Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi will line up in pole position for the first time in almost a year when the MotoGP World Championship riders take their place on the grid for the seventh round of the season at Catalunya tomorrow. The Italian has been in excellent form all weekend and after continuing yesterday's job to set his YZR-M1 up for the 25-lap race, he was able to concentrate fully on a burst of quick laps at the end of this afternoon's qualifying session. His fastest lap registered a new pole record of 1'41.855 and put him at the front of the MotoGP grid for the first time since the 2005 British Grand Prix last July.
Colin Edwards also followed up positive work on his two machines yesterday with further progress in the morning free practice, when he set the fourth fastest time on race tyres. However, slight changes to the setting of his bike and the extra grip offered by a softer rear tyre had a detrimental effect as he pushed for a quick lap time at the end of the qualifying session, the American eventually dropping to twelfth place on the grid as a host of riders posted one-off flying laps, despite not matching the consistency demonstrated by Edwards. Rossi will be joined on the front row by two of Edwards' compatriots, John Hopkins (Suzuki) and Kenny Roberts (Honda KR).
Valentino Rossi (1st - 1'41.855; 26 laps);
"I am really, really happy - it is a big satisfaction to be back on pole after such a long time. The bike has been working really well all weekend and I have to say a big 'thank you' to everybody at Yamaha and all my engineers because they have worked so hard to build this new chassis and then make it work so well in such a short space of time. I said yesterday that we have been able to work in a normal way and this meant that today I was able to focus on finding a good setting for the qualifying tyre and putting some fast laps in at the end. It is the first time I have had this pleasure in a long time and to do it at this track is amazing because it is so much fun to ride here. There are some tough riders out there but I have a special feeling in front of these fans. They always treat me so well and I want to put on a good show for them tomorrow."
Colin Edwards (12th - 1'42.655; 26 laps);
"I don't seem to be getting any kind of luck in qualifying lately. We haven't had so much time yet with the new chassis and unfortunately when I put the softer tyre on it kept folding the front end, so I couldn't push harder for a time and get the place on the grid that my pace would otherwise reflect. Also we made a couple of changes to the setting - nothing major, just a millimetre here or there - but it seemed to add to the extra force on the front so we perhaps would have been better sticking to what we found in the morning. Tomorrow we'll have to go backwards a little bit with the setting and no doubt we can go forwards a lot during the race!"
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"Of course it is very nice to be back on pole but the most pleasing thing is to see the constant progression we have made with the bike from Le Mans to Mugello to here. To come off the back of that win in Italy to take pole here is a reflection of the excellent work the team has done with the bike and we hope that this situation is now the 'norm' until the end of the season. It will be a difficult race tomorrow and we are still not sure of the conditions, but we know we can be involved and it will be up to Valentino to keep fighting to the end, as he always does. Colin has a good race pace but he didn't manage to get the best out of the qualifying tyres at the end. He will have another fight on his hands over the first few laps so we will see what happens."
Carlos Checa (16th, 1'43.606, 29 laps);
"On race tyres we are stronger than we have ever been and during qualifying we did over 70% of the race distance to show that we now have the consistency. This is very positive but what is disappointing is the lack of performance in the qualifying tyres. We were doing the same times on the qualifying tyres as we managed on race tyres yesterday. After being 11th yesterday it is very disappointing because with qualifying tyres we should be able to go at least a second quicker...
On race tyres we can do 1.44s and this is the pace we can run at. If we can get a good start and maintain the lap times that we have done over the last two days on race tyres it should be a good race for us. I had the best race pace today I have ever had and we were able to maintain the same lap times so I am looking forward to having a good battle with a bunch of riders that are close to me.
When it was time for the qualifying tyres we tried three but none of them worked so we still have to work on this also. To be frustrated in this way is not the best way to understand the situation. Also on the race tyres we have found much more grip so we have to play around with the setup. To be just 1.2 seconds away from the leaders when everyone is on race tyres is very good for us but we have to improve the qualifying tyres so we may be able to get a better grid position and so be in a better place to battle with a big bunch of riders.
James Ellison (18th 1'44.727, 25 laps);
"It hasn't been the best of days but at least - like Carlos - we are getting some consistency with the race tyres but it's pretty frustrating that our qualifying tyres aren't working too well so we drop down the field. Saying that I have a pretty good race pace and we know that we now have the Dunlop tyres that can last the distance." We are working very hard with Dunlop to come up with a solution and the hard work they have been putting in has been reflected with the improvement to the race tyres. Also we have found some improvements to the chassis and that is allowing me to ride the bike the way I like to ride. Now I can slide it and back it in with a lot more confidence that I have been able to do in previous races. Now that we have tested the tyres for almost an entire race distance it should bring us some better results."
