World Championship points leader Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) today gave best to pole-setter Sete Gibernau, second fastest qualifier Loris Capirossi (both Ducati) and the third front row qualifier Valentino Rossi (Yamaha). Hayden heads the second row as fourth fastest man.
Nicky HAYDEN(Repsol Honda Team)
Marco Melandri(Fortuna Honda)
In dull, overcast conditions, hardly typical of the usual Italian Grand Prix weather, riders got down to business in this final hour of qualifying for this the sixth round of a 17 race series.
Capirossi was always likely to be quick at Ducati’s ‘home’ track and he proved it by heading the timesheet with an early 1m 50.133s lap from Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V) and his Ducati team-mate Gibernau. But within ten minutes of the start of the session Hayden was up to a provisional second.
But Rossi, who has been quick in all the sessions so far, then upped the pace at the halfway mark when he put in a 1m 49.715s lap to steal pole from his countryman Capirossi and knock Nicky back into third.
Melandri was heading the second row at this stage while rookie Casey Stoner (LCR Honda RC211V) in seventh was in charge of row three with Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) running eighth fastest.
As riders engaged in the business of turning race pace laps on potential race rubber to establish a workable grip to wear ratio for tomorrow’s gruelling 23-laps of Mugello’s undulating 5.245km, Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) was the first rider to hit the track with a sticky rear qualifying tyre and go third fastest with ten minutes to go.
The main Honda contenders, Hayden, Melandri, Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V) had been lying fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh at the midway point and now was the time for them to put their markers down for final grid positions with short-life/maximum grip rubber.
Melandri hoisted himself to second fastest with three minutes to go with Hayden still occupying fourth slot. But then Capirossi dislodged Marco to establish the Ducatis in first and second. Nicky then leapfrogged Marco for third before Rossi relegated them both to the second row with a 1m 49.167s lap to put himself on the front row.
Poleman Gibernau is the only rider to dip into the 1m 48s category, but with just over half a second separating the first eight riders this promises to be a pulsating, high tempo contest tomorrow.
Nicky, fourth fastest, said, “We definitely closed the gap to the leaders a bit more today. We made a few pretty big changes overnight that seemed to help so thanks to the guys for working really hard. We’ve got to take another big step with the bike tomorrow if we want to run with these Italians. We definitely improved in our weak spots, but our top speed isn’t very good today so we need to look and see if there’s anything we can do with the transmission.”
Marco, in sixth, said, “My performance today has allowed me to start on the second row which was what I was aiming for. I am feeling good on the bike and the ‘feeling’ at the rear-end of the bike has improved a lot today. I am pretty clear about which tyres I will be using, I’ve tested two that work really well and tomorrow we will take the final decision.”
Eighth fastest Dani said, “Today we improved a lot which I’m pleased about because yesterday I was quite a long way from the front, but tomorrow is the important day. Qualifying in eighth is not perfect for me but the lap-times are pretty close so it’s OK. This position means I’ll have to make a good start tomorrow so that the leaders don’t get away – that’s going to be crucial. I am getting a little more comfortable here, but this is not my favourite track and it’s very physical on this bike.”
Casey, ninth quickest on row three, said, “I’m feeling very good about our set-up and my race pace is faster than some of the guys who just seem to pull out one fast lap in qualifying. I’ve got really good speed coming onto the straight and there are lots of braking points and passing opportunities here so I should be Ok in the race.”
“I think that my race pace is sufficient to stay with the leading group,” said tenth fastest Tamada. “I tried to do my best with the qualifying tyres but this time the rear I used at the end didn’t let me complete the entire lap. We’ve chosen the race tyres, I feel good and I’m confident I can get an interesting result tomorrow.”
Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V) was upbeat about his 11th place qualifying performance. He said, “The work we’ve done here has given me a bike that’ll do what I want it to do and that’s the best it’s been yet. My starting position’s not that good but if I get off the line well and don’t get mixed up with anyone – I know I’ll have a solid race.”
Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V) had to settle for a fifth row start in 13th. He said, "I am not satisfied because even though we improved from yesterday we are still not where we should be. It will be important to get a good result and get in amongst the top riders. It will not be an easy race as there are many quick riders, I just hope we get."
In the 250cc class it was Aprilia rider Jorge Lorenzo who secured pole position with a lap of 1m 53.787s from Yuki Takahashi (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) who will line up second for tommorow’s race. Veteran Roberto Locatelli qualified third fastest and Alex de Angelis (both Aprilia) completes the front row.
Current series points leader Andrea Dovizioso (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) heads the second row of the grid as fifth fastest qualifier with a 1m 54.380s time while rookie Shuhei Aoyama (Repsol Honda RS250RW) has to be happy with a top ten qualifying result as ninth fastest man.
