Camel Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards will start the Grand Prix of Portugal from the front two places on the grid tomorrow, after a sensational qualifying practice that saw the Italian seal his fourth pole of the season with a record time of 1'36.200. Edwards was just 0.278 seconds off the pace of his team-mate to equal his best qualifying position of the campaign ahead of what promises to be a mouth-watering penultimate round.
Both riders worked hard on the race setting of their YZR-M1 machines throughout the day, building on positive recent tests at Motegi and an exhaustive first day of practice yesterday. In the morning they were second and fifth fastest but the momentum grew in the afternoon when they both dipped under the 1'38 mark on race rubber before launching their grid attack in an exciting climax to the session, Rossi setting his definitive pole time on the last of three impressive efforts.
Tomorrow's race, which gets underway at 1pm local time (CET -1), will see the reigning World Champion aim to reduce a 12-point deficit to series leader Nicky Hayden, who clinched the final front row spot in third place, before the final round of the season at Valencia in two weeks' time.
Valentino Rossi (1st - 1'36.200; 27 laps);
"With the championship as it is now I think it was fundamental to be on pole position today and for Colin to qualify second is perfect - I am really pleased for him and all his guys. We've worked hard this weekend because the right setting was quite difficult to find and all the team had to give 100% so I'm really thankful to them and to Michelin for a great tyre. Of course the important thing is tomorrow and with Hayden on the front row with us it looks like it will be a great battle for the victory. There are a lot of other riders with good pace too but for now I'm really happy with the pole position. My first two qualifying laps were quite good but the last one was unbelievable - it is so much fun to ride the M1 when it's working so well like this. Hopefully the weather will stay like this tomorrow and we can have a good show for everybody."
Colin Edwards (2nd - 1'36.478; 27 laps);
"It's a fantastic feeling to be back on the front row and running with consistent times that we know can make us competitive in the race. Hats off to my team and to Michelin as well, because we had a lot of help from them today. After Motegi we stayed and tested and finally figured out the little piece of the puzzle that has been missing all year. Now the bike feels easy to ride - I can push it to the limit, even go over the limit, and I don't know how to thank the guys enough. Personally I feel good and feel that I'm riding great. Tomorrow looks like it's going to be really interesting so hopefully I can play my part for the team and we'll see what happens."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"It was a perfect end to the session for us and a perfect way to start the race tomorrow! To have Valentino and Colin start first and second at such a crucial moment in the season is very important. It's great for us to see Colin back on the front row and so happy on the bike. It's also encouraging to see that we're making progress with the bike, even at this stage of the championship. It's fantastic that Valentino is on pole and in such good shape for these last two battles. But it is only Saturday and now we have to focus on tomorrow and hope for an equally good day."
Nicky Hayden, 55 laps, 230 Km: "On my second qualifier I had a good lap going - that Michelin was a little bit softer - and it felt pretty good, but I got into turn six a little deep and went straight on. So on my last qualifying lap I felt a bit of heat because I knew I couldn't afford to just completely let it hang out - I had to get in a good solid lap to try to get on the front row. For that lap I went back to the tyre I knew, which was a medium qualifier, and it felt good - I got in a decent lap. I'd hoped to have gone a little bit faster but this is definitely the best my bike has felt for a few races and I'm enjoying riding more this weekend than I have in a while. Tomorrow's race is going to be a shoot-out and I think all the fans at home should get ready for it and take the phones off the hook because it's gonna be a good one".
Dani Pedrosa, 55 laps, 230 Km: "We did another good practice today and we were able to put in some quick lap times on race tyres. After qualifying we are at the front of the second row and this is a pretty good position to be in. I had some traffic in qualifying which meant I couldn't set my fastest lap, but this is normal sometimes. I think the last time I had traffic in qualifying was at Barcelona so I can't complain about it. I appreciate that Casey came to the garage to say that he made a mistake and to apologise to me, so everything is fine. The race is very long so we'll have to take care with the tyre choice - we still have to make the final decision. I'll be looking for a good start tomorrow and to fight at the front."
