MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2012
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) will start tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix from second on the grid after holding the pole position until after time had expired at Honda's Twin Ring Motegi circuit. It was only then that title rival Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) wrested what would have been Pedrosa's fifth pole from his grasp.
Honda riders also placed strongly on the second and third rows, with Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) fifth, and Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V) seventh in his return to the grand prix paddock. Just behind Stoner is Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V), the German making his first visit to Twin Ring Motegi as a MotoGP rider.
Saturday's qualifying weather in Motegi was ideal, as it has been all weekend, sunny and warm, though a chilly cloud came over the circuit near the end of the MotoGP session. With two days of dry, sunny track time, the riders were able to make the most of adapting to the stop-and-go circuit on the new 1000s. What they discovered is that the track was very hard on brakes, with temperatures exceeding 900C. And they also learned that the Honda RC213V was very fast in a straight line; Bradl had the fastest top speed of 309.1Km/h, with Pedrosa second at 306.9Km/h.
Pedrosa finished the three free practice sessions as the fastest rider and with a time that was approaching the existing track record. He continued that form in qualifying, taking turns at the top with Bautista and Lorenzo, and others, and taking control less than five minutes from the end. His 21st lap was faster than Stoner's pole time from last year and good enough to put him top of the order. And he would lower it on his next lap, his 22nd.
But it was not as it seemed. The Spaniard suddenly had a recurrence of the chattering that has bedevilled the team most of the year and he was not able to attack at the very end. Still, he will start Sunday's 15th round of the MotoGP World Championship from the front row for the 12th time in 15 races.
Bautista was also among the leaders throughout the hour before moving into fifth place, where he would finish in the middle of the second row. The last time Bautista started fifth, at the San Marino Grand Prix, he earned his first MotoGP podium.
Today he worked on front suspension, a critical setting on the hard braking course 4.801Km course. The work is especially critical for Bautista, the only rider in MotoGP using Showa suspension.
Shortly after qualifying the San Carlo Honda Gresini team announced that Bautista had been re-signed for the 2013 season.
Stoner returned to racing for the first time since injuring his right ankle in qualifying for the Indianapolis Grand Prix at the end of the summer break. Since then he has been home recovering and gaining strength. Neither he nor his doctors knew what to expect: He did no riding at all while at home.
In qualifying, Stoner felt he had a shot at the front row, but a change in pit strategy left him with no rear grip. He was also finding it difficult to manoeuvre his foot on the predominantly right-handed track. The 2011 MotoGP World Champion was not able to move on the bike, use the rear brake, nor lean over as far as he needs. As to what he expected in the race, he said he really did not know.
Regardless of where he finishes in Sunday's race, the weekend will serve to increase his racing fitness ahead of his final visit to his home grand prix at Phillip Island in two weeks' time.
Bradl finished only a tenth of a second behind Stoner after rebounding from an early crash. Bradl went down very early in the session, the crash forcing him and the team to re-think their plans. Rather than work on a race set-up, they had to chase a fast lap time to get as far up the grid as possible. The team did not final the optimal set-up, but they will be able to fine tune their settings in Sunday morning warm-up.
Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda) finished in 18th place in the middle of the CRT class on his Honda CBR1000RR-powered machine. The MotoGP rookie continued to suffer with a vibration issue which he hopes will be resolved come race time.
Tuenti Movil HP 40 – Kalex team-mates Pol Espargaro and Tito Rabat sandwiched Moto2 championship leader Marc Marquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol – Suter) in final qualifying.
For Espargaro, it was an important fifth pole of the season. On each of those occasions he has finished on the podium. Certainly that is his aim this weekend if he's to keep his championship hopes alive. Going into Sunday's 14th round of the championship, Marquez leads his fellow Spaniard 258-210.
Maverick Vinales (Blusens Avintia – FTR Honda) was denied the pole position at the last minute and will start Sunday's Moto3 race second on the grid. Vinales was until the final five minutes when he was dropped to second, then third with one minute to go. But Vinales did not give in and sped back to the top of the order by taking a tenth of a second off his best time. Little did he know that the rider just behind him would use his slipstream to steal the pole position.
Vinales was crushed when he suffered a technical issue on the warm-up lap in the previous race in Aragon. Now he has a chance for redemption and to add to his current tally of five wins.
The second fastest Honda was Alessandro Tonucci (Team Italia FMI-FTR Honda), the Italian who qualified fifth, a career best, with Louis Rossi (Racing Team Germany-FTR Honda) eighth overall and third fastest Honda.
|1||Jorge LORENZO (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|2||Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)|
|3||Cal CRUTCHLOW (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|4||Ben SPIES (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|5||Alvaro BAUTISTA (Team San Carlo Honda Gresini)|
|6||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|7||Casey STONER (Repsol Honda Team)|
|8||Stefan BRADL (LCR Honda MotoGP)|
|9||Valentino ROSSI (Ducati Team)|
|10||Nicky HAYDEN (Ducati Team)|
|11||Katsuyuki NAKASUGA (Yamaha YSP Racing Team)|
|12||Hector BARBERA (Pramac Racing Team)|
|13||Aleix ESPARGARO (Power Electronics Aspar)|
|14||Randy DE PUNIET (Power Electronics Aspar)|
|15||Karel ABRAHAM (Cardion AB Motoracing)|
|1||Pol ESPARGARO (Tuenti Movil HP 40)|
|2||Marc MARQUEZ (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol)|
|3||Esteve RABAT (Tuenti Movil HP 40)|
|4||Scott REDDING (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|5||Thomas LUTHI (Interwetten-Paddock)|
|6||Johann ZARCO (JIR Moto2)|
|7||Bradley SMITH (Tech 3 Racing)|
|8||Julian SIMON (Blusens Avintia)|
|9||Nicolas TEROL (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2)|
|10||Toni ELIAS (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|11||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|12||Simone CORSI (Came IodaRacing Project)|
|13||Axel PONS (Tuenti Movil HP 40)|
|14||Yuki TAKAHASHI (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|15||Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|1||Danny KENT (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|2||Maverick VIÑALES (Blusens Avintia)|
|3||Sandro CORTESE (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|4||Zulfahmi KHAIRUDDIN (AirAsia-Sic-Ajo)|
|5||Alessandro TONUCCI (Team Italia FMI)|
|6||Luis SALOM (RW Racing GP)|
|7||Jonas FOLGER (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3)|
|8||Louis ROSSI (Racing Team Germany)|
|9||Efren VAZQUEZ (JHK t-shirt Laglisse)|
|10||Romano FENATI (Team Italia FMI)|
|11||Miguel OLIVEIRA (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|12||Niccolò ANTONELLI (San Carlo Gresini Moto3)|
|13||Alex RINS (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|14||Arthur SISSIS (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|15||Alberto MONCAYO (Andalucia JHK t-shirt Laglisse)|