This crucial timed session of MotoGP qualifying provided all the action usually associated with this raw, coastal track. In sunny 17-degree temperature with the track at a manageable 25-degrees, this final hour got underway with Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) heading the timesheets.
Nicky HAYDEN(Repsol Honda Team)
Kenny ROBERTS JR(Team Roberts)
But it ended with last year’s pole-setter Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) on top again here with another Kawasaki rider Shinya Nakano lining up next to him and with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) completing the front row. Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V) just missed out on what would have been his fourth front row start of the season.
At the halfway point of the session it was Ducati man Sete Gibernau who led the way with a lap of 1m 30.471 seconds. This was before de Puniet upped the pace with an early qualifying tyre fitted to record a 1m 30.581 second time. The front row grid order at this stage was de Puniet, Gibernau, Nakano.
With twenty minutes to go Carlos Checa (Yamaha) rode into the reckoning and onto the provisional front row knocking Nakano back to fourth. Hayden and his team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V), still recovering from his Sepang injuries, were nowhere (10th and 15th) with twenty minutes to go.
Events intensified as the clock ticked down, and with 18 minutes remaining Nakano made another bid for pole with a 1m 29.827s lap. Aussie hope Casey Stoner (LCR Honda RC211V) elevated himself to the front row too with a 1m 30.446s lap. Then with 11 minutes remaining Rossi, who had been sitting seventh slotted into fourth, while Hayden scorched to second fastest.
Dani then made it to eighth quickest, but it was clear that the rookie sensation was still suffering from his cut right knee and broken left toe sustained in Malaysia. He would eventually qualify tenth for a fourth row start.
With five minutes left on the clock, Checa grabbed second place from Nicky and it was left to the Kentucky Kid to respond. He did it the best way he could, shattering his own 2005 pole time of 1m 29.337s by 0.317 seconds with the fastest ever lap of this daunting 4.448km Phillip Island track at 1m 29.020s.
Rossi was on the grass trying to respond to this time but he got in one final tour of the circuit before the clock ran down to steal second on the grid before Nakano again reclaimed that spot for himself with a 1m 29.258s time.
The front row line-up is Hayden, Nakano, Rossi. Row two reads Roberts, Colin Edwards (Yamaha), Checa, and row three, Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V), Stoner, de Puniet. Dani starts from tenth with Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) alongside him as 11th fastest qualifier, while Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V) qualified 14th.
This is Nicky’s first pole of 2006 and it couldn’t have come at a better time. He said, “It’s really nice to be on pole and to get a good lap in. That Michelin qualifier worked so good and my bike felt awesome for that one lap. On race pace I’m struggling a bit and I just cannot find any traction. We’ve changed everything on the bike to try and get some grip and not just spin the tyre. Nonetheless it feels good to get a good lap in – we’ve still got some work to do if we want to do 27 of them tomorrow.”
Dani, 10th fastest, said, “Today we worked on set-up and my feeling on the bike was not quite as good as I’d have liked. We are tenth on the grid and that is not fantastic but it’s much better than 15th, which is where I was for a lot of the weekend. I was able to ride quite hard on the qualifying tyre, but I’m losing a lot of time on every lap in the first sector so I will have to improve that for the race. Tomorrow is another day so I’m not sure of my potential yet. I don’t know yet if I’ll have painkillers – I prefer not to but it may be necessary.”
Kenny, heading row two in fourth, said, “I really didn't think I had a lap in me like that, to get so close to the front row. We’ve been struggling for rear grip, and we made a few changes since this morning. On my second qualifier I thought I could follow Nicky (Hayden), but he wanted to follow me. I surprised myself. I had a really steady lap, pretty smooth. I think I could have gone quicker if I had somebody to gauge off. But it's only qualifying, and anywhere in the top three rows for me would have been good. Fourth is a bonus.”
