill upset our plans and we went backwards with the set-up this afternoon, but we have some new forks to try in the warmup tomorrow. I would prefer racing to qualifying, so I'm looking forward to my first MotoGP race with LCR Hondaw."
Makoto Tamada , Konica Minolta Honda: 16th:
"After this day I can only be disappointed. I am very sorry for the result I obtained and for the gap which separates me from the top riders. All this does not repay the hard job made up to now by all KONICA MINOLTA Honda Team. The problem is that I am not really able to have the necessary confidence to be effective in driving. This result was not in my expectations, but now I have to try not to get down too much: the race will be tomorrow and so many other times I have been able to efficiently improve my position lap after lap."
Yuki Takahashi, Humangest Honda: 2nd:
"Everything is going in the right direction and the only negative point of the week end so far is yesterday's crash. The bike is working well, it let me ride quite easily and this is very important for me for tomorrow's race. I want to thank my team because they did a great job and my goal for tomorrow is to get on the podium."
Shuhei Aoyama, Repsol Honda: 4th:
"Even with my lap time and position I am not so happy. I think both the bike and the rider have to improve on this circuit. The base set up we have is good and the tyres also so we have a good chance tomorrow. Obviously I hope for a podium finish."
Andrea Dovizioso, Humangest Honda: 11th:
"Unfortunately, we are not able to improve the bike and my lap times are more or less the same as last year and the last test we made here at Jerez. We made many changes, but we are not moving ahead and in these conditions I can't ride as I would like. I believe that my potential for the race is higher than 11th place of the qualifying, but I also believe that it will be hard to fight for the podium."
Martin Cardenas, Wurth Honda BQR: 17th:
"I had hoped to get into the 1m 45s but didn't manage to achieve my objective partly because I had a little problem with the rear. Near the end we improved. For tomorrow I feel I have good hopes of a top 15 finish."
Arnaud Vincent, Molenaar Honda: 20th:
"For me Jerez is the start of the season even if we ad IRTA test here. The team is working well and the bike is not so bad, the engine is really good but we have some work to do on the set up. We fitted a new tyre for the last run but I didn't find a fast group to run with."
Sebastian Porto, Repsol Honda: 22nd:
"The only thing I can say I that me and the team are working very hard. Right now we are not able to get the bike to work as I want it to. I am trying to adapt my style to this bike and how I go into and get off the corners. So far we didn't make a step forward. In this moment I have to say thanks to my team for all their hard wok."
Jordi Carchano, Stop and Go Racing: 23rd:
"I have a good feeling with the bike even after just 1500 km on the machine. Then I had a shifter problem and I had to close the gas in some corners to ride the bike. Still, I set my best time in the middle f the problems. For the last six minutes I used a soft tyre but it was not good."
Gabor Talmacsi, Humangest Honda: 7th:
"I had a technical problem which held me back in that session, the shifter was not functioning as it should. It's the first time I have used this system so I had to come to the box and let the mechanics fix it. When I went out again there was not much time left, but I am the fastest Honda rider so that's good. The bike was not perfect and we have to work on before the warm up. I am still learning about the Honda. We started testing a little late. I just need time on the bike."
Mike di Meglio, FFM Honda: 11th:
"This morning I felt more comfortable on the bike thanks to the compromise that the technical staff found. I improved quickly and I could start the last qualifying practice more confident; lap by lap I realized better lap time. I stopped twice in the pit box in order to finalize the settings and then I had not so much time since the session only lasted 30 minutes, but I could make few laps. There was a lot of traffic on the track and I could get only the last lap to make a good lap time; I finished in 11th position in 1'48''183, which is one second better than yesterday but especially 2nd Honda rider in 125cc behind G.Talmacsi. I'm satisfied of these first Grand Prix practice and I'm quite serene for the tomorrow race."
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda: 17th:
"I had quite a lot of pain from my broken collarbone and I had a pain killing injection before the qualifying session. But it still hurt and I kept thinking about it and was not concentrating 100%. We have a lot of work to do on the bike for tomorrow as I had a few slides this afternoon. We have mainly suspension work to do but a few other small things on set up. The engine is fine, no problems."
Aleix Espargaro, Wurth Honda BQR: 20th:
"The engine is very good and the chassis. My problem today was accelerating off the slow corners I was sliding badly. I couldn't get on the gas I had to pick the bike up before I jumped on the throttle. But I am very comfortable on the bike in the fast corners."
Sandro Cortese, Elit Honda: 21st:
"The bike is good, I have no problems at all. I had problems in qualifying chasing a fast tie while I was in a group of riders. I saw Bautista about 50 metres ahead and started chasing him but we met Espargaro and I lost time getting passed him so my fat lap was gone so I had to try alone and could not improve. I have to get a good start if I am to take some good points from the race."
Lorenzo Baroni, Humangest Honda: 22nd:
"I improved yesterday's lap time by more than three and a half seconds and could ride even faster if I didn't find a slower rider in front of me on the final part of the circuit. At the last lap I overtook him but risked falling and so I lost more time. Anyway I'm happy because the bike is working well and today I rode better. I didn't feel pain in my left foot that I injured yesterday and this is positive for tomorrow's race."
Bradley Smith, Repsol Honda: 25th:
"Not so bad I improved my time of yesterday by 1.3s, better than my ideal time. I'm pretty satisfied. The settings we chose were not so good in the fast corners, T3 and T4. We managed to sort that out but changes meant we suffered a little in the slow corners. We will now look for a compromise."
Tito Rabat, Wurth Honda BQR: 35th:
"I'm happy because my lap time is the fastest I ever set here. But my place on the grid is not so good. The grand prix riders are very good very fast. I am here to learn as much as I can and prepare for the Spanish Championship."
Joey Litjens, Molenaar Honda: 39th:
"I was not as fast today as I was at the IRTA test. In fact I am disappointed with my time and grid position. This is a whole new world for me, and not just the racing part. I know I can improve and remain positive about the situation."