Takahashi, winner of the French Grand Prix two weeks ago, is growing in stature as the season unfolds, but it’s less of a surprise that Lorenzo, who fell in France and has ground to make up on Dovizioso, is top dog at Aprilia’s stamping ground.
Takahashi said, “I’m a bit surprised about my fast lap time, even though I was behind Barbera when I did it. I didn’t expect such a good result after the past two difficult practice days. I think that many riders will be very close in tomorrow’s race and it will be important to make a good start. I’ve always made good starts, apart from Shanghai, so I feel optimistic about it.”
“Well I hoped to be on the front row today,” said Dovi. “But this is the only negative thing I can say. I’ve been consistent at a good pace in both the free and qualifying sessions. So, I feel confident for tomorrow’s race and now we just have to choose the right tyre. We’ll check during the warm-up and make a decision based on the asphalt temperature.”
Aoyama said, “I’m happy. Everything is working out as planned so far. Every time I went onto the track I’ve been faster, and bit-by-bit I’ve learned the track. The grid position is good and I think if I can make a good start and stick to the leading group I’ll be able to repeat the fight for the front positions like in Le Mans, although this circuit is much more difficult.”
Lukas Pesek (Derbi) qualified on pole in the 125cc class. It was the Czech rider’s first career pole and his lap time of 1m 58.202s was comfortably the fastest of the half-hour final session until second fastest qualifier Mattia Pasini (Aprilia) clocked a 1m 58.335 to secure his sixth front row start of the season. Hector Faubel (Aprilia) qualified third and Fabrizio Lai (Seedorf Racing Honda RS125R) was fourth fastest for his first front row start of the season.
Gabor Talmacsi (Humangest Honda RS125R) was at the sharp end of the grid for much of this session, lying second fastest with five minutes remaining. But the Hungarian charger will have to content himself with a second row start from seventh.
Reigning World Champion Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) qualified 14th, but the Swiss was outpaced by both his team-mate Sandro Cortese (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) tenth fastest and Aleix Espargaro (Würth Honda RS125R) 13th fastest.
Lai said, “I’m satisfied and confident for tomorrow race: we are competitive wet and dry and this is very important. The bike has some little problem we are trying to solve and the Aprilias today were very fast. But I think the race will have a lower pace and then I’ll be among the leaders.”
Talmacsi said, “We made a step forward in the general set-up of the bike and I’m satisfied with that. Actually, I could have improved more on the last lap and conquered the front row, but I found traffic that slowed me down. However, the important thing is that we have now a good base. During tomorrow’s warm-up we’ll try some adjustments to the front-end and try some different tyres, but we are nearly OK.”
Luthi said, “We didn’t get enough dry time to get all the work done we needed to but what we did has been good. We have some work to do on the suspension before the race because the track is very bumpy, but we have time in the warm-up. The engine is very fast so we have enough power for the long front straight.”
Dani PEDROSA(Repsol Honda Team)
(Humangest Racing Team)
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda: 4th:
"We definitely closed the gap to the leaders a bit more today. We made a few pretty big changes overnight that seemed to help so thanks to the guys for working really hard. This morning I was able to drop the pace and get closer to the front, but we’ve got to take another big step with the bike tomorrow if we want to run with these Italians. We definitely improved in our weak spots, but our top speed isn’t very good today so we need to look and see if there’s anything we can do with the transmission. I’m excited for tomorrow and they say the sun’s going to shine. It’s going to be a battle and I hope to be right in the middle of the dog-fight having some fun."
Marco Melandri, Fortuna Honda: 6th:
"I am satisfied with the result. My performance today has allowed me to start on the second row which was what I was aiming for. I am feeling good on the bike and my 'feeling' with the rear end has improved a lot today. I am pretty clear about which tyres I will be using, I have tested two tyres that work really well and tomorrow we will take the final decision also according to the opinion of my Michelin technician. It's quite hard to make use of qualifying tyres at this circuit. I am happy to have performed well in front of my home fans and will give everything to get on the podium tomorrow."
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 8th:
"Today we improved a lot which I’m pleased about because yesterday I was quite a long way from the front, but of course tomorrow is the important day. Qualifying in eighth is not perfect for me but the lap-times are pretty close so it’s ok. This position means I will have to make a good start tomorrow so that the leaders don’t get away – that’s going to be crucial. I am getting a little more comfortable here, but this is not my favourite track and it’s very physical on this bike, I will try to adapt some more. I think the set-up for the race is quite good, but we will have to see how the tyre performance goes tomorrow. We’ll find out what we can in the warm up, but only the race will tell."
