Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi will start from pole position for the second consecutive race tomorrow after a tropical downpour forced the cancellation of this afternoon's MotoGP qualifying session at Sepang. With several sections of circuit still several inches underwater even after the rain had ceased, the riders were forced through an agonising wait before Race Direction decided to base the grid line-up on the best times of each rider from the three previous free practice sessions. A stunning pole record lap from the Italian this morning was therefore enough to put him at the front of the pack for the thirteenth round of the championship, which takes place one hour later than usual tomorrow, at 3pm local time.
Whilst the weather played into the hands of Rossi it was a different story for his team-mate Colin Edwards, who had been hoping for more dry track time to improve his pace aboard the YZR-M1 after struggling to find an adequate set-up yesterday. Edwards made some progress this morning and was hoping for further improvement in the afternoon but he will now have to focus on tomorrow's warm-up session before starting the race from eleventh place. Rossi will be joined on the front row of the grid by series leader Nicky Hayden (Honda) and Loris Capirossi (Ducati).
Valentino Rossi (1st - 2'00.605; 23 laps);
"I don't know if it is harder to go and ride in those conditions or stand around waiting for two hours in your leathers! Seriously though the safety was the most important issue today - there was a lot of water on the track and the conditions were very bad. At two or three points it was like a river running across the surface and the water was very deep. As a member of the MotoGP Safety Commission I spoke with Race Direction and I also went down pit-lane to chat with the other riders and we all agreed that the best thing was to not ride, not just because of the water but also the limited vision. You couldn't even see turn one at one point! I think that shows everybody is sensible and the situation has changed from ten years ago - the riders now have more power over these situations and that is a good thing. This morning the bike was really good and I was able to ride it at 100% and use the tyres properly. We went back more towards the setting we found in pre-season here and straight away I was able to set some fast times. We even had time to try a qualifying tyre and I suppose I was lucky we did that after what happened in the afternoon. We have a few options for the race tyre but we'll wait and see what the weather is like tomorrow before deciding - hopefully it will be dry."
Colin Edwards (11th - 2'02.800; 22 laps);
"The weather has really messed things up for me today! Valentino found the magical set-up this morning, which was much closer to the set-up we used at the tests in January, and our plan was to try it this afternoon. Unfortunately the rain put paid to that and, having not used a qualifying tyre like Valentino did this morning, we're now going to have to start from 11th on the grid - which is not ideal to say the least. Now we're going to have to do what we hoped to do this afternoon in the warm-up tomorrow and hope that we can get everything sorted in just twenty minutes. Then it's going to be a case of getting my head down and trying to fight my way through the pack."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"What a strange day! It was a good morning practice for Valentino - he made a big improvement with the bike and tested a qualifying tyre, which helped us in the strange situation this afternoon. He made a great lap time but his general pace shows that the steps made with the bike are in the right direction. We are happy about that and now we feel confident about tomorrow, it is good to be on pole again. Unfortunately Colin wasn't helped by the weather because we feel he could have improved his grid position but he didn't get the chance to do that so it's a shame - it was a good and bad day for us from that perspective. The weather might be a problem tomorrow too if the storms come back so now we are all just hoping for nice weather when we open the curtains tomorrow."
Nicky Hayden, 22 laps, 122'05 Km: "I felt a lot better today than yesterday - we made some changes overnight that really helped. Hopefully we can continue in that direction tomorrow and be strong in the race. It's good to be on the front row, especially if it rains. I think maybe the grid should have been decided on championship point - no I'm joking. If I'd have been ninth I'm sure I wouldn't have been so happy but perhaps we have to come up with something in the rule book to make things clear in this situation. Hopefully tomorrow we can make it up to the fans and put on a good show for them because there were some die-hard fans who waited around all day and got teased a few times when the bikes would fire up only for the session to be cancelled at 4.15. We've still got a little work to do to be on the pace tomorrow, but we'll use the warm up and give it all we've got in the race."
Dani Pedrosa, 18 laps, 99'86 Km: "This afternoon I think for the first time in my career the rain has brought me luck! I couldn't have imagined starting from fifth position if it had been a dry qualifying session, so that was a big present for me. This morning I was just testing my performance on the bike - for sure it wasn't 100 per cent but I was able to ride and change gear ok. It felt so-so - not really bad, but not so good either. I don't know about my race pace. I think the bike set-up is about ready although I haven't had time to test all the race tyres I would have liked to. Tomorrow morning I will have to practice the start because I have some pain in both legs, and also I'm very small which won't help. Tomorrow I will see how I feel to make a decision if I have to have any painkillers before the race. I'll do my best. I have to say thank you to everybody because I have received a lot of help, especially in the Clinica Mobile because they are taking good care of me, and my team has worked very hard too."
