Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) this afternoon rode a stunning lap of Assen to go second fastest and put himself on the front row of grid for tomorrow’s Dutch TT. The Spaniard, who is still hurting from recent injuries, rode the lap with reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who will start the race from pole position. The pair were separated by just 0.085 seconds.
Following yesterday’s bright sunshine, today’s conditions at Assen were warm and cloudy, but rain is forecast for race day.
Pedrosa, who fell during the recent Italian and Catalan GP weekends, isn’t using painkilling therapy here but he is still in pain and struggling with fitness, because his injuries have interrupted his usual training regime. With those circumstances in mind, today’s performance was nothing short of heroic.
No doubt his performance was also boosted by a revised-spec RC212V chassis, which he first tried at Catalunya two weeks ago. Pedrosa has both his bikes equipped with the new chassis which offers improved braking stability and front-end feedback.
Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) is also using the revised-spec chassis, though he currently has one of his RC212Vs equipped with that chassis while his other bike uses the previous spec. The Italian is impressively fast in race trim here, ending the first two practice sessions a close third fastest, but he was unable to take full advantage of the softer tyre during qualifying. He will start the race from the third row of the grid which means that a strong getaway will be essential.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) had high hopes for today after topping yesterday’s opening practice session but he was another rider who didn’t have the set-up to use the soft tyres to their maximum in qualifying and he ended up tenth fastest. De Puniet had a minor tumble this morning after he lost the front into the final chicane.
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) placed 11th and 15th. De Angelis may well have been higher up the grid if his final lap hadn’t been spoiled by another rider going slow on the racing line. De Angelis had to take avoiding action which nearly brought him into collision with Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) who was forced to take to the grass to avoid contact.
Elias also rued what might have been after letting his tyres cool off too much while waiting for a faster rider to follow during the final minutes of the qualifying session. The Spaniard owned up to the mistake which put him on the fourth row.
Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda), who cracked a bone in his right hand when he fell on the first lap of the Catalan GP, was 18th quickest, one place ahead of new team-mate Talmacsi who continues his MotoGP apprenticeship. The Hungarian had his first ride on a MotoGP bike at Catalunya two weeks ago and feels more and more at home with the 200-plus horsepower machine.
World 250 contender Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) was in fine form once again today, using the rider-friendly characteristics of his RS250RW to conquer Assen’s sinuous curves and take second place on the 250 grid. Currently just seven points off the championship lead, the Japanese set the pace for a while during qualifying, slipped to fourth, then fought back to second. Aoyama’s team-mate Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) excelled once again, the 250 rookie mastering Assen to secure himself a second-row start.
Team-mates Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) and Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) both suffered with straight-line speed in the windy conditions, the pair 11th and 13th quickest at the end of the 45-minute session.
Assen rookie Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) had a miraculous escape during qualifying. The Japanese lost the front at turn one and had both hands on the tarmac when the bike righted itself, so he didn’t even crash! Finding Assen’s fast line has been tricky for Tomizawa who impressed at the end of the session with 16th fastest time.
Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) was content with his progress at this uniquely complex racetrack, the young rookie qualifying 23rd.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), 2nd fastest at 1m 36.110s, said:
“I’m pleased with my qualifying position today, especially considering that there was quite a lot of traffic on track in the final few minutes. It’s always good to be on the front row because then you have the best chance to make a clean getaway, so I’m satisfied with second. I was lucky at the end of the session to have Valentino in front and being behind him helped me a lot to set this lap time. The feeling from the machine is quite good, although we still need to make some adjustments to the set-up to make best use of the Bridgestone tyres for the race, and this is what we’ll be working on in the warm-up tomorrow. My physical condition on the bike today was again much better than at the last race in Barcelona and this makes a lot of difference because I am able to concentrate fully on riding. I know that the race will be very physically demanding though, so I can take nothing for granted. Still, with some final set-up improvements, I hope I can make a good start and have a strong race tomorrow.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), 8th fastest at 1m 37.237s, said:
“I have to say I’m quite disappointed about my qualifying result this afternoon because starting from the third row makes the race more complicated. Although my race pace was pretty good throughout the session, I didn’t manage to make the best of the soft tyre option, so tomorrow I will really have to focus on making a good start and recovering as many positions as possible during the first two or three laps. Apart from my grid position, I’m confident because I further improved my race pace with the hard Bridgestone tyres by two or three tenths compared to this morning’s session. Me and the crew will take a look at the data this evening to make some final decisions on the set-up solutions we tested this afternoon. The weather is looking uncertain again, but we’ve had some good wet/dry races this season so I’m not worried about the bike change if it happens.”