Sete Gibernau, Ducati Marlboro Team, 8th fastest, 1m 36.940s;
"We are improving, getting closer every time but right now we're not too confident for the race. We tried two different ways with my two bikes today and we know which way to go, so hopefully we can improve things a bit more tomorrow morning. We have managed to gain a little more side grip with some changes to the set-up but we still need more. In warm-up we'll try and make another small improvement and see what Bridgestone can do to get us closer to the front. They are pushing really hard and they're very committed. There's a difference between the new and old tarmacs, which you maybe feel more when the bike/tyre package isn't 100 per cent. We've also got to see what happens with the weather though I'm not sure I'd want it to rain, so we've got to keep our heads down and see what happens."
Loris Capirossi, Ducati Marlboro Team, 10th fastest, 1m 37.182s;
"We did a very good job on set-up, to the extent that we were among the fastest this morning. But then we ran into some tyre endurance problems, so we modified the set-up some more to try and help tyre life but that made the bike difficult to ride, so we went back a step with the settings. It is clear that we are not in the best of shape here, but I know Bridgestone and the team are as committed as ever to giving us what we need. The problem is the new tarmac which has been laid at the most crucial parts of the track - it's like a bad joke for us. Let's hope that the weather forecasts that predict rain are correct!"
Toni Elias (11th, 1'37"245):
"I am not satisfied with my position on the
grid, although we did a good job. We are improving every day and now we
must get the result to confirm it. I am feeling good on the bike and
hope to make a good start tomorrow and make up positions as quickly as
possible. I like this circuit and am confident of having a good race
Marco Melandri (15th, 1'37"582):
"Physically I am improving, I feel
better than I thought. The knee is still hurting me and is causing pain
in the left-hand corners, but this is not the main problem which is
preventing me from lapping faster. The bike is working well and the team
is doing a good job. We have tried various different tyres and set up
solutions but we still don't have enough grip to ride smoothly. I hope
to try some more tyres tomorrow morning and to improve my feeling.
According to the weather forecast, it should rain. I hope to race on the
wet to recover important positions. I'm motivated."
"We're struggling a bit right now with rear edge grip and we'll have to come up with something for tomorrow to improve our race performance - the boys will be working hard tonight to sort something out. I feel pretty good around here so there is no reason that we won't be able to drop the lap-times in the race. As far as qualifying goes I am very disappointed in some of the riders that chose to sit in the middle of track, on the race line, and start arguing with each other. That is completely uncalled for and because of that my lap time got screwed up and I could have got pole, or at least been on the front row. That is now neither here nor there really - we're on the second row so it's not too bad. We need to get a good start and do the best we can. I think the Rizla Suzuki should perform alright tomorrow."
"I was a lot more familiar with the track today. I went out this morning and was a lot quicker straight away than I was yesterday. We made some improvements to the chassis of the bike and in qualifying I just stuck my head down and went for it - I felt like I used the Bridgestone qualifiers quite well. We still have some work to do for tomorrow as we're not 100% sure on a race tyre, but we will work on that in the morning. We will be starting from 12th and my target was for a top 10 so that's what I'll be going for tomorrow - come rain or shine!"
Carlos Checa (9th, 1'37.107, 28 laps);
"It was a very positive day because we improved a lot with our race tyre and of course the track has improved in grip as well but we have made some good steps. We have found a good tyre for tomorrow after I had some concerns about warming the left hand side of the tyre and grip on that side but we have found a combination of tyre that we don't lose anything on the right side so this automatically gives me more confidence. With qualifying I had some chatter but we tried a different wheel size with the same tyre and we improved more than one second which for us is good. It was not enough to be in the top spot but I am quite satisfied with our procedure, our work and the structure of the tyre area for this race and gives us much more confidence for tomorrow. We have been moving step by step so we are improving time and again. Finally I couldn't improve anymore but at the end of the day we have had some very good information so I think for the next race we will be more effective in qualifying but for tomorrow I hope we can get the best result of the year."
