Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi delighted his legion of local fans with a sensational final lap in qualifying practice for the Grand Prix of Japan this afternoon. Rossi continued his excellent progress with another day of hard work on the race setting of his YZR-M1 before heading out to challenge Loris Capirossi (Ducati) for pole. Unfortunately Rossi's first attempt on qualifying tyres was baulked when a rider crashed in front him, forcing the Italian to make a last-minute pit-stop. It made for a tense finale as Rossi returned to the track and beat the chequered flag by just ten seconds, giving him one last chance to challenge Capirossi's dominance. The World Champion responded in typical style with a lap of 1'45.991 - inside last year's pole record but not quite enough to topple pole man Capirossi, meaning he will start tomorrow's race from second place.
Colin Edwards worked in tandem with Rossi throughout the day to improve the solid base setting the pair had found in yesterday's opening free practice sessions. The Texan was again one of the leading riders on race rubber, lapping consistently in the low 1'48 mark and even dipping under the lap record of 1'47.968. However, the Texan struggled to improve on that pace significantly after fitting a qualifying tyre and he slid down the time sheets in the closing stages, ending the session in tenth place and setting himself a tough challenge tomorrow from the fourth row of the grid.
Valentino Rossi (2nd - 1'45.991; 26 laps);
"For sure I am very happy to be on the front row again for the fourth race in a row. My M1 has worked well from the start here so we've been able to work on the setting with various different things and then mix everything together to find the very best race set-up. Now it seems we're in good shape. The bike worked very well also with the qualifying tyre and I had very good grip. Unfortunately I lost one qualifying tyre when Hopkins crashed in front of me, but luckily my team did a great job with the pit-stop - it was even faster than a Formula 1 team! Fortunately I made a good lap with the final tyre and now we're starting from second. I am happy; tomorrow will be a difficult race but I am quite confident."
Colin Edwards (10th - 1'46.726; 26 laps);
"I've been happier with my qualifying position but I've got a good race pace so it's not all doom! To be honest, even though on paper it doesn't look too great, I'm really happy with the bike right now. It's working really well, it's just we couldn't quite get it together with the qualifying tyre and when we put it in today it just overloaded the suspension a bit and made everything a bit too soft, so that's something we need to think about for the next time. Race-wise our setting is pretty good and I think I've got one of the best rhythms out there. Obviously it's annoying to be starting from the fourth row but I think I can come through the pack pretty quickly and then just get my head down! I need to get a good start, fight my way past a few people and then just keep pushing. I'm actually pretty excited about tomorrow and I'm looking for a good result."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"It's been another very good day for Valentino, it seems things are working well and it's nice to be consistently on the front row. It's good to be starting tomorrow's race, which is so important for us with regards to the championship, from this position. It looks like he's in good shape for the race and hopefully he can make the most of the start to get away in front. Unfortunately Colin wasn't able to qualifying in such a high position but he actually has a very strong race pace so the situation is not too bad. If he can get a good start then I think he will be able to come through the field quite quickly and once he's up front he should be able to stay there. Now we hope that the weather stays dry and that we can have a fun and exciting race!
Carlos Checa (17th, 1'47.905, 24 laps);
"We knew we would have a lot of tyres to test here this weekend but to be in this position is not what we imagined after the success of last weekends efforts. We tried many different tyres that Dunlop has brought along for the weekend. We have cured the chattering problems from yesterday so now we will continue to work hard at improving the situation. We have proven to ourselves and everyone else this year we will try everything to reflect the hard work that the entire team has put in to find a little secret to work some magic. With the times I did on race tyres I am looking forward to the race as if I can get a good start I know I can stick with many of the riders that qualified in front of me and now we have good durability in the tyres I hope to be passing quite a few of them."
James Ellison (19th1'48.716, 23 laps);
"We were struggling here yesterday but we have found something that has allowed us to improve our lap times. Even though we had so many tyres to test that may have put us behind a bit, we have found something in the setup to give us a good direction to work on overnight. We still haven't decided on a race tyre for tomorrow as with the way the weather has been we don't want to make a final decision until after warmup in the morning. The competition in MotoGP is so tight these days that if you are having a little problem you seem to be so far off the pace and that is what is happening here but nonetheless we will continue to work hard and hope for a competitive race tomorrow."
Loris Capirossi, Ducati Marlboro Team, pole position, 1m 45.724s;
"My best lap was amazing, seven tenths faster than last year's pole, incredible! I did my best but a big part of this is down to my crew, they've done a great job today and all weekend. Step by step we have worked towards a fast, consistent pace on race tyres. Me and my crew have worked together for four years and there is so much respect and friendliness in our relationship. Even when things aren't going so well they still manage a smile and that's important. We really deserved today's pole. As always, tomorrow is another day. We'll see what happens with the weather. I know I can also be fast if it rains but as usual I would prefer a dry race."
