Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) will launch his bid for his first MotoGP hat-trick from the front row of the grid at Aragon tomorrow. The Spaniard – winner of the last two races at Indianapolis and Misano – ended qualifying session a close third fastest after leading much of the session.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda)
Randy DE PUNIET (LCR Honda MotoGP)
Second fastest after free practice, Pedrosa was in confident mood for the first-ever MotoGP qualifying session at Aragon, the only wholly new Grand Prix circuit on this year’s calendar. Like the vast majority of riders, Pedrosa is enjoying the new venue, which is set out across the hillside a few kilometres from the town of Alcaniz in the province of Aragon in Spain’s north east.
The circuit layout is mostly medium speed and flowing, with a meandering middle section across a hillside, with plenty of blind corner entries and off-camber curves. The topography flattens out somewhat in the final section, which is mostly made up of the long back straight and the start/finish straight.
Aragon isn’t all that’s new this weekend – the practice and qualifying programme is also different. Following rider requests the schedule has been changed from three one hour sessions to four 45 minute sessions because this gives teams more time to implement adjustments between sessions. If deemed a success, the new format could become the standard at all races.
Pedrosa is using the impressive power and rider-friendly handling of his RC212V to great effect here. On his final lap of the afternoon he looked like he might outrun pole position man Casey Stoner (Ducati). After the first two sectors he was two tenths ahead, but then he ran off the track and that was the end of that attack lap. Nevertheless he is happy with his race pace and is sure to feature up front tomorrow, along with fellow front-row starters Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha).
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) produced another excellent performance, securing a second-row start for the second successive race. And the Frenchman has more than that to be happy about – this is the first time since he broke a leg during July’s German GP that he has close enough to full fitness to really enjoy riding again.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) was fast throughout the sessions, but lacked that extra bit of speed during the all-important final stages of qualifying that would have claimed a better position on the grid. The Italian was eighth fastest which puts him on the third row, which will make this another challenging race. Dovizioso is aiming to adjust his machine for the pre-race warm up to improve mid-corner speed and fine tune the handling.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) rode a great last lap to promote himself to the third row of the grid, the hard-riding Italian rookie’s fastest lap leaving him only just over a tenth of a second shy of a second row start. Nonetheless, Simoncelli is confident he can be fast enough tomorrow to go for a top-six result. Team-mate Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) had a more disappointing session, taking 14th place.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) had a difficult two days of practice and qualifying, struggling to find that last bit of speed required to put him in the midst of the MotoGP pack. He qualified 15th and will need an excellent start if he’s to get away with a good group.
The contest for pole position in the Honda-powered Moto2 class was as hectic as ever, with the fastest three ending the session separated by just 0.046 seconds.
Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team, Suter) had the upper hand for much of the 45 minutes, but with ten minutes to go he was bettered by Alex De Angelis (JIR Moto2, Motobi). Redding still had more to give, however, and with five minutes remaining he sneaked ahead of his San Marino rival, by just five thousandths of a second. Finally it was Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up) who took pole, the Italian’s last lap putting him four hundredths ahead of Redding.
World Championship leader Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki) had a more difficult qualifying outing. He slid off at the first turn with 15 minutes to go while lying seventh fastest, and although he managed to continue, his hopes of getting a place on the front two rows were over. Winner of the last four Moto2 races, the Spaniard completed today in 12th spot.
Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter) was the last man on the front row, less than two tenths slower than De Angelis. Row two is Simone Corsi (JIR Moto2, Motobi), Claudio Corti (Forward Racing, Suter), Gabor Talmacsi (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up) and newcomer Moto2 Michele Pirro (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki).
Elias, like most riders here, is wearing a tribute to Shoya Tomizawa, the Japanese Moto2 rider who died following a crash at Misano two weeks ago. Elias’ helmet bears the number 48, Tomizawa’s riding number, which has been permanently retired from the Moto2 class.
Marcel Schrötter (Interwetten Honda 125 Team) would have done better than 19th in the 125 qualifying if he hadn’t ran off the track during his fastest lap. Pole position went to World Championship leader Marc Marquez (Derbi)
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda)
Marco SIMONCELLI (San Carlo Honda Gresini)
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda RC212V: 3rd, 1m 49.343s
"I'm happy to be on the front row as this was our main target for this afternoon's session. I just made a little mistake and ran wide on my last fast lap when I was going well and was 0.2s ahead, so I think pole position could have been possible, but the front row is the important thing. So now we must just stay focused and get a good start because the first corner is quite near to the start line which means it will be important to get a clean run into there. It's a new track where we haven't raced before so the main question is how the tyres will work over a full race distance. Our performance over the last few races has been great and I want to try as hard as possible for the victory here. Everyone has come into this weekend with a blank sheet of paper so maybe it could be one of the most open races of the season."