James Ellison (17th 1'38.810, 26 laps);
"We improved again as I took two seconds off my time but I was hoping for a little bit more with another half a second. With the bike at the moment I feel I'm on the limit all the time but I don't think I pushed hard enough. I'm not entirely happy but not too disappointed either. Then to finish off the session I had a bit of an incident. There were a lot of guys going slow and I moved to keep out of the way but John (Hopkins) came around and he had to hit the brakes really hard getting out of shape to miss everyone and his handlebar hit me pushing me into the gravel and that was it. If it was anyone's fault it was all the guys going slow spread out over the track but at least it was right at the end of the session so I didn't lose too much. I'm ok and John came to apologise but really it wasn't his fault. Just one of those things and it was only cosmetic damage to the bike and I'm ok so no problem. I'm feeling pretty good for tomorrow as we can run a low 1'39 on race tyres so I'm fairly happy with that. Ive looked at the times and the guys that we should be up against, Chris (Vermeulen) and Randy (De Puniet), they're doing the same sort of times on race tyres so we just need a good start to get away with everybody - if it's dry. Chances are it's going to be wet tomorrow so we'll have to wait and see. If that's the case it's going to turn into a gamble for everybody."
Shinya Nakano: 7th - 1'36.790;
"We made some changes to the set-up of the bike this morning, but we didn't see much of an improvement to be honest. This afternoon we still had some problems with a lack of rear grip, but it was definitely more consistent and I think everyone was suffering with the same problem, as there were not many riders breaking into the 1'37 bracket on race tyres. But, still, we're looking for a couple of tenths in race trim, which we hope we can find during warm-up tomorrow. Switching to the qualifying tyre this afternoon obviously gave us more grip, and the balance of the bike felt good, so we know we have a workable set-up for the race. This evening we need to sit down with Bridgestone to consider our race tyre options for tomorrow, as tyre choice will be critical."
Makoto Tamada - Konica Minolta Honda Rider (14° - 1'37.517");
"Today, the satisfying set up we could define permitted me to make a considerable step ahead with race configuration. Unfortunately, as I could frequently verify during this season, my feeling with the bike changes a lot with qualifiers. This impedes me to make the best use of these tires grip. I count on a good start for tomorrow's race as I think I have all necessary skills to stay among the best."
Alex Hofmann #66 (18th - 1'39.647): "Unfortunately, today I cannot say I'm satisfied as we haven't found a set-up giving me the right feeling to be able to make better laptimes. We already knew that these last two races would have been difficult, as both tracks ain't particularly adapted to our "package" but, honestly, I was hoping something better. We worked a lot to get ready for the competition but we're still far from the other riders and this will surely be a hard race. Anyway, I will make my best and I nearly hope some change in the weather conditions, it could help us".
Jose Luis Cardoso #30 (19° - 1'40.451): "Today, things went a bit better from yesterday, I have a good feeling with the bike even though we still have grip difficulties. We tested different solutions but didn't find anything that really could improve our situation. Consequently, when I enter the corners, the motorcycle is unstable and when I go out of them, it slides a lot. It's not easy to lower my laptimes in these conditions but anyway we made our maximum today. For the race, we have a new tyre that should allow us to end the race in quite good conditions. I really want to make a good result in front of the public that will come and support me, I 'm very motivated!".
Randy de Puniet: 16th - 1'37.592;
"This afternoon was very frustrating. This morning we suffered a mechanical problem with one of my bikes, but right at the end of the session I found a rear tyre that seemed to work well at this circuit, and I was able to improve my lap time. But the track temperature had increased considerably for this afternoon's qualifying session and, as a result, the same tyre just didn't offer the same level of grip as it did this morning. When we switched to the qualifying tyre this afternoon I made a mistake on my final flying lap and, because of this, I'm facing a start from the sixth row of the grid tomorrow. For sure, this is going to make for a difficult race, but I will just have to go out there and push as hard as I can."
- 1. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1'36.200
- 2. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1'36.478
- 3. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 1'36.549
- 4. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1'36.569
- 5. Casey Stoner, Honda (AUS) 1'36.702
- 6. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1'36.790
- 7. Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) 1'36.790
- 8. Sete Gibernau, Ducati (ESP) 1'36.940
- 9. Carlos Checa, Yamaha (ESP) 1'37.107
- 10. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 1'37.182
- 11. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 1'37.245
- 12. Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 1'37.371
- 13. Kenny Roberts, Team Robert KR (USA) 1'37.433
- 14. Makato Tamada, Honda (JPN) 1'37.517
- 15. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1'37.582
- 17. James Ellison, Yamaha (GBR) 1'38.810