Loris Capirossi, 3rd fastest, 2m 01.167s;
"The Race Direction took the correct decision to cancel qualifying because the conditions were too bad. Although the track was dry in some places, the water was deep in other areas of the track where the ground was so waterlogged that it couldn't absorb the rain. We do over 300km/h at this circuit, so to ride in these conditions would have been too dangerous. Anyway, I'm happy because I ran a consistently fast pace on race tyres this morning, including 12 consecutive laps inside last year lap record. I have a very good package for the dry and if it's raining it will be the same for everyone. I haven't had any problems in the rain so far this year, so I don't see why we should have any worries here."
Sete Gibernau, 6th fastest, 2m 02.181s;
"That was a really tough qualifying session, I'm totally beat! But seriously, this morning wasn't so bad, we were in the leading pack until a few guys threw in qualifiers, but I didn't use one. The race is going to be physically hard, because I'm a little out of shape and I can't really stress the bone. I've not been able to ride a bike for a couple of months, so I need all the sessions I could get because riding is my training! My goal is to try and finish the race, I can do four or five laps not so bad, then I start struggling."
Marco Melandri (9°, 2'02"560):
"It was a strange day. I'm disappointed
because during the three practice sessions we worked in preparation of
the race using always race tyres. I would have preferred to decide my
grid position on track, that's why I have suggested to extend of 10
minutes tomorrow the warm up so that we could have done warm up and
qualifying. I respect the Race Direction's decision but I have been
penalized because I didn't use the qualifying tyres this morning".
Toni Elias (14°, 2'03"102):
"This morning we did a good job focusing on
suspensions and chassis. Unfortunately this afternoon we couldn't
confirm our work. I'm sorry because without the afternoon practices I
couldn't improve my grid position. Tomorrow I will start from the fifth
row which makes my race very difficult. I'm sorry but I will do my best
to get a good result".
"I'm really disappointed as we had a lot of things to try here this afternoon. Bridgestone had brought us a really good tyre that we hoped would work well in the dry and we never got the chance to use it. This afternoon we had planned to put a half-race distance on it but that never happened. As for it being wet, safety is a very important thing but it's a shame we never got to ride because as it stands now I'm going to be starting from eighth, when I'm sure in qualifying it would have been higher. Some of the riders in front of me used qualifiers this morning and I just concentrated on my race set-up so I was penalised really. But we know that we can do the times and race well, so come rain or shine we will be ready!"
"Obviously I haven't been well this weekend and we have tried to keep the laps down to a minimum and concentrate on bike set-up. We weren't really trying to do the fast laps and I didn't use a qualifier like some of the riders did this morning because it wasn't a qualifying session! So because of that I am a long way back on the grid. But what surprises me is that maybe the track is not in the best condition at the moment, but what if it rains tomorrow? I'm sure Valentino and others won't be pushing for the race to be stopped. I'm not saying he had any involvement today but nobody even went out to see what it was like. Safety does come first but no rider went out there, not even in a safety car, so how can we say what it would have been like!"
Randy de Puniet: 7th - 2'02.313;
"We decided to run a qualifying tyre this morning, just so I could get a feel for it at this track, and that obviously gave us something of an advantage when they calculated the grid positions after abandoning qualifying. On the other hand, the bike and the tyres were working well this morning, with no recurrence of the braking problem I had yesterday, and I like to think that I could have finished higher than seventh if qualifying had gone ahead as planned. I need to get a good start tomorrow, and it's important that I carry the speed all the way into the first turn, as this is the best way of holding the right line through the corner. Overall, I'm happy with the progress we made during today's free practice session, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race."
Alex Hofmann #66 (17° - 2'04.706): "I want to race in wet conditions, because I really like it. We have already found the best set-up for us during the three free practice sessions and tomorrow we will try to exploit that in spite of the inconsistent traction from the rear. The tyre we chose for the race gives me more consistent performance so I'll try to do my best to achieve important points."
Jose Luis Cardoso #30 (19° - 2'05.958): "We are ready for the race whether we ride under wet conditions or dry. The setting of the bike is clear, but we still have grip problems. I want to have a good race tomorrow, regardless, and gather some important points."
Shinya Nakano: 12th - 2'02.832;
"With hindsight it is easy to say we should have run a qualifying tyre during free practice, like some of the other riders did, but it's impossible to account for every eventuality. As far as I know, this is the first time qualifying has been abandoned and this method used to calculate grid positions, but we have to live with the decision. Despite having to start tomorrow's race from the fourth row of the grid, I think it's still possible to leave here with a good result. I'm fairly happy with the bike, and also the tyre options for tomorrow's race, so I guess it's just going to be a case of getting the best start I can, and then getting my head down and pushing hard for the best result possible."