Herve Poncharal - Tech3 Yamaha Team Director;
"A bit disappointing with the starting position as we definitely have to work on the qualifying tyre to get a better grid position. We were doing 43.6 Friday morning with a race tyre and we are 43.6 with a qualifying tyre on Saturday afternoon. Sure when we see what the opposition is doing there is a gap between race and qualifying tyres and we have to work on that. Having said that, I think we are the closest we have ever been on race tyres and race pace. We have been doing race distance this morning and again this afternoon with a high track temperature and we are very consistent in the low 44's. it wont be enough to be in front but I think for the first time if everything goes like we are planning we will have a race without any drop off in tyre performance where we can be all race long in the 44's and we will see where it will take us. I look forward to this race and I especially hope that our riders will be able to stay with other riders and we will have a nice battle through the race instead of seeing the others just disappear and just racing on our own. On this track that is a real distinct possibility. I am happy. I'm not happy with the grid position but if we get a good start I think we can carry a pretty good lap time for the whole race. We did 18 laps this afternoon on the one tyre and maintained the lap times and the race is 22 so I think we should be ok.
Dani Pedrosa: "My team has done a really good job from the beginning of this weekend and we've been quick and consistent in the other sessions. But unfortunately we didn't make such a good plan for the qualifying tyres and at the end of the session I had a lot of traffic. On the warm up lap with my last set of qualifiers many riders were waiting for me, and then at the first corner there were four riders who were slowing down from their flying laps in the middle of the track. This cost me a lot of time and I couldn't make a fast lap. Well, I'm 11th so I have to think about tomorrow and try to do a really great start - this is now very important - and a great race. Obviously I'm disappointed to be this far back, especially at my home race, but the race set-up of the bike is pretty good and we'll have to see if we can handle the race pace tomorrow."
Nicky Hayden: "We were alright this afternoon on race tyres, we were up there close to the front, though we've definitely still got some work to do if I want to be a contender tomorrow. It hasn't been the most silky smooth day of my life. This morning I was going quite well when I had a little crash on the brakes when I tipped it in at the end of the back straight. I was just pushing hard and I was in kinda hot - it was a little bit of rider error which didn't help and slowed down progress a little bit. Plus, we're getting a bit too much heat in the rear tyre which is a bit of a worry for me and I might have to shake-up my tyre choice a little bit. Qualifying didn't go just great. On my last lap I had a pretty good lap going but in the last split I just got completely hosed in last corner, a dude just pulled in front of me, and that cost me a shot at the front row. Still, we'll give it all we've got in the race tomorrow."
Loris Capirossi, 6th fastest, 1m 42.247s;
"Considering the way I rode that last lap, I think I deserved better than sixth place! But sixth means the second row and that's not so bad. We are still working on our bike set-up, it's more difficult than usual, and I'm pushing harder on the track, which means it's easy to make mistakes. There are other Bridgestone bikes faster than us, so we still have some improvements to make. Even so, I'm satisfied, not with our qualifying performance, but with the way we have worked so far. This morning I was the only guy who did 18 laps on race tyres and my lap times were pretty good. Bridgestone have made a very big step forward at this track. My best lap today would have given me pole last year and my race pace this morning would have put me on the podium last year. Obviously everyone has improved since then but while we were in real difficulties here last year, we are now in a position where we can do something. Anyway, we must believe in ourselves and I am determined as ever. Tomorrow I will give 100 per cent until the chequered flag."
Sete Gibernau, 13th fastest, 1m 42.712s;
"Starting the race from so far back is going to make it hard for me. There's nothing we can do now about my grid position but I think we can do something for the race, because all the lap times are pretty close, so if we can get a good start and do some good laps, we could be okay, though it's definitely going to be hard. We've just got to keep our heads down and work something out for warm-up. I think we have a margin of improvement that I'm sure the team and myself will be able to work around and I'll also try and put something else into it. We are going to try quite a few things in the morning, a little bit of everything! It's more tough than usual here because it's my home race, I know my way around and I like the track, we just haven't been able to get me comfortable with the bike. I can't get into the corners the way I like to get into them, it's something in the balance of the bike that I can't work out. And because I'm getting into the corners bad, I'm also getting out of them bad. There's been talk of rain tomorrow but I hope not, I want a dry race."
Marco Melandri (1'42"492, 9th):
"It wasn't an easy day for us. In the
afternoon we improved the rear feeling with the bike and I put in a good
time on a qualifying tyre. Unfortunately when I tried to improve on that
I crashed. Tomorrow we'll see another great race and I'm looking forward
to it because I really like this track. We still have time to respond
and I hope to make the most of it. I'm sure we can find a setting that
allows us to be competitive in the race."
Toni Elias (1'42"853, 14th):
"We've done a good job throughout the day,
gathered a lot of information and now we have to analyse the situation
and react to it because that is the only way to head into tomorrow's
race with any sort of guarantee. We still have a traction problem but
hopefully the heat from the crowd can eliminate that! It will be
exciting start and I'll be trying to make up as many positions as
possible. I'm really looking forward to racing in front of my people."