Toni Elias, Fortuna Honda: 12th:
"I am not satisfied because even though we improved from yesterday we are still not where we should be. It will be important to get a good result and get in amongst the top riders. It will not be an easy race as there are many quick riders, I just hope we get."
Casey Stoner, LCR Honda: 9th:
"Another average qualifying run although I’m feeling very good about our set-up, plus my race pace is faster than some of the guys who seem to be able to pull out just one fast lap in qualifying. I’ve got really good speed coming onto the straight and there are a lot of braking points and passing opportunities here, so I should be OK in the race. My race set-up didn’t seem to work perfectly for the soft qualifying tyre which was destroyed about halfway through my final lap, plus I lost some concentration when I was held up behind Randy de Puniet."
Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda: 10th:
"Today afternoon we had favourable weather conditions to push us in searching the best performance. With the latest modifications executed to the rear suspension after this morning free practice session my feeling was immediately better and I think that my race pace is sufficient to stay with the leading group. I tried to do my best with the qualifying tyres but this time the rear one I used at the end revealed to be too smooth and it did not permit me to cover the entire lap. We have defined the race tyres, I feel good and I’m confident I can get an interesting result tomorrow."
Kenny Roberts Jnr, KR Honda: 11th:
"With the work we have done here it has given me a bike that will do what I want it to. Right now I’m happy because I can feel it’s the best yet. My starting position is not good but if I can get a good start and get to the first turn in a good position I know we will have a solid race tomorrow – wet or dry conditions."
Yuki Takahashi, Humangest Honda: 2nd:
"I’m a bit surprised about my fast lap time, even though I was behind Barbera when I did it. I didn’t expect such a good result after the past two difficult practice days. I think that many riders will be very close in tomorrow’s race and it will be important to make a good start. I’ve always made good starts a part from Shanghai, so I feel optimistic about it. Then, it is important to stay with the group and try to fight for the victory in the final stages."
Andrea Dovizioso, Humangest Honda: 5th:
"Well, I hoped to conquer the front row today, but this is the only negative thing I can say. In fact I’ve been constant and with a good pace in both the free and qualifying sessions. So, I feel confident for tomorrow’s race and now we just have to choose the tyre to use: we are going to check during the warm up and decide considering mainly the asphalt’s temperature."
Shuhei Aoyama, Repsol Honda: 9th:
"I’m happy. Everything is working out as planned so far. Every time I went onto the track I’ve been faster, and bit by bit I have learned the track. The most important is exactly that: to see a constant improvement, because we’re starting from cero. The grid position is good; I think that if I can make a good start and stick to the leading group, I’ll be able to repeat the fight for the front positions like in Le Mans, although this circuit is much more difficult."
Martin Cardenas, Wurth Honda BQR: 17th:
"Very good qualifying, I improved a lot from yesterday and the bike also. In the final qualifying we managed to get a good bike set up. This track is difficult with the chicanes quite complicated for me. It felt good as I can now get the bike to hold its line in the corners. My engine has good power so we just have to choose the tyres."
Arturo Tizon, Wurth Honda BQR: 19th:
"I had a crash this morning, I just went into the corner too fast and high-sided but ‘m OK just a little angry with myself. In the qualifying session I quickly found my confidence, even at the corner I crashed at. The bike is very good but I’m not happy with my grid position. I was trying for a 1m 55s lap but I didn’t push hard enough but the time was OK. I have a little bit to do on suspension in the morning and decide which tyres to run."
Sebastian Porto, Repsol Honda: 20th:
"It’s the same as always, the truth is that there isn’t much more to say. We still have problems, I don’t manage to be fast with this bike, it doesn’t adapt, there’s no way. We have changed things and the bike hinders me from being fast. Above all I’m angry, because I’m the same as always and the bike is hindering me. If you analyse the times, I won here two years ago, and I’m three seconds behind the circuit record which is still mine, so if you analyse all that you get even more angry. But, well, we have to look forward as I’ve always done and try to give our very best tomorrow with what we have, to see if we can improve a bit more; and tomorrow we’ll fight as always and do it the best we can."
Fabrizio Perren, Stop and Go Racing: 24th:
"This is my first ever 250cc race and my first race at Mugello so I am happy with qualifying. I felt comfortable on the bike from the start and quickly found what I needed to adjust to make the bike better. We worked on the overall balance of the bike first, because I don’t like too much weight on the front wheel. I have also made small changes to the gearbox ratios, which helped me a lot. Tonight we have to change sixth gear for a longer ratio to stop the over-revving near the end of the long straight. I know which front tyre I will use but will wait and see what the weather is like tomorrow before deciding on the rear tyre."
