Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) came out on top at the end of a hectic and thrilling Czech Grand Prix qualifying session at Brno this afternoon. The Spaniard produced a stunning performance, battling to and fro with his rivals until he stamped his authority on the session in the final minutes.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda)
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda)
Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) was next best Honda man, securing a second-row start with sixth fastest time. MotoGP's top privateer Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) placed 11th, a heroic comeback just four weeks after he broke his left leg at the German GP. Fausto Gresini's riders Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) and Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) had a more difficult afternoon and will start tomorrow's race from the fourth and fifth rows of the grid. Alex de Angelis (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V), replacing the injured Hiroshi Aoyama, was 15th today.
Pedrosa's penultimate lap was his fastest and it put him an impressive three tenths of a second ahead of second quickest Ben Spies (Yamaha) who will start from the MotoGP front row for the first time tomorrow. Third fastest was World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), who retained his place on the front row despite a high-speed fall during the closing stages. The Spaniard wasn't the only faller - reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi also went down, as did Nicky Hayden (Ducati) and Simoncelli.
Pedrosa's third pole position of 2010 - following his pole performances at Jerez and Mugello - puts him in a strong position for tomorrow's race, round ten of this year's 18-race season. The former 125 and 250 World Champion currently holds second place in the points chase, despite tumbling out of the lead at last month's US GP, and is keen to follow up his Mugello and Sachsenring victories with another win. But he knows that won't be easy, especially considering the weather forecast which suggests it could rain during the race.
Dovizioso would prefer to be closer to the front-running lap times but the Italian is at least happy that he has made significant steps forward from his performance here last year. He still needs to work on the rear-end set-up of his RC212V machine, even though his race pace was pretty good today.
De Puniet's performance was remarkable, especially considering the fact that he slid off this morning. The Frenchman was cleared to ride by doctors on Thursday afternoon and eased himself back into riding yesterday afternoon after making an exploratory outing aboard a Honda CBR1000RR at the French track Ales earlier in the week. He received a painkilling injection before qualifying and will receive another before the race.
Simoncelli hampered his qualifying performance by sliding off during the first moments of the session, which left him struggling to catch up and struggling to find a good feeling during the remainder of the hour-long outing. It was the rookie's second fall of the weekend. Team-mate Melandri continued to work on the new electronics package the team received at Laguna Seca but is still looking for an engine-braking setting that will allow him to enter corners at his desired speed.
De Angelis isn't delighted with 15th place on the grid, but the San Marino rider and his team are happier with the progress they've made with set-up, which is giving de Angelis a much better feeling when he's riding on the limit. This is only de Angelis' third MotoGP ride of the year, subbing for Aoyama, who broke his T12 vertebra during a Sunday morning warm-up tumble at Silverstone. Aoyama has been working hard on his recovery in recent weeks and is spectating here this weekend, with a view to testing his RC212V on Monday to see if he's fit to race at the Indianapolis GP at the end of this month.
Shoya Tomizawa (Technomag-CIP, Suter) was back to his brilliant best in Moto2 qualifying, scoring his second pole position of the year, three and a half months after he took his first pole at Jerez. Winner of the very first Moto2 race at Losail, Qatar, in April, Tomizawa has had an up and down time of it recently, scoring no better than fifth at the last six races. But his performance today suggests a turnaround from the talented Japanese rider who was more than two tenths quicker than Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up). The other men who made it onto the front row were World Championship leader Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki) and Roberto Rolfo (Italtrans S.T.R, Suter).
All four riders know that the first moments of the race will be crucial - Moto2 starts are hectic to say the very least - and it's a fine line between being aggressive enough and too aggressive to complete the first lap close to the front. At least Brno is much wider than most MotoGP tracks, which will give riders a bit more room to manoeuvre than usual.
Elias and Iannone - currently third on points - are so far the two most successful riders in the Honda-powered series, with three wins and two wins respectively from the first eight races. Elias made the front row today despite being disqualified from riding in yesterday's first practice session. The ban was punishment for undertaking a test session at Misano during the midseason break. Elias' team presumed they were allowed to test at their nominated test venue, but in fact no testing is allowed during the break.
So far Iannone has been the only rider able to make a clear breakaway from the Moto2 pack in the first laps, and no doubt the Italian will be aiming to repeat that trick here, which will allow him to run his own race, without having to ride defensively to protect his position from rivals. A last-minute set-up tweak made by his crew during qualifying may help Iannone achieve that goal.
Veteran Roberto Rolfo (Italtrans S.T.R, Suter) is on a roll, scoring his first Moto2 front-row start just a few weeks after his first Moto2 podium at the recent German GP, where he finished third behind Iannone and winner Elias.
