Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) will start Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix from the front row for the third year in a row after setting his fastest ever time of the Sepang Circuit on a day of typically tropical heat and humidity.
Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)
Toni ELIAS (San Carlo Honda Gresini)
The pole winner here the previous two years, Pedrosa held the top spot twice during the hour, while saving his best for last. He set his fast time of 2m 1.254s on his final hot lap of the 5.548km circuit south of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Pedrosa was a secure second until the waning minutes of the hour when fellow Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) snuck by to move Pedrosa to the end of the front row. But given his talent for lightning fast starts, Pedrosa was confident that being on the front row was enough to give him the best chance of leading the pack into turn one.
Pedrosa was helped to the third fastest time by having the fastest motorcycle on the track. His Honda RC212V clocked the fastest top speed of 314.4km/h.
The pole position went to Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi, with a new pole record.
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) will start Sunday’s penultimate round of the MotoGP World Championship directly behind Pedrosa on the 17-rider grid. Elias qualified sixth fastest with his final fast lap, moving from the third row to the second. Elias said the team needed to find better balance for his Honda RC212V in morning warm-up if he is to be a factor in the race.
Randy De Puniet (LCR Honda) qualified eighth fastest in the middle of row three and less than two-tenths off row two. The heat had made it the most difficult weekend of the season to set up his machine and it wasn’t until late in qualifying that he finally achieved the pace he was hoping for. The 51C track temperature made grip elusive, and the French rider expected the conditions to be similar in Sunday’s race.
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) will start from the fourth row and just in front of Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda). Fresh off his fourth place finish on Phillip Island a week ago, De Angelis was within striking distance of his teammate Elias, who was on the second row. Though a better grid position would have been a bonus, the San Marinese felt that his race pace would put him in good stead over 21 laps.
Scot Honda’s Gabor Talmacsi was the last of the 17 qualifiers in his first visit to Sepang on a MotoGP machine. Talmacsi was having difficulty in the third split, which he hoped to solve overnight.
For the second week in a row, a Honda was on the pole position in the 250cc class. This week it was Hiroshi Aoyama, the Scot Honda rider who arrived in Malaysia holding a 12 point lead in the 250cc World Championship with only two races to go. Aoyama spent most of the hour in the top spot before losing it in the final few minutes. But he regained the pole position at the end of the hour with the fastest ever lap by a 250cc motorcycle in the final race for the quarter-liter machines in Malaysia. The pole was Aoyama’s second of the year and it came in a session where a number of riders crashed because of the hot and greasy tarmac.
Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT SAG) is enjoying riding before something of a home crowd. Sepang is the closest track to his home in Thailand and this weekend he is surrounded by his family and many of his fellow countrymen. He rewarded them with a second row starting position, sixth place, just in front of Valencia CF-Honda SAG teammate Hector Faubel. Wilairot was confident of his race pace, but Faubel was less confident after crashing at 200km/h.
Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda), who took his first ever 250cc pole last week at Phillip Island, will start from the third row of the grid after qualifying tenth fastest. De Rosa felt the qualifying position didn’t accurately reflect his level of confidence and comfort going into Sunday’s race.
Shoya Tomizawa (CIP Moto-GP250) equaled his best qualifying mark since the Czech Grand Prix in August, but he also fell after a close call with another rider, which meant his team must spend this evening rebuilding his bike. Teammate Valentin Debise was the 22nd fastest qualifier while learning yet another new track under difficult conditions.
Shuhei Aoyama (Racing Team Germany), the brother of championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama, struggled with grip, before falling in turn seven. Aoyama wasn’t hurt, but with only one machine, it made it difficult for him to improve his time. He qualified 19th, but was certain of finishing much farther up the order.
Randy DE PUNIET (LCR Honda MotoGP)
Alex DE ANGELIS (San Carlo Honda Gresini)
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd, 2m 1.254s.
“I’m happy to be on the front row again because, as always, this gives you a clear getaway when the start lights go out. I think we’ve got a good machine setting for the race tomorrow and we just need to adjust it a little bit during the warm up. At the end of the qualifying session I didn't make a very good job of it with the last soft Bridgestone tyre so my lap time doesn’t reflect our full potential this afternoon. First I made a couple of mistakes and then I had some traffic which caused me to lose a little bit of the concentration you need to go at maximum pace at this moment. Anyway, I’m happy to be on the front row again. It will be a very tough race, very demanding for sure, but we always look for the win and we will give all we have to make it happen. I'm very motivated for this race.”
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 6th, 2m 1.918s.
“The position is good – we’re on the second row, which is where we wanted to be – and my rhythm is okay, but we still need to improve. We have been working so hard on finding rear traction that maybe the bike has been compromised in other areas, so we need to work out how best to find a better balance between the two things. It’s not easy and I know you can’t have everything but it’s just a little frustrating because we are a few small steps away from having a really competitive package for the race here. Hopefully we can take those steps overnight and in the warm-up tomorrow.”
Randy De Puniet, LCR Honda: 8th, 2m 2.098s.