"Yeah, I can't say that I'm unhappy with the result today. We've been working really hard with Bridgestone, and the Suzuki has come along very well - especially from where we were here last year. Right now we have been trying to put in as much effort as possible on the race tyres and things aren't looking too bad. It's going to be a hard race for us tomorrow with the heat and everything but we are looking to get the maximum out of myself, the bike and the tyres. Front row is where I wanted to be so we just have to get off the line good and go for it.
"With the qualifying tyres this afternoon I just went out, turned my brain off and went for it! Luckily I got on the front row, but it's about time I got that watch for pole position - we'll certainly be going all out to get that the next two or three races, that's for sure."
"Things have gone well this afternoon; we've made a lot of changes to the bike today. We learned a lot this morning, we tried to do lots of laps with a race tyre and we have found one that is quite consistent. I did 19 laps this afternoon on it and my last lap was reasonably quick. Obviously with the qualifiers on we improved the times dramatically and almost got to the front row - but we'll work on that for the next time!"
Shinya Nakano: 5th - 1'42.216;
"Conditions were hard this afternoon. The temperature is a lot higher than yesterday, which meant there was less grip, but the bike was working well. We made some changes to the suspension settings today, to find a better balance with the bike, and we also made some changes to the gear ratios to better suit this circuit and to take advantage of the additional revs we have available from the engine. Only small changes, but they have had a positive effect, with the result that we were running top five on race tyres for much of the qualifying session, with very consistent lap times. This, more than our final qualifying position, is a good indication of our potential for tomorrow's race. Anyway, fifth position on the grid is not so bad and, after the two sessions today, I'm more confident going into the race tomorrow."
ALEX HOFMANN #66 (17th - 1'44.626):
"Today my aim was to obtain more trust on the front. The session didn't start bad but I had some difficulties with the race tyres, as the ground temperature really was high. At the end of the session, I used three qualification tyres of the same type: with the second one it didn't go bad and I wanted to improve even more afterwards, but I crashed in the corner n.4, luckily without any physical consequences. A real pity, I had good feelings, I wanted to go faster and I just lose the front, without feeling any tyre's limit. Anyway, we're ready for the race, slightly closer to the other riders if we talk about the rhythm, but that is not enough and I want to make so much more. Besides, we can't verify the effective duration of our race tyres before tomorrow's race. On the other hand, one thing that makes me very happy is that my logo "alex66.com" will start from the first row, appearing on the leather suit of my friend John Hopkins".
Jose Luis Cardoso #30 (19th - 1'45.562):
"I'm not satisfied. This morning, during the last session of free practice, things definitely went better and I was more constant with my lap times, something that was then impossible during the session of qualifying practice. The motorcycle was moving a lot and I hadn't the sensations I had in the morning anymore. I don't know if it was because of the higher temperatures but, anyway, the situation was the same for everybody. At the end of the session, I rode with qualification tyres but their duration was lower than an entire lap and this didn't allow me to improve anymore. For tomorrow, let's hope that the conditions will be more adapted and let's see what will happen. I would really like to obtain a better result, I will race in front of my public and I don't want to disappoint anybody".
Makoto Tamada - Konica Minolta Honda Rider (15° - 1'42.869");
"I can not be happy of my position in the starting grid of the Catalunya Grand Prix. This morning we could obtain a clear improvement of the performance of yesterday while in the afternoon, with the hot weather, I could not sufficiently exploit the rear tyre grip. What disturbs me the most are the rear tyre movements starting in acceleration and impeding me to check the sliding efficiently."
Randy de Puniet: 10th - 1'42.620;
"I'm a little disappointed with my final qualifying position; I had some brake problems as I came round to start my final flying lap and this meant that I wasn't able to make use of my last qualifying tyre. It's a shame, as I am confident I could have improved my grid position by at least one row. On a more positive note, we made some small changes to the bike that have definitely made it easier to ride; today I could open the throttle earlier without the rear spinning up straight away. This afternoon, on race tyres I did two good runs on the bike to go top five on the timesheet, so we know that, if the conditions for tomorrow's race are similar, we will be competitive. So, overall, I'm happy with the progress we've made today and I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow."
- 1. V. Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1' 41.855
- 2. J. Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1' 41.984
- 3. K. Roberts, Team Roberts KR (USA) 1' 42.055
- 4. C. Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 1' 42.211
- 5. S. Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) 1' 42.216
- 6. L. Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 1' 42.247
- 7. N. Hayden, Honda (USA) 1' 42.305
- 8. C. Stoner, Honda (AUS) 1' 42.344
- 9. M. Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1' 42.492
- 10. R. De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 1' 42.620
- 11. D. Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1' 42.648
- 12. C. Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1' 42.655
- 13. S. Gibernau, Ducati (ESP) 1' 42.712
- 14. T. Elias, Honda (ESP) 1' 42.853
- 15. M. Tamada, Honda (JPN) 1' 42.869
- 16. C. Checa, Yamaha (ESP) 1' 43.606
- 18. J. Ellison, Yamaha (GBR) 1' 44.727