Dani powers to pole
The MotoGP qualifying session was totally blitzed by the young man currently lying second overall in the World Championship – Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V). His 1m 27.676s lap is nearly half a second faster than second-quickest qualifier Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) could manage. Third fastest Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V) is only 0.047s shy of Hopkins’ time.
This is rookie Pedrosa’s third pole of his debut premier class season and at the halfway stage of the season the Spanish sensation has chosen a perfect moment to put his considerable talents to best use. His time is also a new pole record for the track.
Dani’s team-mate Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) could do no better than set the 11th fastest time of this hour-long session of timed qualifying. The American is 0.833 seconds adrift of Dani’s pole time and just at a juncture when he needed a dominant performance, the Kentucky Kid has given himself substantial work to do in tomorrow’s race.
Melandri, still recovering from the neck and shoulder injuries he sustained in that multi-bike turn one crash in Catalunya two weeks ago, must be congratulated on the sheer grit he has shown to get onto the front row here. This is the former 250cc World Champion’s first front row start of this season.
Aussie rookie Casey Stoner (LCR Honda RC211V) put his machine on row three with a best lap of 1m 28.447s to secure the eighth fastest time here. His only front row start so far this year was his pole in Qatar. But he has proved before that a third row start has been no barrier to a podium finish. He qualified seventh in Turkey and finished second.
Alongside Stoner is Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V) astride the rapidly improving Honda V-5 powered machine. The American former World Champion is just under eight tenths shy of the pole time, but has proved before he can work his way through the field when the business of racing begins.
Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) is clearly still struggling to recapture the race-winning form of 2004. The Japanese man qualified 14th fastest here, on a par with much of his pre-race work so far this season.
With the World Championship so finely balanced, Loris Capirossi’s fifth-place qualifying effort could yet prove vital. The Italian, who lies third overall in the points standings, had to dig deep to even finish last week’s race in Assen and secure one point for his 15th place. Like Melandri’s here today, his was a valiant ride.
Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), another casualty riding with wrist and foot injuries, qualified 12th, 1.132 seconds off the pole time. His injuries have now had only one week to heal, but he proved in Holland that he could still score points when hurting. He qualified 18th and took the flag in eighth place.
Poleman Dani said, “I didn’t expect to have such a big gap to the rest today, and to be honest I also didn’t expect to get pole position at Donington, so it’s a nice surprise. We still have to make the final decision on the race tyres, so we’ll see how the weather conditions are and use the time in warm-up tomorrow. I’m pleased because we’ve worked really well so far this weekend, so I’d like to say thank you to my team.”
Marco, third on the grid, said, “It’s incredible to have set the third fastest time just two weeks after the accident. This is quite a tough circuit and it will be very difficult tomorrow. Donington requires a lot of physical effort and even though I am not at 100% I hope to finish the race and gain some points. All in all, considering the pain I am in, it was a very good result today.”
Eighth fastest, Casey said, “I did my qualifying time on race tyres – and worn ones at that. I’m a little frustrated to be this far back – I should be much closer to the front. The qualifiers didn’t make the bike react how I wanted and it seems that a good race set-up makes the qualifiers work worse. I’ll just have to figure out where my strong points are when the race starts.”
Kenny, ninth on the grid, said, “On race tyres I feel really good and the lap times are fast. I need to get off the line better and get to the front guys early in the race and I should have more chance to pass here than I did at Assen. The team has done a great job to get the chassis finished off in time for me to race it here. I caused them a little extra work when I crashed this morning but they gave me a good bike for qualifying so thanks to them again.”
Nicky Hayden, down in 11th, said, “Well, on the positive side I’m only three tenths from the front row, though obviously I’m not thrilled with how qualifying went today. We had some electrical problems at the start of the session which cost me quite a lot of time but that’s just the way it goes in racing sometimes. We’ll put our heads together and try to get an awesome start tomorrow and recover some places quickly.”
Tamada, back on row five, said, “I lost the front-end at the very end of the qualifying session, going into the last slow corner. The front-end turned in and I crashed. We’ve been
using the 16.5-inch tyres here at Donington, basically because Michelin don't have the 16-inch available in many compounds and the asphalt here is completely different to Assen.”
Former WCM rider, Michel Fabrizio, was meant to be standing in for the injured Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V) here, but broke his right collarbone during free training and he will not start.
In the 250cc category Aprilia rider Jorge Lorenzo secured his sixth pole in nine races. His time of 1m 31.659s proved unassailable in the heat of the afternoon and second fastest qualifier Andrea Dovizioso (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) was nearly seven tenths short of the pole time. Hiroshi Aoyama (KTM) qualified third fastest with Alex de Angelis (Aprilia) completing the front row.
