Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) were Honda's top performers in this afternoon's Portuguese GP qualifying session, the pair ending the outing fourth and sixth fastest.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team)
Randy DE PUNIET (LCR Honda MotoGP)
Pedrosa missed a front-row start by a tantalising 0.174 seconds, putting him off the front row for the first time since July's British Grand Prix. Nevertheless the Spaniard is still on the pace here, less than half a second off pole-sitter Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and just a fraction off second- and third-fastest Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and Casey Stoner (Ducati), who is back in action after a nine-week layoff. Winner of this year's US GP, Pedrosa is currently locked in a battle for third place overall with Stoner. He is confident of more progress in morning warm-up to further boost his chances of a strong result in tomorrow's race, the 14th of this year's 17-race series.
De Puniet was justifiably delighted with his performance. The Frenchman, now almost fully recovered from the broken left ankle he sustained in July, solved some traction problems to come close to equalling his best grid slot of the year, the fifth places he scored at Jerez and Mugello.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) is still learning his way with Öhlins suspension, which he raced for the very first time at last month's San Marino GP. The Italian is working steadily through the set-up options with his Öhlins front forks and rear shock, gaining more vital data with each and every outing.
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and his crew have worked hard at this tight and tortuous track to keep his RCV running tight lines, but they only found the solution to their problems quite late in the day. That left the Indy podium finisher 11th fastest in a closely bunched mid-pack, with less than half a second covering sixth to 13th places.
Thirteenth place belongs to Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) who struggled yesterday, leaving him with plenty of catching up to do during today's two sessions. The Spaniard was hoping for a better grid position but was unable to get the best out of his soft Bridgestone's at the end of this afternoon's outing.
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) has struggled to improve his times here and believes he's taking a wrong direction in machine set-up. Changes are thus likely in morning warm-up.
250 World Championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) rode a superb session to put his RS250RW on the front row of the grid in fourth spot. The Japanese ace, who currently leads Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) by 13 points, ended the 45 minute outing less than three tenths off pole position, which went to Hector Barbera (Aprilia). Bautista was second with Marco Simoncelli (Gilera) third.
Aoyama was hoping for cooler weather here, which would give him more horsepower, and it's possible that conditions may be slightly cooler for tomorrow's race. Whatever the weather, he is sure he can squeeze more performance from his Honda in morning warm-up.
Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) equalled his best 250 qualifying performance with a great ride to sixth fastest today. And the youngster, who has scored points in every race so far, reckons he can go even better tomorrow.
Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) rode brilliantly to make it onto the second row of the grid. The Thai ace was eighth fastest, less than six tenths off pole, and only one place off his best grid slot of the year so far – seventh at Mugello. And Wilairot reckons he might have done better if he hadn't spent much of the session looking for good slipstreams off other riders.
Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) also had high hopes of a great grid position and was ready to run some fast times on new tyres when he ran into heavy traffic at the end of the session. He ended the day 11th quickest.
Hiroshi's brother Shuhei Aoyama (Racing Team Germany Honda) returned to GP action this weekend, taking over the RS250 formerly ridden by Bastien Chesaux, who has left the team. Aoyama, who contested this year's Japanese 250 GP as a wild card and scored a great sixth-place finish, hasn't ridden 250s full-time since 2007. Nonetheless the Japanese did well today, lapping less than a second outside the top eight to place 15th.
Team-mates Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) and Valentin Debise (Team CIP Honda) are both Estoril first-timers and have had to learn the secrets of this complex track over the past two days. Tomizawa ended today 17th fastest, two places in front of Debise.
Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Repsol Honda Team)
Alex DE ANGELIS (San Carlo Honda Gresini)
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: fourth, 1m 36.702s.
“We were working hard on machine set-up this morning, though we experienced a few issues which delayed us a little this afternoon in the fight to set the best lap times on the softer Bridgestone's. It's always better to start on the front row of course, but I think fourth is not a bad starting slot. We improved our lap times significantly this afternoon and if we can make a few more improvements to the set-up, everything is possible in the race. It's difficult to know what the rhythm and race pace will be tomorrow because maybe the conditions will be a little cooler. Casey's performance today was impressive, so compliments to him – I'm not surprised he was this fast. My main goal for the rest of the season will be to retain third in the championship and we hope take the first step towards that goal tomorrow.”
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: sixth, 1m 37.448s.
“After the long break it's nice to come back, and when you get the sixth fastest time it's even better! We worked pretty well to solve the rear grip problems because yesterday I struggled a lot to open the throttle in the corner exits and we were sliding too much out of the curves. We did make some small improvements which we need to adjust tomorrow but it has been a very positive first part of the weekend. After much effort due to my injury, I finally could push to make a stunning flying lap in the qualifying.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: eighth, 1m 37.541s.
