The sun-blessed Spanish crowd got what they came for at Jerez today - Spaniards first and second fastest for tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix, round three of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) led much of the 45-minute session and was happy enough with his final position - second quickest, just 0.051 seconds off compatriot Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha).
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda)
Randy DE PUNIET (LCR Honda MotoGP)
Conditions were warm but very blustery this afternoon, Pedrosa nonetheless building on a successful morning session during which he completed an ultra-quick run which gave him the fastest free practice time. Pedrosa wasn't the only Honda rider to feature well in the qualifying outing. Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) also spent much of the session close to the front, ending the 45 minutes fifth overall. Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) went well too, but struggled in the wind and had to be happy with a third row start, alongside Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V).
Pedrosa made crucial overnight improvements to his RC212V set-up and his speed throughout today's sessions suggests he will be at the sharp end of the action tomorrow. Pedrosa's Jerez MotoGP record is impressive - runner-up in 2006 and 2007 and a dominant winner last year. Despite suffering knee and wrist injuries during testing in March, Honda's former 125 and 250 World Champion kickstarted his 2009 season with an impressive third-place finish in last Sunday's Japanese GP.
De Puniet rode superbly throughout the afternoon session, running a strong race pace on harder-compound race tyres after fine tuning his RC212V's power delivery. On softer tyres at the end of the 45 minutes he went fifth fastest. The Frenchman believes he can make the top six tomorrow.
Dovizioso had high hopes of a great qualifying performance but the windy conditions hampered his efforts to refine the set-up of his RC212V. Like many riders the Italian sometimes had to fight to stay in control when gusts of winds threatened to cause him to crash, most notably at the very end of the session when he was going for a fast time through the fast corners at the end of the lap. Dovizioso's aim for tomorrow is straightforward - to improve on the fifth-place finishes he achieved in the opening two races in Qatar and Japan.
Elias has had a challenging start to his 2009 season but the local star is confident that he has now found a good direction with his factory-spec RC212V. The Spaniard has got his RCV working well here, his best lap this afternoon just four tenths slower than fourth-placed reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha).
The wind may have disturbed many riders today but Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) preferred to look on the bright side - at least conditions were better than they were in Japan, where torrential rain forced the cancellation of qualifying. Rookie Takahashi needs all the dry time he can get to keep moving forward aboard his RC212V.
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) had a difficult day, the San Marino rider falling victim to the blustery winds. De Angelis fell when a strong gust of wind knocked him off line as he attacked a fast corner. Battered and bruised, he ended the session in 15th spot and will probably need painkilling therapy for a leg injury before tomorrow's race.
The 250 qualifying session was even more frantic than the MotoGP qualifier, with the windy conditions causing bigger problems for the lightweight machines. There were several fallers, including Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG). Reigning World Champion Marco Simoncelli (Gilera) also fell, his second tumble of the day.
Following his brilliant ride to second at Motegi last Sunday, Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) led the early stages of the session but struggled to maintain position in the blowy conditions. He will start from sixth on the grid, three places in front of Hector Faubel (Valencia CF - Honda SAG) who missed the second row by just 0.027 seconds. Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) was 12th, one place ahead of Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) who was taken to the Clinica Mobile after a fall at the hairpin.
Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Repsol Honda Team)
Toni ELIAS (San Carlo Honda Gresini)
Second fastest Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) said:
“I'm happy because we've improved a lot from yesterday and we're starting from the front row. This is always important - but especially at my home race. It was very windy this afternoon which made it quite difficult to ride with a consistent line and keep the rhythm, but still, my pace was good and I'll go into the race with a lot of confidence. We still have some work to do to improve our set-up but I'm happy with how we've progressed so far this weekend. Tomorrow is the important day though. There will be a lot of fans out there supporting me and the team and I really hope I can get a good result for them. If I get a start like I did at Motegi then that will help!”
