Valentino Rossi will start from the front row of the grid in third place with his Camel Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards just two spots behind him in fifth when the Australian Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow, thanks to a much improved performance on the second day of action at Phillip Island. After initially struggling to find an adequate set-up for their YZR-M1 machines in yesterday's opening free practice sessions due to the cool spring temperatures, both riders worked effectively with their pit crews to find better grip for the rear tyre - improving their best lap times by almost two seconds and securing prime starting positions for tomorrow's crucial round in the process.
For Rossi the target is a sixth victory of the season as he looks to pull even closer to series leader Nicky Hayden (Honda). After an excellent run of recent form the Italian lies just 26 points short of the American and tomorrow promises to be another mouth-watering duel between the pair, with Hayden starting from pole position thanks to a record lap this afternoon. Edwards is also targeting his best finish of the season in front of a bumper Phillip Island crowd including many of his Australian family members and friends.
Valentino Rossi (3rd - 1'29.271; 28 laps);
"The team did a really good job today because we had some difficulties setting the bike up yesterday, but today it worked really well and I was able to qualify on the front row, which is very important at this circuit. Because of the temperatures here we are finding it hard to get heat into the rear tyre and we struggled a bit again today, which is why I had to leave it so late before trying for the fast time on the qualifying tyre. We still have some work to do in this aspect on the race setting but with the qualifying tyre the grip was there and I was able to go third fastest, even though I ran off the track on my out lap and then my bike did a small wheelie in the last corner on my flying lap. Anyway I am happy and want to say a big thank you to my team and to Michelin for the excellent progress we made today. I'm surprised that Capirossi and Gibernau are so far back because they have got a very strong race pace so I suppose me and Nicky will be pushing hard from the start to try and escape."
Colin Edwards (5th - 1'29.680; 29 laps);
"I don't think I've ever gone from one extreme to the other to this extent in my whole career! From being totally miserable yesterday I'm now really happy and content with our set-up and today's work. It's a good feeling! We've actually made a big move with the setting, back towards what we had at China and Le Mans and it seems to be working. The thing is we had a different chassis back then and we were suffering with chatter at the time so we never went back to that but the guys worked overtime and came up with a concoction that worked. I've really got to thank my team; we've changed almost everything possible since yesterday, from electronics to suspension and, bar the engine and the chassis, it's hardly the same bike today. They've put in the hours and it's clearly worked so I really am seriously grateful to them. I'm really happy with my race tyre and the set-up we used through the session and then the qualifier I used was like superglue! It's no secret that we were struggling in the tyre area too yesterday so I want to say thanks to Michelin, they've pulled something out overnight and it's looking good. I can't wait for tomorrow; it feels good to be starting at the right end of the grid for my favourite race of the year!
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"It's been a very good day for us. Firstly we're all really pleased to see Colin back near the top again and feeling so much better with the bike. Then with Valentino we achieved our main target of starting on the front row and this is very important for tomorrow's race. I think it's going to be a very interesting race tomorrow! The race pace of both Valentino and Colin is very good and I think it's going to be a great fight, as it always is at Phillip Island, with a lot of overtaking. I hope that we will be in that fight with both our riders!"
Nicky Hayden: "It's really nice to be on pole and to get a good lap in. That Michelin qualifier worked so good and my bike felt awesome for that one lap. I was able to open the throttle as hard as I liked and it was really fun - though it doesn't count for anything other than a really good grid position. I knew before the start of my lap that my timing wasn't good and I wasn't going to get use my last qualifier so I knew I had to get in a good lap. On race pace I'm struggling a bit and I just cannot find any traction. We've changed everything on the bike to try and get some grip and not just spin the tyre. Nonetheless it feels good to get a good lap in - we've still got some work to do if we want to do 27 of them tomorrow."
Dani Pedrosa: "Today we worked on set-up and my feeling on the bike was not quite as good as I'd have liked. We are tenth on the grid and that is not fantastic but it's much better than 15th which is where I have been for a lot of the weekend. I was able to ride quite hard on the qualifying tyre, but I'm losing a lot of time on every lap in the first sector so I will have to improve that for the race. The bike set-up is not bad, although we still have to decide on the right Michelin race tyre. Tomorrow is another day so I'm not sure of my potential yet. I don't know yet if I'll have painkillers - I prefer not to but it may be necessary."
Marco Melandri (7th, 1'29"949): "Today we worked a lot on the weight
balance of the bike and the feeling on the front in particular has
improved. We still need to work with the suspension to try and get a bit
more confidence in the fast corners and get a bit more traction in the
corners that are most important to a good lap time.
I set a decent pace but unfortunately I lost a few vital tenths on a
qualifying tyre and tomorrow I'll be on the third row. We've still got a
few modifications to try in the warm-up. I'm still confident I can fight
for the podium because this is a track where you always fight to the
end. Last year that was the case - I started from eighth and fought for
the podium, finishing fourth."
Toni Elias (14th, 1'30"498): "The feeling with the bike setting has
improved a lot and compared to yesterday we have taken a big step
forward. I set quite a good pace but I wasn't able to build on the good
work we did on a race tyre by making the most of the qualifying rubber.