“I set a decent pace,” said seventh fastest Marco. “But unfortunately I lost a few vital tenths on a qualifying tyre and tomorrow I’ll be on the third row. We’ve still got a few modifications to try in the warm-up and I’m still confident I can fight for the podium because this is a track where you always fight to the end. Last year that was the case – I started from eighth and fought for the podium, finishing fourth.”
Casey, eighth fastest, said, “I think it is going to be a close race up front. Hopefully I can get a good start, although there is not a big run to turn one. I like the Island track but there is not a lot of passing room, you have be aggressive on the first lap and then be patient as the race unfolds. I usually suck in qualifying so I’m pretty happy with today – the set-up worked really well on both race and qualifying tyres.”
Tamada in 11th, said, “Probably, the different track conditions today are the reason why this morning, I immediately suffered a grip problem in corners and a lack of traction. We tried different tyre solutions, and worked on rear suspension and electronics without solving the problem. This hampers me in the long high speed corners in the second and fourth track sectors.”
Elias, 14th quickest, said, “The feeling with the bike setting has improved a lot and compared to yesterday we took a big step forward. I set quite a good pace but I wasn’t able to build on the good work we did on a race tyre by making the most of the qualifying rubber. Hopefully I can make a good start in the race as I did in Malaysia. I’m confident – I like the track a lot – but I hoped to be higher up on the grid.”
In the 250cc class series leader Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia) grabbed his eighth pole of the season here with a lap of 1m 32.717 seconds ahead of fellow Aprilia riders Alex de Angelis and Sylvain Guintoli. Andrea Dovizioso (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) secured his eighth front row start of the season as fourth fastest qualifier.
The next Honda man on the grid is Yuki Takahashi (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) who qualified ninth for a third row start. The Japanese star is riding here for the first time and is 1.769 seconds away from the pole time.
Shuhei Aoyama (Repsol Honda RS250RW) qualified 11th, but he is two seconds
shy of the poleman’s
pace. Aoyama it a seagull during the final session but escaped with
nothing more than a bruised arm.
Martin Cardenas (Repsol Honda RS250RW), injured in a Sepang crash last weekend, sat out this final qualifying session and will not race on Sunday.
Dovi said, “It hasn’t been easy finding the right balance on the bike, but in the afternoon we went in the right direction and this made me feel more confident. We made a clear improvement compared to yesterday but we have to complete the job during the warm-up; the important thing, though, is to have eventually found a good solution. The gap from Lorenzo is big, but it doesn’t worry me too much as it be smaller in race configuration.”
“Things have definitely improved since yesterday,” said Takahashi. “We’ve found a good set-up and now I’m faster entering the curves. It’ll be a very difficult race because I can’t control the bike perfectly on the brakes. But I feel more confident on the bike and tomorrow we’re going to do few small adjustments during the warm-up to be more competitive still.”
Mika Kallio (KTM) set the pace in the 125cc class to record a 1m 36.625 second lap for his ninth front row start of the season. This is also his third pole of the year. Runaway series leader Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) qualified second fastest, with Lukas Pesek (Derbi) third and defending World Champion Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) on the front row for the first time this season as fourth fastest man.
Fabrizio Lai (Seedorf Racing Honda RS125R) qualified in ninth place with a 1m 37.415 second lap, while Gabor Talmacsi (Humangest Honda RS125R) qualified 11th, just under one second shy of the pole time.
Luthi said, “I think I’ll run a good race here tomorrow, the basics are all in place. The bike is really good but we’ve
not made many changes to it from Malaysia. In some races this year I have had a poor qualifying session and performed well I the race but today I’m on the front row so I should be in a good position for the race. If you ask me what’s different from last week I can’t tell you – only that I’m on the front row and last week I was on the fourth row!”
Talmacsi said, “We made small adjustments today but they didn’t turn out as effective as we thought. We still have to work on the set-up of the bike, especially with the front suspension as I struggle entering the curves and turn four is the most difficult for me. But we’re not far away and on the last lap I was sure I was doing well.”
