Conditions could hardly have been worse for this afternoon’s MotoGP qualifying session at the Sachsenring, with heavy rain contributing to a rash of crashes, none of them with serious consequences. Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) took pole position at the very end of the soaking one-hour session, demoting team-mate Jorge Lorenzo to second fastest. Casey Stoner (Ducati) completed the front row.
Alex DE ANGELIS (San Carlo Honda Gresini)
Randy DE PUNIET (LCR Honda MotoGP)
Honda’s quickest two riders were Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) who will start tomorrow’s German Grand Prix from the second row of the grid, despite both men falling during the session. De Angelis and de Puniet were two of many riders to fall foul of ultra-slippery tarmac in the fast, downhill section at turns seven and eight, but both men were able to return to the pits after their tumbles and continue on their second machines. Other fallers included De Angelis’ team-mate Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Ducati riders Nicky Hayden and Niccolo Canepa and Marco Melandri (Kawasaki).
Good grip and feedback are the real secrets to going fast in the rain, and that’s what Honda’s riders focused on today. But with the track badly flooded in several places riders had to work hard to control aquaplaning, let alone find any real feel from the waterlogged tarmac. De Puniet likened turn seven to “an ice-skating rink”, pole man Rossi talked of “deep rivers” around the track and 2007 MotoGP World Champion Stoner called the conditions “dangerous”.
This morning’s final free practice session was run in very different conditions, with a dry track allowing the fastest riders to lap well inside the lap record. Tomorrow’s weather forecast is uncertain with a possibility of a wet or dry race, but Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) knows what kind of race he’d prefer. Winner of the recent US GP, Pedrosa was a close third fastest this morning, but in rain-soaked qualifying he was eighth, giving him a third-row start. Pedrosa took a while to get up to speed in the rain because he has less experience of Bridgestone’s rain tyres than most of his rivals, having missed a lot of preseason testing due to injury.
De Angelis briefly led the session, getting good feeling from a used rain tyre, but when he switched to a new tyre he struggled to get the same level of feedback and ended up sliding off at turn eight. The San Marino rider continued on his spare bike and depite being unable to better his previous pace was happy with his best qualifying performance of the year which puts him on the second row for the first time in 2009.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) worked hard on perfecting the chassis set-up of his RC212V, focusing on rear-end stability into corners. The Italian found the rain-lashed conditions risky and knows he will need a fast start tomorrow to come through from the fourth row of the grid.
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) rode a MotoGP bike for the very first time during practice for last month’s Catalan GP. Today he rode a MotoGP bike in heavy rain for the very first time. The Hungarian made steady progress throughoutthe qualifying and ended the one-hour outing with plenty of ideas to improve his wet-weather pace.
Elias struggled to get feeling from his tyres and ended up last on the grid following a spectacular tumble at turn eight. The Spaniard was highsided from his RC212V but ended up lying on the top of the bike, finally falling to the ground as the machine careered towards the air fence, making impact at 142km/h. He was unharmed in the fall but has a mammoth task ahead of him tomorrow – fighting through from the very back of the grid.
250 World Championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) continued his excellent form with his sixth front-row start of the year. Both of today’s 250 sessions were run on a wet track, the first rain arriving after the morning MotoGP outing, and the Japanese rider made light of the conditions to go fourth quickest aboard his RS250RW. Aoyama knows that a good start will be crucial tomorrow, since the first few corners here are very tight, making it very difficult to recover places after a slow start.
Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) went well in qualifying, taking a second-row start with eighth-fastest time, though the Spaniard reckoned he might have done better with a slightly stiffer rear-end set-up for the final stages of the session when the rain had eased somewhat. Team-mate Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) was 16th in qualifying. The Thai ace pushed as hard as he could but felt he needed more time to get the rear suspension just right for the faster corners which are so crucial to a good lap time.
Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) hurt his chances of another great qualifying result when he slid off at the second corner. But the impressive young Italian is confident he can bounce back in tomorrow’s race, whetever the conditions.
GP rookie Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) once again had to learn another racetrack from scratch. The young Japanese rider loves the Sachsenring layout but maybe pushed too hard in yesterday’s dry first session before his RS250 was well set up; the price of his keeness was a fall. In the wet today he struggle to get useful feel and ended up 18th.
Tomizawa’s team-mate Valentin Debise (Team CIP Honda) was 21st quickest, focusing on improving his wet-weather set-up, especially for braking into corners. Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) has high hopes of a good run today but was knocked down by another rider. He was able to continue the session on his only bike but the crash damage gave him gear selection problems which hurt his lap times. He qualified 23rd.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team)
Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Repsol Honda Team)
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 5th - 1m 34.490s, said:
“We started out really well and my lap times were good in the early part of the session when we were using a tyre that we had put a few laps on in yesterday’s damp session. With a new tyre it was really hard to generate the heat to get it working at optimum temperature but gradually I started to feel better. Then unfortunately I crashed in the corner where everybody else went down too. It is never a nice feeling to crash but especially when I know that I could have made an attack at least for the front row. Anyway, fifth place is a fantastic result for us and if it rains again tomorrow then we’re ideally placed. Even if it is dry we know we have a good starting position and good pace for what I hope can be my best race of the season.”