Fabrizio Lai, Seedorf Racing World: 4th:
"I’m satisfied and confident for tomorrow race: we are competitive on wet and on dry and this is very important. The technicians are working very hard to improve our performances and I am very grateful to them. Tomorrow I will give my best."
The bike has some little problem we are trying to solve but Aprilias today were very fast. But I think the race will have a lower pace, well then I’ll be among the leaders."
Gabor Talmacsi, Humangest Honda: 7th:
"We made a step forward in the general set-up of the bike and I’m satisfied about it. Actually, I could have improved more on the last lap and conquered the front row, but I found traffic that slowed me down. However, the important thing is that we have now a good base of my Honda. During tomorrow’s warm-up we have to adjust the front of the bike and try different tyres for the race, but we are nearly ok!"
Sandro Cortese, Elit Honda: 10th:
"In the first ten minutes of qualifying I was running 2m 02s laps and my rhythm was good. I came in to change the rear tyre and went out to try for a fast lap if I could find a fast rider to run with. Mike Kallio caught me and I hooked up with him. On our fastest lap we came across Simon who tried to close the door but when he saw it was Kallio he let us through and we got in a very good lap. I’m happy with qualifying and the bike is very good I have good speed don the straight. The only problem will be trying to save the clutch off the start because we are pulling a very long first gear."
Aleix Espargaro, Wurth Honda BQR: 13th:
"Two weeks ago I was very unhappy after my accident (at Le Mans) and yesterday in the wet conditions I was not confident. Today in qualifying my bike was one of the fastest down the straight and helped me get a good grid position. Pablo Nieto helped me on my fast lap today and I thank him for that. The only difficulty I have is choosing the rear tyre for the race. I have used the 120B on the rear but I don’t think it will last race distance. In the warm up we will test some options. Anyway today has helped me again my confidence after what happened at Le Mans."
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda: 14th:
"We didn’t get enough dry time to get al the work done we needed to but what we did has been good. We have some work to do on the suspension before the race because the track is very bumpy, but we have time in the warm up. The engine is very fast so we have enough power for the long front straight."
Mike Di Meglio, FFM Honda: 18th:
"During the free morning pratice I had somne problems with the chassis; we changed the settings for the qualifying session and it was better. But an engine problem disturbed me a lot and on this track it’s important to have a good engine because there are two straight lines so it was quite difficult to realise a very good lap time. At the end of the practice the front of the bike chattered and I couldn’t keep the right path but despite this I improved my lap time from last year of three tenth in the last laps. We are trying to solve these problems tomorrow morning during the warm up in order to get the best solution for the race."
Lorenzo Baroni, Humangest Honda: 26th:
"Actually I thought I could have been faster today, but still we have some problems with the front that slow me down in the entrance of the curves. Also, there was traffic on track and so now I have to start far behind on the starting grid. I hope tomorrow the asphalt will be dry and during the warm up we have to work on the chassis."
Michele Conti, Seedorf Racing World: 29th:
"I haven’t found the right feeling with my Honda yet. My technicians are trying to understand how to solve this problem but I am still far away from the confidence I had with the bike last year".
Bradley Smith, Repsol Honda: 32nd:
"I’m not happy at all. Eight in the first qualifying, then sixteenth in the dry, I was really happy and then from out of the blue, something I didn’t expect… thirty-second. I don’t know, or a moment I was wondering whether there was something wrong with the bike because I just felt that I was on the limit and pushed so hard and nothing seemed to work, it didn’t matter whether I was going slow or fast or try to be more aggressive or trying to be smooth it just didn’t see to make any difference. So, thirty-second is my worst qualifying so far but maybe we can pull something out in the race. I don’t know everyone went so much quicker than in previous sessions, but I felt good and with the bike I didn’t feel too bad even though there were a few things wrong but it didn’t feel like being over three seconds of the pole. Let’s se what we can do and put it all together and hopefully it turns out alright."
Hiroaki Kuzuhara, Seedorf Racing World: 33rd:
"The World Championship riders are very fast! I had some engine problems during the session. In this conditions is very difficult to get a good time. I hope my technicians could give me a more competitive bike tomorrow."
Joey Litjens, Molenaar Honda: 39th:
"This afternoon I was about 2.6s faster than in the morning. That’s a big step. In the warm up tomorrow I hope I can make another step forward. In the race I have to make a good start from my 39th on the grid and hope so I can take part in a battle with a good group. I need to get a grip of myself in the opening laps if I am to catch the group."