Marco MELANDRI (Fortuna Honda)
Casey STONER (Honda LCR)
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda: 1st.
"It's really nice to be on pole and to get a good lap in. That Michelin qualifier worked so good and my bike felt awesome for that one lap. I was able to open the throttle as hard as I liked and it was really fun – though it doesn't count for anything other than a really good grid position. I knew before the start of my lap that my timing wasn't good and I wasn't going to get use my last qualifier so I knew I had to get in a good lap. On race pace I'm struggling a bit and I just cannot find any traction. We've changed everything on the bike to try and get some grip and not just spin the tyre. Nonetheless it feels good to get a good lap in - we've still got some work to do if we want to do 27 of them tomorrow."
Kenny Roberts Jnr, KR Honda: 4th.
"I really didn't think I had a lap in me like that, to get so close to the front row. We've been struggling for rear grip, and we made a few changes since this morning. On my second qualifier I thought I could follow Nicky (Hayden) ... but he wanted to follow me. I surprised myself. I had a really steady lap, pretty smooth. I think I could have gone quicker if I had somebody to gauge off. But it's only qualifying, and anywhere in the top three rows for me would have been good. Fourth is a bonus. We tried a slightly steeper steering head this afternoon, and that seemed to pick us up some time and a better feeling. It's similar to what Barcelona was, though you wouldn't think of the two tracks together. We'll try that in the second bike tomorrow, and a shock setting that we tried to begin with that seemed to give us a little bit better grip. Qualifying is kind of insignificant, because (Loris) Capirossi and Sete (Gibernau) are way down, but they're ultra fast on race tyres. It's going to be a weird race."
Kenny Roberts Senior – team owner:
"The secret is to follow Nicky, and not let Nicky follow us. It's nice around here to get a bit of a tow, because it breaks the wind. I was quite impressed by Kenny's lap, on his own. I'm still not super-confident in race trim, though this race-track should favour us a little more than the last one. We need to start doing better in the races before I'll have much confidence."
Marco Melandri, Fortuna Honda: 7th.
"Today we worked a lot on the weight balance of the bike and the feeling on the front in particular has improved. We still need to work with the suspension to try and get a bit more confidence in the fast corners and get a bit more traction in the corners that are most important to a good lap time. I set a decent pace but unfortunately I lost a few vital tenths on a qualifying tyre and tomorrow I'll be on the third row. We've still got a few modifications to try in the warm-up. I'm still confident I can fight for the podium because this is a track where you always fight to the end. Last year that was the case - I started from eighth and fought for the podium, finishing fourth."
Casey Stoner, LCR Honda: 8th.
"I think it is going to be a bloody close race up front. Hopefully I can get a good start, although there is not a big run to turn one. I like the Island track but there is not a lot of passing room, you have be aggressive on the first lap and then be patient as the race unfolds. I usually suck in qualifying so I'm pretty happy with today -- the set-up worked really well on both race and qualifying tyres. Michelin gave us some different tyres today and I did my fastest race lap on one those this morning, but some others did not work and confused us. Melandri held me up on one lap in qualifying but we got some good set-up information from that, so everything is looking OK for the race."
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 10th.
"Today we worked on set-up and my feeling on the bike was not quite as good as I'd have liked. We are tenth on the grid and that is not fantastic but it's much better than 15th which is where I have been for a lot of the weekend. I was able to ride quite hard on the qualifying tyre, but I'm losing a lot of time on every lap in the first sector so I will have to improve that for the race. The bike set-up is not bad, although we still have to decide on the right Michelin race tyre. Tomorrow is another day so I'm not sure of my potential yet. I don't know yet if I'll have painkillers - I prefer not to but it may be necessary."
Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda: 11th.
"Probably, the different track conditions today are the reason why this morning, I immediately suffered a grip problem in corners and a lack of traction. We tried different tyre solutions, and worked on rear suspension and electronics without solving the problem. This hampers me in the long high speed corners in the second and fourth track sectors."