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda RC212V: 6th, 1m 49.952s
"After yesterday's engine-braking issues, the guys worked in the right way to improve the bike and this second row makes me very confident for tomorrow's race. We just lacked some rear grip in this morning's session but we made another step forward in the afternoon. I am finally enjoying riding my bike after the bad injury I suffered in Germany. The last month has been very tough for me but now I feel in good shape again and more consistent on this track compared to Misano. I am not at 100% yet and I know that this race will be close but I feel more comfortable now and it seems I do not need to push hard to be fast and this is very positive."
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda RC212V: 8th, 1m 50.046s
"Our race pace is reasonable, but to be honest I'm not very happy with the session, and starting from the third row is not where we wanted to be. It's difficult because we're lacking some speed and we haven't narrowed it down to one particular problem. So we need to look at the data and try to analyse what changes we can make for the warm-up tomorrow. We need to improve our speed in the centre of the corners and also the fluidity of the handling. For the race our pace is not so bad but starting from the third row is a handicap – especially because the first corner is very slow and so you cannot easily recover positions there. Still, we've proved previously that we can have a good race from this position and that's what we'll try to do again."
Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 9th, 1m 50.088s
"I am pretty happy because I think we were quite strong today but to be completely honest I was hoping to be on the second row and we only missed it by just over a tenth. Anyway, things are going quite well and we'll see if we can use the information from today to make more improvements for the race. I spent most of the session riding alone and I haven't got much of a reference from the other riders as to where I can improve. Maybe that will change in the race and I am confident I can finally finish in the top six."
Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 14th, 1m 50.580s
"It has been a very disappointing session. We tried changing the geometry on one of the bikes to improve it but as usual whenever we try to change something and push harder the situation is worse. We still have problems with the front on the soft tyre and we are not improving. Once again I have to start from the fifth row and all we can do is wait and see what kind of race it is tomorrow although I'm not expecting a great result."
Hiroshi Aoyama, Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V: 15th, 1m 50.836s
"Of course I am not satisfied with this position, but we improved regarding this morning and I hope we can continue in this direction. I also hope it will stay dry tomorrow as I prefer the layout of the track in the dry. I hope I will have a good start and can catch the group in front as I was not able to do that in the last race."
Andrea Iannone, Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up: pole position, 1m 55.148s
"I'm happy with the results we are getting this weekend, even if I am aware it's not finished yet. I know that tomorrow we'll face a tough race; there are a few riders who have been very strong lately. I'm satisfied with this qualifying session and in particular with the lap time we set: it's even better than what we achieved in the tests of July. After Indianapolis and Misano we needed this result: the team never stops working to prepare a perfect machine for every race, but things can go wrong sometimes. Now we are back and we are strong. I thank the team for their amazing work, I hope we'll end the weekend well."
Scott Redding, Marc VDS Racing Team, Suter: 2nd, 1m 55.189s
"I had a much better feeling with the front compared to yesterday, so I was able to push hard right from the start of qualifying. The bike felt good, the times came pretty easy and I really thought I'd done enough to take pole, only to lose out to Iannone right at the end. I felt like I could have gone faster, down into the high 1m 54s even, but my front tyre was shot and there was no time to return to the pits for fresh rubber. Of course, I gave it a go anyway, but had to back off after having to save a front-end slide by picking the bike up on my elbow! It would have been good to start tomorrow's race from pole, but the front row will do for me. We had some problems with the durability of the front tyre today, but with higher temperatures promised for tomorrow I don't think this will be such an issue. If the conditions are right then I have the pace to run right at the front of the race and I'll definitely be looking for a podium finish. There's no complicated race strategy in place, it will just be full gas from start to finish!"
Alex De Angelis, JIR Moto2, Motobi: 3rd, 1m 55.194s
"I'm very happy with this front row. This weekend I really needed to get back in the saddle and regain some trust with the bike. My lap times are good and this makes me feel good, because I am getting my confidence back. The race will be tough, like they always are in Moto2. We will aim to get a good start and get away with the lead pack, then we will see what happens."
Julian Simon, Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter: 4th, 1m 55.364s
"Even though we struggled to get on the pace this morning I'm happy overall. We tried a variety of clutch settings and I lost my focus a little but in the afternoon I was back to my best. The top four riders are very close and I think it could be a great battle at the front tomorrow. It will be hard to make a break because of the long straight so I hope my pace is good enough to keep me up there to the end. It would be great to win at home but I'm not going to worry about that - it would be nice just to be on the podium in front of these fans. We have done a good job so far and if I get a good start tomorrow we can be fighting for the win."
Marcel Schrötter, Interwetten Honda 125 Team: 19th, 2m 03385s
"The first few laps I just could not close the gap in front of me and there was so much traffic on the track. My fastest lap was my last lap, but I almost went straight in one corner and lost my pace. At the end it was still my fastest lap, but I could not improve. I am missing four seconds to the front."