Fifth fastest Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) said:
“At the beginning of the session we ran with our race set-up and I am happy with that because we improved the engine mapping for better power delivery. Then, for the last few runs, we lapped on softer tyres to improve our grid position, but that was difficult due to the strong winds. It was not easy to do one perfect lap and I made a few small mistakes as the wind pushed me outside and inside, but this second row makes me very happy. The team did a good job and we improved the bike step by step. Honestly, I aim to get a top-six finish tomorrow. We have a good chance to do it because we start from the second row and our package is pretty competitive.”
Eighth fastest Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) said:
“It has been a tricky session for everybody because it was really windy and this meant we couldn't confirm some set-up improvements that we were testing. This morning we made some adjustments that gave us some positive feedback, and we wanted to keep working on them, but we couldn't test properly this afternoon because of the strong wind. Still, we improved our race pace which is very important, it's just a pity that we will start from the third row. I think I could have been on the second row but during my best lap I lost the front in T4 and I almost crashed. Tomorrow morning we will work on further improving the feeling of mid-corner stability at the front. For the race I'll have to make a good start because we cannot afford to lose contact with the guys in front.”
Ninth fastest Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) said:
“I think tomorrow could be a good race for me and I'm really looking forward to it. We've improved, not as much as we'd like yet but at least this small step allows me to dream of getting involved in the fight with a faster group or riders, closer to the front. I got a bad start to the races in Qatar and Japan so we've worked on that today because I think it could be the key to a good result tomorrow. I'm going to have to ride on the limit if I want to make up positions like I have done in past races here but the closer you are to the limit the higher the risk of a mistake, which would be expensive. Hopefully I won't make any because I really want a good result here - for myself, for the team and especially for the fans because they give us so much here and it would be nice to be able to pay them back somehow.”
13th fastest Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) said:
“I'm quite happy. Good weather all the two days - great. It was windy, but wind is not such a problem as rain is. This morning I found a good setting, and we modified it just slightly in the afternoon. There was not enough time to do a long run, but I did my best lap running alone, and this means that that is a realistic pace.”
15th fastest Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) said:
“I'm disappointed with the crash and with the grid position. I just didn't feel confident from the start of the session this afternoon after having made decent progress this morning and we need to study the telemetry to understand why. I'm struggling on the softer tyre and I'm actually in better shape in race trim. I was coming through one of the fast corners towards the end of the lap when I was hit by a huge gust of wind. I tried to lean the bike over more to counter it but the front folded and I went down. It was quite a heavy fall and I'm not feeling too great right now. I also took a blow to my leg but it's nothing a painkiller can't solve.”
Sixth fastest Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) said.
“We worked very hard, but for some reason it did not pay off today. Other riders have been able to adapt better to the conditions. The wind was strong and it disturbed me a lot.”
Ninth fastest Hector Faubel (Valencia CF - Honda SAG) said:
“The bike is really good here - the engine is perfect, the rear end if perfect, it's just the front end we need to work on, but I think much of our front-end problems come from the wind. The wind gets under the bike going into corners and I keep tucking the front. Despite this I am sure we can stay in front, fighting with the top guys. I need a good start and must not lose touch with the front group.”
12th fastest Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) said:
“At the end, with new tyres, I could ride faster better, but I had to brake and slow down because I ran into some heavy traffic. We still need to improve our set-up to make the bike better with used tyres because in this condition, we are not as good as we should be. Today it was very windy, especially in a couple of places, it made difficult to race at the maximum.”
13th fastest Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) said:
“I was riding very well behind Simoncelli, and I thought I could do a 1m 43.5s when something happened to the bike in one of the corners. The back end came around, I let go of the bike and landed on my left foot. The ankle is badly bruised and it hurts a lot, but hopefully there is nothing broken and I can go out tomorrow to race.”
17th fastest Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) said:
“There was too much wind out there today! This track is already quite narrow, but with the wind it seemed even narrower, it was not easy to keep your line. We made a few minor suspension changes today and the bike is coming better. It is not easy for us in these kind of conditions, because this is only my second visit here, so we don't have a lot of data to use for the race.”
22th fastest Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) said:
“This morning's free practice and then the qualifying session went better than yesterday. But I still have the same problem with not so good rear tyre grip, mainly when I accelerate. Today I was able to go one second faster, but I still have to work hard. Tomorrow I will try to find a new line on the track to win more time.”