Toni Elias, Fortuna Honda: 14th.
"The feeling with the bike setting has improved a lot and compared to yesterday
we have taken a big step forward. I set quite a good pace but I wasn't able to
build on the good work we did on a race tyre by making the most of the qualifying
rubber. Hopefully I can make a good start in the race as I did in Malaysia. I'm
confident - I like the track a lot - but I hoped to be higher up on the grid."
Andrea Dovizioso, Humangest Honda: 4th.
"It hasn’t been easy to find the right balance of the bike, but in the afternoon we went on the right direction and this made me feel more confident in riding. We made a clear improvement compared to yesterday but we have to complete the job during the warm up; the important thing, though, is to have eventually found a good solution. The gap from Lorenzo is big, but it doesn’t worry me too much as it become smaller in the race configuration."
Yuki Takahashi, Humangest Honda: 9th.
"Things have definitely improved since yesterday; we have found a good set-up of the bike and now I am able to be faster in the entrance of the curves. It will be a very difficult race because I can’t control perfectly the bike in the hard brakes. But, I feel more confident on the bike and tomorrow we are going to do few small adjustments during the warm up in order to be more competitive."
Shuhei Aoyama, Repsol Honda: 11th.
"I had a big fright today. I was riding all the way down the main straight and just when I was going to enter the first corner a big bird crashed against my arm. I don’t know how fast I was riding at that moment, but it must have been very fast because it was at the end of the main straight. I felt a strong blow and it hurt a lot. I even thought that something was broken, but my hand seemed to be working well, so I decided to go into the garage because I had a lot of pain. I just took some minutes to rest; I needed to relax a bit from the fright and then went back on the track. Everything seems to be OK now, but I don’t know how it will look like tomorrow."
Arturo Tizon, Wurth Honda BQR: 16th.
"This morning I had a crash when Baldolini crashed in front of me and I hit his bike, then somebody hit me. It was the first lap. so we didn’t get any work done on the bike. I feel good now but we didn’t find a good compromise on the chassis and suspension settings. The engine is so – so but we will concentrate on the chassis. If we get a good balance and the suspension works well I know the engine will run a constant pace, maybe not the fastest but it will be good."
Fabrizio Perren, Stop and Go Racing: 17th.
"This is my first time at Phillip Island and I’m OK out there. I set my times without taking risks. The team not to take risks after my stupid crash at Sepang last week, I damaged the bike a lot and we don’t have that many parts with us and we still have to go to Japan. The engine is perfect – just look at the speed trap times. I am comfortable with the chassis and suspension but we have some small things to try in warm up. I know he tyres I will race with, Dunlop have been good to us and I know we have to earn better tyres and I’m happy with that."
Aleix Espargaro, Wurth Honda BQR: 18th.
"Before qualifying I had an injection for the pain in my injured hand and while riding I could manage to overcome thinking about pain. Because I crashed twice I unfortunately lost one and a half sessions on track and I lost a little confidence while on the bike, I don’t have a good feeling but that is only natural. I am very happy with the engine its much better than at the last few races. I’m not sure about the chassis because of the lost time an also I cannot brake as hard as I need to because of my injured hand. Tomorrow I have to ride a thinking race, be intelligent and take no risks. It will be a very difficult race for me."
Arnaud Vincent, Molenaar Honda: 20th.
"In every practice I have had a problem with he engine, every time I change gear the engines feels as if it will stop. I don’t know if it’s the electronics maybe something to do with the quick shifter. The chassis, suspension and tyres are very good and if we can find the problem with the engine I will have a good race because I really like this track."
Martin Cardenas, Repsol Honda:
Martin Cardenas will not race due to a recurrence of a problem with a collarbone injury.
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda: 4th.