“We got through a lot set-up work today trying to improve the feeling from the machine at this circuit, which is quite bumpy. There's definitely more to come, and starting from eighth obviously isn't ideal. However, with a good warm-up tomorrow we should be able to make some progress. At the moment we don't have the rhythm to fight with the leading riders and we'll be focussing on suspension settings to try to get closer to them. We cannot be happy with today's result, but the important thing is to maintain concentration and try our best in the race. The characteristics of this racetrack accentuate some issues we found at the last race in Misano, but I'm confident we have a lot of potential with the Öhlins suspension. Plus we only have experience from one race, so there's a lot more to come. We be looking to take a step forward in warm-up and to get as strong a result as possible in the race.”
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 11th, 1m 37.822s.
“Physically I feel a bit better today but we've been struggling with the bike. I wasn't able to keep it close to the apex in the tight corners, it was running wide everywhere, but we made a change at the end that helped a lot. It brought us back into contention and if we'd have had more time to build on it and make another step we could have been much higher up the order. Anyway, I'm happy that we're working in the right direction – now it's a case of waiting to see what the conditions are tomorrow, talking things through with Bridgestone and making the right tyre choice.”
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 13th, 1m 37.911s.
“I'm quite pleased with my race pace and I think we've done a good job. We were in bad shape yesterday but like at a lot of other races where we have had bad Fridays we were able to turn the situation around on the Saturday. I was up there in fifth or sixth, occasionally up to fourth, and I think that is the kind of position we should be in. Unfortunately things didn't work out on the softer tyre. Just when I was putting together a fast lap I ran into Toseland and Dovizioso in the middle of the track and I was blocked. It's a shame to be starting from thirteenth but that's the way it is and now we have to fight back – just like I did at Assen and Sachsenring.”
Gabor Talmacsi, Scot Honda: 17th, 1m 39.320s.
“More or less, we wer getting the same lap times in every session, which is unusual – normally you improve from the first practice to qualifying. My feeling is that at some point we went in the wrong direction: we have to go back, and find what can allow us to improve for the race.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, Scot Honda: fourth, 1m 40.879s.
“I'm not totally happy because I ran into some traffic during the last laps which slowed me down. The bike is okay. We still need to improve the performance in the morning warm-up, but we know we can do it and I'm quite confident for the race.”
Raffaele De Rosa, Scot Honda: sixth, 1m 41.169s.
“In the past years our bike has always suffered at some tracks, but not this season because the team did a great job. That means we can compete at high level everywhere. I'm satisfied with my qualifying. I lost the chance to do better because of the traffic but we are OK with the tyres and I'm in the first group, so I will start from a good position. I hope I can show here in Portugal what we haven't been able to to show in other races.”
Ratthapark Wilairot, Thai Honda PTT-SAG: eighth, 1m 41.190s.
“Today it was difficult to make the best adjustments to the bike because it was already good, but we did find a good final setting. My problem was that I have been losing too much time waiting a good slipstream and I lost a good opportunity to be on the first row. Anyway, I'm happy because I'm starting from the second row and this give us a good chance to be in a competitive position in tomorrow's race. I hope that the weather forecast that says we might have rain tomorrow is wrong.”
Hector Faubel, Valencia CF-Honda SAG: 11th, 1m 41.537s.
“Today was really good because the bike was working really well but at the end of qualifying I made a mistake. We fitted new tyres and I pushed hard from that moment but there was a lot of traffic and so I lost any chance of being on the first or second rows. Anyway, I think I have a good race pace. Tomorrow we need a good start to go with the front riders.”
Shuhei Aoyama, Racing Team Germany Honda: 15th, 1m 42.194s.
“First off, my thanks to everyone involved for this great opportunity. It's wonderful to be back in 250 GPs. We could not test before the race, so we started more from ‘minus' than from ‘zero'! To start with, things were difficult, but I concentrated very hard. We have improved a lot today, especially with the tyres and the engine, so I could get into a good rhythm at the end of qualifying.”
Shoya Tomizawa, Team CIP Honda: 17th, 1m 42.348s.
“It has been quite difficult here. I think this is a very tricky track, both for learning the layout and for working on the set-up, so I've had to learn a lot on my first visit to Estoril. In the end I think we found a reasonable set-up and I hope to keep learning in tomorrow's race.”
Valentin Debise, Team CIP Honda: 19th, 1m 43.427s.
“This is also my first time here, and there is so much to learn. The balance of the bike is very complicated here because there is a lot of heavy braking, some very slow corners and a few fast corners. I have been having some issues with the front pushing, so we need to work some more on that, both on set-up and on my riding style.”