But Dovi will be undaunted by this qualifying discrepancy, the consistent Italian has proved time and again that he has the capacity to produce a competitive race pace even if his qualifying runs do not always set the track alight. When he is happy with his race set-up he rarely disappoints.
Shuhei Aoyama (Repsol Honda RS250RW) heads row two as fifth fastest qualifier and the Japanese ace, who’s in a determined mood to deliver here, will be anxious to get to grips with the front row starters early on – but without getting tangled up in any first lap melées of the sort that blighted his race in Assen and injured his team-mate Martin Cardenas (Repsol Honda RS250RW) who broke a collarbone and will not start at Donington.
Dovi said, “We’ve definitely improved compared to yesterday; I can be faster and I feel safer on the bike, but still I don’t feel 100% confident as far as race settings. Lorenzo seems to have a better rhythm but I’m not going to give up and tomorrow we will try to do a further step forward during the warm-up. It won’t be easy to stay with Lorenzo but I’ll do my best to stay close to him.”
Aoyama said, “I'm not really happy because my aim for today was the first row of the grid, but in my final laps, when I tried to set my fastest times, I ran across several slower riders. But today was actually about setting one fast lap and tomorrow, the most important thing is to make many of them in a row – and I think we’re ready for that.”
Yuki Takahashi (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) qualified 11th, 1,841 seconds off pole. He said, “It’s not been easy today, I thought I could find a better set-up. I don’t feel confident entering the curves, in particular in the faster part of the circuit. Now I’m going to analyse the data with my team and we’ll try to make some changes during tomorrow’s warm-up. Anyway, I’m sure our real potential is higher than the one we showed today during the practice.”
Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) scorched to his fourth 125cc class pole position of the season today with a lap of 1m 36.203 seconds. The series points leader was shadowed throughout the final half-hour session on the timesheet by Mika Kallio (KTM) who qualified second fastest, with Mattia Pasini (Aprilia) third fastest and Simone Corsi (Gilera) completing the front row.
The Spaniard Bautista is in imperious form and was always in charge here. He opened the session as quickest man and drew it to a close in the ascendant, despite the best efforts of Finn Kallio. Although reigning World Champion Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) did his best to get among the front-runners, holding a provisional front row spot at the halfway point, he will start from 10th tomorrow.
Czech rider Lukas Pesek (Derbi) who has regularly shown flashes of sheer speed so far this season could only manage the eighth fastest time here, but Brit hope Bradley Smith (Repsol Honda RS125R) pit in his best qualifying result of the season here with the 13th fastest time for a fourth row start at his ‘home’ race (although the 15-year-old currently lives in Spain).
Luthi said, “The qualifying session was so-so. In the beginning I ran a good time alone and was aiming for a second row grid position. The bike is very good and engine and chassis set up is OK for this track. When I went out again I was hoping to follow another fast rider but I was unlucky and didn’t find one so I had to push hard alone on the last lap but only got the same time as I did early in the session. We will run with what we have now unless the weather changes.”
Smith, who is only 1.3 seconds off the pole time, said, “You've got to be happy with thirteenth, and it’s also a good start position for the race. Rather than being on the sixth row I’m now on the fourth. I’m only a tiny, tiny little bit away from ninth position, so everyone is really close. There were some difficult moments out there and I was lucky to stay on.”
Fabrizio Lai (Seedorf Racing Honda RS125R) qualified 11th after crashing in this final session while Gabor Talmacsi (Humangest Honda RS125R) qualified 15th.
Talmacsi said, “The only negative thing about today is my position on the starting grid. But we have made a good step forward in the set-up. Unfortunately, as I started to push hard, firstly I found traffic on track, then I made a mistake and so I couldn’t improve any more. But it’s important that we’ve found the right direction to go in. I can do better than 15th place in the race.”
Honda GP rider quotes: GB Saturday
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 1st. "I think we did a good job today - so we need to see tomorrow if we can complete the job. The feeling on the bike is good and the race set-up is just about there too so what I need to focus on now is making a great start tomorrow - this is really important. The first few laps will be crucial too of course. I didn't expect to have such a big gap to the rest today, and to be honest I also didn't expect to get pole position at Donington, so it's a nice surprise. We still have to make the final decision on the race tyres, so we'll see how the weather conditions are and use the time in warm-up tomorrow. I'm pleased because we've worked really so far this weekend so I'd like to say thank you to my team."
Marco Melandri, Fortuna Honda: 3rd. "It is incredible to have set the third fastest time just two weeks after the accident. This is quite a tough circuit and it will be very difficult tomorrow. Donington requires a lot of physical effort and even though I am not at 100% I hope to finish the race and gain some points. We have to take a step forward with my own pace. In particular I need to improve my feeling with the front in the last part of the track Moreover, I can be fast for one lap but I still suffer a lot if I do more than three or four laps in a row. All in all, considering the pain I am in it was a very good result today."