"I think I will run a good race here tomorrow, the basics are all in place. The bike is really good but we have not made many changes to it from Malaysia In some races this year I have had a poor qualifying session and performed well I the race but today I’m on the front row so I should be in a good position for the race. If you ask me what is different from last week I cant tell you only that I’m on the front row and last week on the fourth row! I am not perfect but comfortable but I like this track a lot and will have a good race. I was behind Bautista in qualifying but made a small mistake off the last corner and he got away from me a little and I could not stay with him."
Fabrizio Lai, Seedorf Racing World: 9th.
"During my final lap I was involved in a crash with Kallio: he fell down in front of me and I almost collided whit him… and I lost the lap. Luckily I didn’t crash out. I’m confident for tomorrow race: my Honda, with cool weather, has a good performance and I hope to make a good start and ride with the leaders till the end of the race. In these conditions I could make good race. For the next races we have to find a solution to cool the engine… for now hurrah for the cool Australian spring."
Gabor Talmacsi, Humangest Honda: 11th.
"We have made small adjustments today but they didn’t turn out so effective as we thought. We still have to work on the set-up of the bike as I am fast only in the streamline of other riders. Especially with the front suspension as I struggle in entering the curves and turn 4 is the most difficult for me. But we are not far and in the last lap I was sure I was doing well."
Bradley Smith, Repsol Honda: 17th.
"The second day didn’t go as well as the first day. Not only because of the result but also because of the lap times and how I felt. The first session was pretty difficult and we had a lot to test. I never really got the lap times that I should have which meant we were quite far back. In the second session I wasn’t able to find my pace but as soon as we put on the new rear tyres I felt good and was setting some good times in traffic. I left it a bit late and I got to the last lap and tried that extra bit more. We got the fastest lap sector in T1 but as I came round the corner into Honda Hairpin I just tried to outbrake someone and went straight on so it’s a shame because I know that we could have been a lot further up. But the good thing is that we don’t have to change nothing with the bike tomorrow. Hopefully we can get a good start and keep with the people. The lap times are so close so I think it’s going to be groups so I’ll try to go with them and do my best. My arm is OK. When I’m riding it’s not a problem it’s rather afterwards. Maybe the vibrations but we’ve been icing it so it’s not really a problem."
Sandro Cortese, Elit Honda: 18th.
"I am very happy with my position on the grid after I missed most of practice and qualifying yesterday because of my crash. But I feel fine today no after effects. At the beginning of qualifying I was behind Tom (Luthi) but he eased away from me and I eventually had to set my best lap alone so I am pleased with my time. The bike is very fast and I have good acceleration. The bike steers well and I’m happy with the suspension settings. I ill go into the race in really confident frame of mind."
Tito Rabat, Wurth Honda BQR: 20th.
"The bike is very good, very fast and it accelerates off he corners. Chassis and suspension are almost perfect and I like this track. The only problem I have was with riders waiting around the track to catch the slipstream of fast riders. On two or three occasions one of these riders pulled out in front of me and I almost crashed. It is very dangerous. I couldn’t find a fast rider but I didn’t do that I just had to set my time alone."
Michele Conti, Seedorf Racing World:25th.
"Tomorrow I will start from a better position in comparison with the past races. I hope to make a good start and get the contact with a fast group. Today I’ve practiced many starts. My Honda has only some clutch problems that my technicians are now solving. I like this track and the bike has good a performance in these weather conditions… I’m confident for the first time this year!"
Joey Litjens, Molenaar Honda: 26th.
"It was much too busy out there to find a clear track and run with another rider to go for a really fast lap. Pity because I really like this track and my bike is really good, fast and it accelerates good. The chassis set up is quite good and we just have little things to do to the suspension in the warm up. I feel really good here and I hope to have a good race."
Michele Pirro, Humangest Honda: 36th.
"I am a bit disappointed. I struggled riding here and I don’t have the right feeling with the Honda machine. This is a great chance for me but I’m not able to take full advantage of it. I hope to find some better solution during tomorrow’s warm up, but it is going to be a tough race for me."