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), 10th fastest at 1m 37.473s, said:
“After this morning’s crash we decided to go for a longer run this afternoon to confirm our race set-up. Basically we are doing acceptable lap times on race tyres but I struggled with rear grip on the edge. We do not have to much time to work on that and so we moved to soft tyres but we could not really improve our lap time. The bike slid too much and I didn’t want to take any risks. We expected a better grid position after yesterday’s performance but it’s not the end of the world. I am hoping to get a top eight finish.”
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 11th fastest at 1m 37.637s, said:
“Overall I’m quite satisfied with our performance today – it’s just a shame that Capirossi and Takahashi got in my way through the last couple of corners of my last lap because I know I could have gone much faster. I’m sure Loris didn’t do it on purpose but he is very experienced and it was a big mistake for him to make. I’m not angry but obviously very frustrated because I’m sure I would have moved ahead of de Puniet on the grid and maybe even Toseland, which would have meant an extra row and that would have been really important to me. The good thing is that I did a 1m 38.0s on race tyres and that is encouraging for tomorrow, even though I think it’s going to rain.”
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 15th fastest at 1m 38.136s, said:
“To be honest everything worked better today but in the end I screwed it up. I have to hold my hands up and say that I made the wrong decision and it is my fault we’re down in 15th place, which is not good enough, so I want to apologise to the team. Basically I spent the last few laps looking for a tow but by the time I got one and tried to push for a good grid position, the tyre temperature had dropped too low. It was the last lap and it didn’t work out like I thought it would. We can’t do anything about it now – the only option is to get a good start and pull back as many positions as I can.”
Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda), 18th fastest at 1m 38.619s, said:
“My injured finger does not hurt too much but I'm not able to use that hand as I normally would which is causing me problems. The worst thing is the pain in my back, which I also hurt in my fall at the last race. I’ve been told that tomorrow we can expect rain. Rain could be an advantage for because as my fitness isn’t at its best, so a dry race would be more difficult for me.”
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda), 19th fastest at 1m 39.407s, said:
“I feel better and better on a MotoGP bike. Every lap I improve, you can see it by the lap times, and I always do my best times in the last run of the session. We have now arrived at a point where we must begin to work on the set-up to improve further. In the very last moments of qualifying a couple of riders almost touched in front of me, and to avoid them I had to go on the grass. Normal stuff – it’s racing.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda), 2nd fastest at 1m 40.192s,said:
“I’ve had a good feeling with the bike since the beginning of practice here and since then we have improved constantly. My lap time wasn’t quite enough to catch pole position but I'm satisfied. I’m in a good position on the grid and I’m feeling confident for the race.”
Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda), 7th fastest at 1m 41.023s, said:
“Very good, I’m satisfied with my second row. Tomorrow, the very first laps will be crucial: if I can stay in the leading group it should be a good race for me. We did a good job especially in fixing a problem that I seemed to have in one very precise point of this track. Then, everything went okay.”
Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG), 11th fastest at 1m 41.235s, said:
“The front and rear suspensions adjustments we made have improved things, so the bike is coming better. But I was losing some time on the back straight because there was a lot of wind which hurt out engine. This track is a little bit difficult for me, there are some corners where I’m not using the good line, so I was trying different lines to improve my times. At the end I was down to 1m 40s but the issue with the engine lost me a good tenth of a second, otherwise I might have had a chance of the second row.”
Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG), 13th fastest at 1m 41.462s, said:
“I tried my best but the strong winds were causing some difficulties with the engine. I think that the Honda chassis is really good, the bike handles and steers very well, so we haven’t had to make any settings changes. Tomorrow I will start from 13th on the grid, so I will need a good start to have a chance of running with the front group.”
Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda), 16th fastest at 1m 42.038s, said:
“I had a huge moment going into turn one. I lost the front, the bike went down, I had both hands on the tarmac, and then it came back… incredible! I have struggled a bit here because it is very difficult to find the right line at this track. After that moment I went out again with new tyres and did my best time, in fact I was quite surprised by the lap time! We have been working hard to get the rear suspension correct and we have more to do on that in warm-up.”
Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany), 23rd fastest at 1m 44.704s, said:
“Not such a bad day. We fixed some things with the engine and the bike is working well, I’m getting a good feeling from it. I think the Honda works well at this track because the chassis and suspension is so good. We have one change to make for the race, we will put a bit more weight on the front end for better turning.”