Casey Stoner, LCR Honda: 8th. "I did my quickest time on race tyres, and worn race tyres at that. So I'm a little frustrated to be starting this far back on the grid, I should be closer to the front. Unfortunately the qualifying tyres were not making the bike react the way I wanted. It seems that the better the race set up I have the worse the bike feels on grippy qualifying tyres. My set up is very good and I'll have to figure out where my strong points are compared to the other riders once the race starts."
Kenny Roberts Jnr, KR Honda: 9th. "This weekend in qualifying I picked up four-tenths of a second on qualifying tyres and I need to improve on that. But with the new chassis we understand more about the imbalance of the bike on qualifiers than we di before. On race tyres I feel really good and the lap times are fast. I need to get off the line better and get to the front guys early in the race. I should have more chance to pass here than I did at Assen. The team has done a great job to get the chassis finished off in time for me to race it here. I caused them a little extra work when I crashed this morning but they gave me a good bike for qualifying so thanks to team again."
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda: 11th. "Well, on the positive side I'm only three tenths from the front row, though obviously I'm not thrilled with how qualifying went today. We had some electrical problems at the start of the session which cost me quite a lot of time but that's just the way it goes in racing sometimes. We'll put our heads together and try to get an awesome start tomorrow and recover some places quickly. I'm having a few issues in T4 at the end of the lap, getting quite a lot of wheelying and losing some time there, so we'll come up with something to work on that. Tomorrow's the important day and I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge. We had some kids here from the Make A Wish Foundation today and it was really nice to meet those guys too."
Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda: 14th. "I lost the front end at the very end of the qualifying session, going into the last slow corner, the front end turned in and I crashed. We have been using the 16.5 inch tyres at Donington, basically because Michelin don't have the 16 in available in many compounds and the asphalt here is completely different to Assen."
Michel Fabrizio (crashed), Fortuna Honda, substitute rider for the injured Toni Elias: "I am really sorry. I wasn't even pushing that hard and I think we were doing a good job with the team. We still had a lot of room for improvement and we knew where it was. I think we were heading for high 1'29s but I fell in the final corner before the straight. It is a shame because it has brought an important experience to an abrupt end."
Andrea Dovizioso, Humangest Honda: 2nd. "We have definitely improved compared to yesterday; I can be faster and I feel safer on the bike, but still I don’t feel 100% confident as far as race settings. Lorenzo seems to have a better rhythm but I’m not going to give up and tomorrow we will try to do a further step forward during the warm-up. It wont be easy to stay with Lorenzo but Ill do my best to stay close to him”
Shuhei Aoyama, Repsol Honda: 5th. "The truth is that I'm not really happy after the second qualifying session, because my aim for today was the first row of the starting grid, but in my final laps, when I tried to set my fastest times, I ran across several slower riders on the track that hindered me from being faster. But well, today was actually about setting one fast laps and tomorrow, the most important will be to make many of them in a row and I think that we're ready for that. We'll try to improve a bit the bike's behaviour. This afternoon we're going to sit down with the Showa technician to analyse some improvements for the suspensions. Now I understand the behaviour of the bike a bit better, so we have to try to get a little bit more out of it for tomorrow."
Yuki Takahashi, Humangest Honda: 11th. " It has not been easy today, I thought I could find a better set-up of the bike. I don’t feel confident in entering the curves, in particular in the faster part of the circuit. Now Im going to analyse the data with my team and we will try to make some changes during tomorrows warm-up. Anyway, I’m sure our real potential is higher than the one we showed today during the practice"
Aleix Espargaro, Wurth Honda BQR: 16th. "I'm not very happy with qualifying today. My grid position is good but not my lap time. When I started pushing to get a good lap time I was having some big rear wheel slides. On the fast downhill section I get a slide when I lean it into the corner and this upsets my rhythm. We need to find a better balance for the bike and will try some things in the warm up. If I can get the bike to be more stable and get rid of some of the slides I will have a good race."
Arturo Tizon, Wurth Honda BQR: 17th. "Its coming better but I still don't feel comfortable on the downhill section because I cant hold my line through there. You cant close the gas because you will loose so much time you cannot make up again. Tomorrow morning e will try a few options on the suspension to try and find a better bike balance for the race. We improved the balance a bit in that session but we still have work to do."