“It’s been the hardest weekend so far to set up the bike. After yesterday’s difficult session, we worked hard to improve the machine set-up and I finally lapped with a good pace in the afternoon session. In these conditions, I could not qualify better than this; we still have some rear grip issues to adjust as the asphalt temperature is very high and I do not feel very comfortable with my braking points, especially in turns 1, 4, 9 and the last one. However, things are going in the right direction and tomorrow’s warm-up session will be helpful to fix the bike.”
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 10th, 2m 2.274s.
“Honestly speaking, I’m happy with our performance today, because yesterday we were a long way off the other satellite bikes but today we have gradually closed the gap and I have finished up just a couple of tenths short of my team-mate, who is on the second row. My team did a great job and we were lapping in the 2’02s throughout the session, which is good for tomorrow. Hopefully, we can take another step forward in warm-up and close the gap even more to that second group. My objective is to have a good race and, if possible, hang on to seventh or eighth place in the championship. I know (Loris) Capirossi is looking strong here but if I can stay in touch with him then we have a good chance going to Valencia, a circuit I love and always go well at.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 11th, 2m, 2.362s.
“In this morning’s practice we were in fifth place and my pace in race trim is not too bad so, even though I’ll be starting from the fourth row, I’m still hopeful for tomorrow’s race. Of course I’m disappointed to be in 11th, because this is a track I really like, so a good start tomorrow is going to be essential. The track conditions gave less grip this afternoon compared to this morning and I wasn’t able to improve my lap time with the soft tyres - in fact I was faster this morning. My rhythm with the race tyre is OK, but starting from the fourth row could spoil the race. We’ve worked on traction control settings again today and this will be useful for when the tyres go off in the race – but it doesn’t help to achieve an outright fast lap on for qualifying. It’s not the qualifying result we wanted and tomorrow is going to be tough, but we’ll focus on getting off the line quickly and see what we can do in the race.”
Gabor Talmacsi, Scot Honda: 17th, 2m 3.874s.
“During all the sessions I lost big time in T3. We tried several solutions, but could not fix it. We are analyzing the data, but I suppose that we have to look for help in the electronics, to have better performances tomorrow in the race."
Hiroshi Aoyama, Scot Honda: 1st, 2m 06.767s.
“We've been strong all the weekend – every session better and better. Anyway, qualifying is one thing – you compete against yourself – but the race is a totally different issue –you compete against others. No, I don't know what must happen tomorrow to be champion, I don't want to think about it. I'm thinking only about the race. The last GPs have not been too satisfying, so my idea for tomorrow is simply to perform the strongest possible race."
Ratthapark Wilairot, Thai Honda PTT-SAG: 6th, 2m 7.662s.
“This morning I was sixth, but I couldn’t beat yesterday’s times. In qualifying the circumstances changed, because I beat my times and I will start from the second row. In the race we need to make a good start and during the race we must run a good pace. I think that I can do 2:07 high and 2:08 low, and with this we can have a good result.”
Hector Faubel, Valencia CF-Honda SAG: 7th, 2m 7.828s.
“This morning we used two sets of new tyres and I felt an improvement from yesterday – the decision to use harder suspensions settings was succesful. After we fitted the second new tyre in FP2 I crashed at 200km/h and injured my arm. The mechanics did an exceptional job, getting the bike ready for qualifying. It was a good job, because I got the first goal of the weekend which is to reach the second row of the grid. Now we must focus in the race tomorrow and get a really good result.”
Raffaele De Rosa, Scot Honda: 10th, 2m 7.953s.
“I'm quite happy with the result. The bike is good, I feel good, no problems with the tyres. I'll tell you, I was more worried in Australia. Yes, I could be in a better position, but I'm anyway confident for tomorrow's race.”
Shoya Tomizawa, Team CIP Honda: 16th, 2m 9.148s.
“My body is OK, but my motorcycle is a little bit broken and I’m sorry to my mechanics and team. My motorcycle feeling is good, but I made a mistake and I crashed. (Karel) Abraham came back in front of me and I tried to go around him, maybe we touched, I don’t know. So my mistake. The track is very interesting and it’s coming better lap by lap. I still have to find a good line, but I’m not yet 100 per cent. I have to work more to find a good line. The grip was a little bit difficult today, I almost highsided, but not only me, many other riders also.”
Shuhei Aoyama, Racing Team Germany Honda: 19th, 2m 9.654s.
“This weekend we are in very hot conditions here which means we lose some power because the water temperature is much higher than at other races. It’s very difficult to concentrate during practice because of the heat, but also with the bike we are trying to find a good setting, but I still do not have a good feeling. So tomorrow we will change something more to improve the feeling, because I am not happy with my grid position. I must also say I’m sorry, because I crashed during qualifying, in turn seven. I was carrying too much speed and I was crashed. As always, I will try to do my best in the race.”
Valentin Debise, Team CIP Honda: 22nd, 2m 12.171s.
“Whatever I try on the race track I just can’t seem to manage to do it. The team is very good about showing me the data to show me what I should do. Basically, some corners I rush too much into them, then I run wide and when I get on the gas, the traction starts to go. The bike is sliding around, so probably I’m just a little bit nervous and I panic a bit, so it gets even worse. So we have to find a solution.”