Marcel Schrötter (Interwetten Honda 125 Team) ended the 125 qualifying session in 18th position, complaining of inadequate grip. After a change of tyres the 17-year-old German found some more speed but could do no better than 18th quickest.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda)
Marco SIMONCELLI (San Carlo Honda Gresini)
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda RC212V: pole position, 1m 56.508s
“It was a great qualifying session and to be back on pole position is fantastic after such a long time - the last time was in Italy at the beginning of June. We've done a very good job so far this weekend and we have established a good pace for the race, but we still need to keep a clear mind, stay focused and try to be ready for any conditions because the weather forecast for tomorrow is very uncertain. Anyway, the team did a very good job today and I hope if it's dry we can have a strong race and go for the victory. I won't really be approaching the race tomorrow with a particular strategy. In this championship you have to find your own limit because there are a lot of riders going fast and you can only concentrate on your own performance and do the best you can. So I really hope to do a great job tomorrow and at least to be back on the podium.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda RC212V: 6th, 1m 57.117s
“We had a good pace today, and compared to last year here we have found more speed, whereas for some of our rivals this is not the case. This proves that our machine package has improved a lot from last year. Our lap time today was quite good this afternoon but we still have to work to improve our pace because Dani is quite a lot quicker and in the race he is usually very strong. In particular we need to work on the rear end because the machine is pumping and moving a bit too much. I think we are all at the limit with the front end as the accidents of Valentino, Jorge and Nicky show. I tried the hard option Bridgestone tyres today which we didn't have the chance to test yesterday. It was important to do this in order to be ready for all weather possibilities tomorrow, but I think we have to use the soft option tyres for the race.”
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda RC212V: 11th, 1m 58.089s
“Well, it is awesome to qualify 11th just after 25 days after the operation on my broken leg. I am only one tenth off the third row and this is incredible considering my physical condition. Yesterday I focused on easing my body back into the demands of riding my machine and today we experienced three medium-long runs (eight to ten laps) with good results. I know that the race will be tough, but if I can keep this pace I could ride for a top ten finish. Many riders crashed this morning and it also happened to me but luckily I escaped unhurt from the incident. I am delighted because my leg is improving day by day even if I will need a painkiller injection to finish tomorrow's 22 laps.”
Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 12th, 1m 58.169s
“I am really annoyed! Once again we've started the session with a crash, this time after just three laps. Maybe the rear tyre was still a little too cold and I was unable to control it so I have to hold up my hand and say it was my mistake. Obviously this compromised the rest of the session so all we can do now is reflect on what happened and try to find the right solution to improve our setting in the warm-up tomorrow.”
Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 14th, 1m 58.430s
“It was a really tough session for us. We changed a lot of things again because we are clearly struggling with the electronics. We haven't managed to find a good balance under braking with the engine-brake system so I am very slow in corner entry. We still have faith that Honda can help us finally find the right electronic setting for the RC212V.”
Alex de Angelis, Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V: 15th, 1m 58.522s
“The result doesn't look like much, but I am happy as I stayed in the top ten for at least half the session this afternoon. This shows that we are going in the right direction. I hope we can continue like this. Finally, I have a good feeling with the bike and I was able to enter the corners using more speed. We will try some more changes to the set-up during warm-up tomorrow and I hope I can also stay in the top ten during the race then.”
Shoya Tomizawa, Technomag-CIP, Suter: pole position, 2m 03.452s
“I'm very happy to get pole, especially because I have been very, very unlucky at the last few races - sometimes I struggle, sometimes I get hit by other riders. Things seem better after the holidays, so I hope I can get a good result this time. We are getting closer to the Japanese GP in October, so we have to keep working on the machine to make it as good as possible for those last few races. Maybe I was a bit lucky today. There are so many riders in Moto2 that it is often impossible to find a clear track to ride a good lap, but today I found some room.”
Andrea Iannone, Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up: 2nd, 2m 03.684s
“Today has been a tough day, because we have worked so hard on finding the best setting. I think we found something at the end of qualifying, but we weren't able to make the most of it because we didn't have time to fit a new rear tyre. I am looking forward to the race and I am aiming to enjoy it. My thanks to the team for all their hard work.”
Toni Elias, Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki: 3rd, 2m 03.741s
“I think I could have made pole position, but I made a mistake shifting gear on my last lap and that cost me vital time. Anyway, I am happy because the bike set-up is more or less okay; we have done everything we can for tomorrow. I hope to make a good start, avoid any problems with other riders during the early laps, and then we will see what happens.”
Roberto Rolfo (Italtrans S.T.R, Suter): 4th, 2m 03.794s
“This is my first front row in Moto2, so of course I am very happy. We made some important changes to our set-up before the race in Germany and now the machine feels very good; I feel really comfortable, which is so important to going fast. It's very important to be at the front for the start in Moto2 and I expect a big fight in the race.”
Marcel Schrötter, Interwetten Honda 125 Team: 18th, 2m 10.610s
“At the end of the qualifying it was going better, then we tried different tyres and I did not slide as much as before anymore. My feeling for the bike got better immediately. Then I had to ride alone and I was not able to stay with the lap times. I am still optimistic that it will be better tomorrow.”