Fabrizio Perren, Stop and Go Racing: 19th. "I'm quite happy with qualifying on my first visit to this track. This morning I had a problem with the balance of the bike and the quick shifter so I did not get a good lap time. Honda have helped us out with the shifter problem and the team worked on the suspension, the bike was much better this afternoon. The only difficulty I had in qualifying was getting the bike to turn into the corners like I need it to. But that is something I can ride around. I'm really looking forward to the race."
Chas Davies, Molenaar Honda substitute rider for the injured Arnaud Vincent: 23rd. "This is a completely new bike for me and there are a couple of things I need to improve. The engine is very good but the main thing is try to get the bike to hold its line through Redgate and down to the Old hairpin. If you get the first part wrong it hurts you all the way through that section. I'm loosing far too much time there. ":
Martin Cardenas, Repsol Honda: Will not race due to crash at previous round
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda: 10th. "The qualifying session was so-so. In the beginning I ran a good time alone and was aiming for second row grid position. The bike is very good engine and chassis set up is OK for this track. When I went out again I was hoping to follow another fast rider but I was unlucky and didn't find one so I had to push hard alone on the last lap but only got the same time as I did early in the session. We will run with what we have now unless the weather changes."
Fabrizio Lai, Seedorf Racing World: 11th. "Third row. I want to tell you my tomorrow race: I'll start very well, as usually, I'll stay with the leaders, I like the track and in some points I'll fell to be the best on track. I'll try to use the best lines not to lose speed but the Aprilia’s will overtake me easily, braking very hard (more than me!) and I'll drop back. I'll lose the slipstream and I'll try to keep a decent position. It is really hard to know it before. But the team is doing a great job and wants that I keep my concentration If only it would rain tomorrow instead to be so hot (Hondas are slower with hot temperatures)".
Bradley Smith, Repsol Honda: 13th. "You've got to be happy with thirteenth, and it's also a good start position for the race. Rather than being in the sixth row and I'm now in the fourth. I'm only a tiny, tiny little bit away from ninth position, so everyone is really close. There were some difficult moments and I was lucky to stay on. We've got to be happy, I was lucky, not everyone went as fast in the second session, but still I was the one who put the time, I was the one who got thirteenth so you've got to be happy. But tomorrow's the race. Tomorrow's when you got to dig in and tomorrow's when you get points, so I've given myself the best opportunity to have a good race so I just have to wait and see."
Sandro Cortese, Elit Honda: 14th. "Everything was good about qualifying today. Yesterday I was snaking into the corners under braking which upset my entry speed but the team fixed that problem. From the third lap of qualifying I was already faster than I was in free practice this morning. I have a good grid position, a good engine and suspension so I am very happy and looking forward to the race."
Gabor Talmacsi, Humangest Honda: 15th."The only negative thing about today is my position on the starting grid. But we have made a good step forward in the set-up of the chassis and now I'm able to ride better my Honda. Unfortunately, as far as I started to push hard, firstly I found traffic on track, then I made a mistake and so I couldn't improve more. But it's important that we have found the right way; for sure I can do better than 15th place".
Tito Rabat, Wurth Honda BQR: 22nd. "This is my first race at Donington and I really like this circuit. But in the last session I couldn't push hard at the beginning the chassis settings were not so good. In the second part the team improved the bike and the engine was good. On the last lap of qualifying I got in behind Kallio and that helped me set my time."
Lorenzo Baroni, Humangest Honda: 28th. "I have improved compare to yesterday, but not as I would have liked. Unfortunately, I am not able to follow my rivals and so I struggle in finding the right lines on this beautiful but very tough circuit. In tomorrow's warm up we have to fix more the chassis, but it's going to be a difficult race for me".
Michele Conti, Seedorf Racing World: 29th. "I'm confident with the new set up we have found. Tomorrow I can do a good race if I catch a fast group and I fight for a good position".
Mike Di Meglio, FFM Honda: 30th. "The free session had well started this morning; I was in the top ten and the modifications made on the chassis and especially on the engine suited me better than yesterday. But after a stop in the pit box to change tyres I crashed whereas I was 7 tenth faster. The technical staff changed the clutch and I could ride again for few laps. I improved my lap time made the previous day of 5 tenth but I couldn't do better because it was really slippery. Unfortunately I couldn't improve during the qualifying session because I crashed 15 minutes before the end. So then I had to take the second bike but the setting was different than the first one and it didn't suit me at all especially the setting of the engine. Tomorrow during the race I will do my best to catch a good group, which won't be so easy since I will take the start from the 8th row."
Joey Litjens, Molenaar Honda: 39th. "I had a big high side crash in the morning practice session and had to go to hospital for an x-ray on my right arm. The photo shows I have a small crack in my elbow. Its painful right now but I will ride in the warm up and see how it goes. If there is no problem while I'm riding the bike I will race."