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: 6th – 1m 34.564s, said:
“We have got a good grid position and I am quite satisfied but it has not been easy because wet sessions are always a gamble. Everybody pushes to find the limit but sometimes we push too much and we crash. I was very fast in my first run (12 laps) and my wet set-up was almost perfect. Unfortunately I crashed at turn seven because I opened the throttle too much and the asphalt was like an ice-skating rink! After that I went out on my second bike but it took me some time to find the right pace. When I started to push I had some engine brake issues and with two laps to go I went out in the gravel. The guys must work hard to repair both bikes for tomorrow but I feel confident as we made a good performance in both conditions.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 8th – 1m 34.725s, said:
“Qualifying in eighth isn’t ideal, so I’ll be trying to make another good start tomorrow. That’s going to be important here because the first turn is quite close to the start line, plus it’s difficult to overtake at this track. The conditions were quite difficult this afternoon, they were changing all the time and I was struggling to get into a good rhythm. There were a lot of riders crashing out there and I don’t have a lot of experience on this year’s wet tyres because I missed some testing earlier in the season. This was why I wasn’t going so quickly this afternoon. It wasn’t because of my crash in last year’s wet race. It was good that we had a dry practice session this morning and of course I’d prefer a dry race tomorrow. The forecast is not certain so we’ll aim to improve our set-up for both wet and dry conditions.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 11th – 1m 34.892s, said:
“The grip levels were quite low this afternoon which meant the machine was sliding a lot – this was the same for everyone of course. We were working on wet settings and the area we primarily need to improve is the stability of the rear on the entry to the corners. This is where the bike was tricky to control in the slippery conditions. It was raining throughout the session and this meant the track was getting increasingly wet. If I had the choice, I’d prefer the less wet conditions from earlier in the session – and ideally fully dry of course. We’ll have to see what the weather does tomorrow and aim to make a fast start and make up some places quickly.”
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda: 16th – 1m 36.055s, said:
“This was my first time on a MotoGP bike in the wet. We began with a basic set-up, then we stopped, as programmed, to switch to my second bike and we improved. With 17 minutes to go I stopped for the third time to change tyres and to modify the set-up. We did not get what we desired from a set-up point of view, but we now have a few ideas to help us improve in case the race is wet.”
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 17th – 1m36.531s, said:
“I didn’t feel as comfortable today as I did yesterday in the wet or the dry. Track temperature was 15ºC lower and I really felt the difference. It was taking too long to get any heat into the tyre and even when I did the feeling wasn’t there. It wasn’t a good day and it finished off with a crash, which I was lucky to come away from without any injury. I’d had a few warnings beforehand, the bike was sliding around in a lot of places, and then I lost control and the next thing I knew I was laying on top of the bike like I was sunbathing or something! It’s funny to watch on television but I can assure you it wasn’t so funny for me. Hopefully the fans get the chance to sunbathe tomorrow because we need a dry race. I’m starting from last place so it will be a tough race for sure. My only option is to fight and pass as many people as I can. Let’s hope we have the conditions and a set-up that allows me to do so.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, Scot Honda: 4th – 1m 34.285s, said:
“I’m happy: the first row is a good result. Tomorrow a good start will be really important to handle the traffic in the first corners. If it’s going to be wet for the race we already have a good set-up and we can improve further. In the case of a dry race we will see: this weekend we’ve not had much time to prepare a proper set-up for the dry, but everybody has the same problem.”
Hector Faubel, Valencia CF-Honda SAG: 8th – 1m 34.660s, said:
“I’m happy because I reached my second-row goal but I think that with only a little more of time I could have got a better position on the grid. My chassis settings were good but at the end of qualifying when the track was a bit more dry my suspension settings were too soft. Also, I had difficulties changing gear from fifth to sixth because the engine needed more rpm. Afterwards we found out that the problem was in the airbox – there was a lot of water in there! We have already fixed this problem, so everything should be perfect for the race.”
Ratthapark Wilairot, Thai Honda PTT-SAG: 16th – 1m 36.078s, said:
“In the morning I wanted to get confidence with the bike in wet conditions and in the afternoon I tried to push hard at my 100 per cent but it was difficult for me. Also I had a problem with the rear end of the bike in the fast corners. I hope to have a race in dry conditions tomorrow but anyway I plan to make a good start so I can get away with the front riders and stay with them.”
Raffaele De Rosa, Scot Honda: 17th – 1m 36.097s, said:
“We made a good start to the qualifying session, better than in the morning, which was already quite good. Then suddenly, in turn two, I lost the rear and slid off. I was annoyed because when it’s raining you really need to do as many laps as possible. I’m confident we can improve for the race. Head down, let’s push.”
Shoya Tomizawa, Team CIP Honda: 18th – 1m 36.387s, said:
“Not so bad. But we had a difficult time trying to find a good setting for these very tricky wet conditions. I wanted to push harder but I couldn’t feel the track well enough to do that. We must work some more on suspension set-up. in the dry yesterday I tried to push too hard before we had the correct setting and I fell off. But I like this circuit and I think I can go well if we have a good set-up for the race.”
Valentin Debise, Team CIP Honda: 21st – 1m 37.633s, said:
“The conditions were very, very slippery this afternoon. It was very easy to crash, so we need to work some more on the set-up to get more grip and feedback.”
Bastien Chesaux, Racing Team Germany Honda: 23rd – 1m 39.234s, said:
“I was riding with quite a fast group when Pesek came into turn 13 too fast, collided with me and caused me to crash. I only have one bike so we were lucky it wasn’t badly damaged. I went out again but I had a problem with the gear shifter which kept losing me time. I am okay in the slower, technical corners but I need to change my style for the fast corners, maybe putting more weight over the front.”