Hopefully I can make a good start in the race as I did in Malaysia. I'm
confident - I like the track a lot - but I hoped to be higher up on the
Sete Gibernau, 12th fastest, 1m 30.237s;
"The qualifying tyres didn't work the way we had expected them to work here so I had to do my fastest laps with race tyres. My 1m 30.2s best, that was with my race tyre. We've done some long race runs at a pretty good pace but we will be starting from way back on the grid, so it's going to be a very hard race for us. The lap times are very close at this track so it's not easy to get past here. Right now, we've just got to keep our heads down and know that it's going to be an uphill race. We've been running the new-profile Bridgestone as well as the tyre we normally use but we've yet to confirm which we will use in the race. Morning warm-up will be decisive for us."
Loris Capirossi, 13th fastest, 1m 30.393s
"I had a problem with my number one bike [a gearbox gremlin stretched the final drive chain], so I had to come in and wait while my second bike was prepared for a qualifying run. That lost me some time and I only did one lap with a qualifier which didn't work the way we wanted it to work. It's a pity because we are okay with our race set-up but we know that starting from the fifth row will make the race difficult. Anyway, I am positive because I know we have a chance to do well tomorrow. There are plenty of riders who were faster than me today but how long can they maintain that pace in the race?"
"What can I say? We certainly have a lot of work to do! This is no way what we expected and far from being the best qualifying position we've had. We are all pretty disappointed really. This is a race where you need to be up in front from the beginning, so we need to concentrate on a really good start tomorrow. We will look to make some drastic improvements overnight and in tomorrow's warm-up. We are all working hard to improve the situation, but you can be assured we will come out fighting tomorrow!"
"Not our best qualifying session. I've had my worst two positions of the year in the last two races - both 16th. But I did come up to 11th in the last race in Sepang and I'm feeling a lot healthier this weekend so hopefully we can do even better. We couldn't use a qualifying tyre today, even the race tyres are not working well around here for me. It's been hard work but we have made the bike better, we will try more things in the warm-up and hopefully we can make it better again."
Shinya Nakano: 2nd - 1'29.258;
"We worked extremely hard here at Phillip Island during the winter test in February, to provide both Kawasaki and Bridgestone with a lot of information and development data, and today was our payback. From this data, Kawasaki and Bridgestone have improved to the point where Randy and I were able to come here on Friday and be straight on the pace. I think this shows the commitment of everyone involved with the Kawasaki Racing Team. I'm happy with my consistency on race tyres, as this is important for tomorrow, but I'm also pleased to be starting from the front row. I saw from my pit board that I was in fourth place as I started my final qualifying lap, so I pushed as hard as I could to try and reclaim a position on the front row of the grid. I'm not so bothered about missing out on pole; the front row is good enough for tomorrow's race, in which I think it's possible for us to finish top five at least."
Randy de Puniet: 9th - 1'30.037;
"I'm a little disappointed not to have matched my best lap time from yesterday, as this would have put me closer to the front of the grid for tomorrow's race. However, I am pleased with the improvements we made to the bike today, and also my times on race tyres. It's been a good weekend so far, and I hope we can carry the momentum into tomorrow's race. If I can get a good start, then my only strategy is to try and stay with the leading group of riders for as long as I can. I think it's possible, if our luck holds in the race, to score our best finish of the season so far tomorrow. That's what I'll be aiming for anyway."
Alex Hofmann #66 (17th - 1'31.676): "I am not satisfied. The DUNLOP Qualifying tires I had were finished before I could complete a fast lap. I couldn't push to improve my times because the tires didn't last. My best laptime this afternoon is roughly the same as I obtained this morning with the race tires and this validates my position on the starting grid. Anyway, once again I have a consistent race pace and for the race I will be ready to fight and finish in the points. We did a good job today in spite of some problems we had, and tomorrow we need to concentrate on getting a good start."
Jose Luis Cardoso #30 (19th - 1'32.870): "I wasn't able to stop the clock again, unlike this morning's laptimes, and I don't know why. I am not happy because we had problems with all of our tires, both the race tire and the qualifying one. We are too far from the other riders, and I just couldn't accelerate like I wanted to because the bike was sliding everywhere. I'm hoping for a lot of luck tomorrow."
Makoto Tamada - KONICA MINOLTA Honda Rider (11° - 1'30.132");
"Probably, the different ground condition of today is the reason why this morning, I immediately suffered a grip problem in corners and a lack of traction. We tried different tyres solutions, worked on rear suspension and electronics without solving the problem. This impedes me to be incisive in the long high speed corners characterizing the second and fourth track sectors."
- 1. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 1'29.020
- 2. Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) 1'29.258
- 3. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1'29.271
- 4. Kenny Roberts, Team Robert KR (USA) 1'29.662
- 5. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1'29.680
- 6. Carlos Checa, Yamaha (ESP) 1'29.865
- 7. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1'29.949
- 8. Casey Stoner, Honda (AUS) 1'29.969
- 9. Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 1'30.037
- 10. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1'30.081
- 11. Makato Tamada, Honda (JPN) 1'30.132
- 12. Sete Gibernau, Ducati (ESP) 1'30.237
- 13. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 1'30.393
- 14. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 1'30.498
- 15. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1'31.143
- 18. James Ellison, Yamaha (GBR) 1'31.998