Sete Gibernau, Ducati Marlboro Team, 5th fastest, 1m 46.316s;
"We wanted the first or second rows, so we made it. Today was very good, the guys did a great job, we went though a lot of stuff, step by step. We combined the best aspects of the two set-ups we ran yesterday and changed the geometry so the bike was much more natural and better balanced on the brakes, so I could load the front without unloading the rear too much. First time out this afternoon I was quite fast with race tyres, I was putting in some good times, I was pleased with that. But I didn't get the best out of the qualifier, I rushed it a little too much, I wanted to do too much, so didn't use its full potential. This is a place I don't really like, so I think we have done a lot of good work and now we are just trying to decide whether to use the big tyre or the other tyre for the race. Both tyres are good but grip is better with the big tyre, maybe consistency too, while the bike is more manoeuvrable with the other tyre. We'll try both again in warm-up and see which is better. We also want to improve the front a little during straight-up braking, but overall we are feeling good."
Marco Melandri (3rd, 1'46"250 );
"It's a very good moment for me. It's a
great satisfaction to be back in front row, I was missing the first row
since Donington Park. The most important thing is that we are
competitive with qualifying tyres, which is important to get a good grid
position. This morning the set up of the bike was good and I could lap
with a good pace. In the afternoon session, because of changed track
conditions, I struggled more. Fortunately I could get the best from my
bike with qualifying tyres and I scored the third fastest time. Tomorrow
it will be important to make a good start. The race will be tough but I
have nothing to risk in terms of championship so I will give my best
taking some risks, if necessary".
Nicky Hayden, 50 laps, 240'05 Km. "Well I'm not thrilled about finishing seventh and being so far behind pole position, especially after being on pole last week. But hey, that's racing and the quality in MotoGP is deep. We'll see what happens tomorrow - we're going to have a big job on our hands. My qualifying lap definitely didn't feel too great - I was scared to look at the time because I knew it wasn't going to be real pretty. We've been a step behind these boys all weekend and I'm not sure where we're losing out exactly. We've still got to make the final decision about what tyre I'm going to race and the boys are going to need a Red Bull tonight because we're going to be here a long time trying to see if we can find some improvements. I just don't have enough feel from the rear. But we've come back strong before and we'll put our heads together and give it all we've got tomorrow."
Dani Pedrosa, 53 laps, 254'45 Km. "We improved our times from the morning session which is good, though we still have to find a few tenths because I'm losing a little bit everywhere. And unfortunately when we put the qualifying tyre on we lost out in the same places. My race tyre choice is still not 100 per cent clear so tomorrow in the warm-up we want to make a further test - providing the weather lets us. We'll have to see if it's a dry race and aim for a great start. The third row is not ideal but I have been able to come through from this kind of position before so it's not so bad. My knee is quite good now but the toe is still giving some discomfort - but we'll be ok for the race."
Toni Elias (6th, 1'46"326):
"I'm very happy. We have met our first
target which was starting from the first two rows. I'm confident for the
race, the bike is well balanced and I have a good feeling. I still need
to improve my rhythm especially with full tank because I'm still
struggling especially in the first laps. Tomorrow it will be very
important to make a good start and to keep the contact with the leading
group. I'm ready to fight and I will give my best".
Shinya Nakano: 4th - 1'46.291;
"I think this afternoon's session must have been exciting for the spectators, because it was certainly exciting for me! We weren't sure of the weather at the beginning of the session, so we put in a qualifier straight away, and with this I managed to take pole early on. At the end we were throwing qualifiers into the bike, and I was riding as hard as I could to try and get myself back on the front row. This was good fun, but, unfortunately, I couldn't quite do enough and I just missed out on a top three spot. Starting from the second row is not such a big disadvantage here at Motegi, but it's critical that I get a good start tomorrow if I am to stay with the leading group. If conditions change for tomorrow, then we might make some small revisions to set-up during morning warm-up, but my lap times have been both fast and consistent in race trim, so I'm confident we'll go to the line with a competitive package tomorrow whatever the conditions."
"I just couldn't get the front of the bike to work with any of the qualifying tyres this afternoon and I have now made it hard work for myself tomorrow. On race tyres we are one of the fastest out there so a good grid position was important today. I haven't got that, so I will have to go all out in the race from the start to get up to the front and show that I can challenge for a podium. I will certainly be going for it, of that you can be certain!"
"We made a lot of progress from yesterday and I made a lot within myself as well. I feel more familiar with the circuit and we are going quicker all the time. With qualifying I felt I was losing too much time in the first split and that is something I need to work on overnight and in the warm-up. I've qualified less than four-tenths behind John - which is not too bad for my first time here. We still have a lot of work to do in the race, but I think it's obtainable. The bike's working really well, and let's hope that we can move up through the field"
Randy de Puniet: 8th - 1'46.512;
"Yesterday was a bit difficult, but today has been much better. The changes we made to the bike overnight meant I was fast from the off on race tyres this morning, and we were able to improve again in race trim this afternoon. Because the weather looked unsettled this afternoon, we opted to run a qualifier very early on, and with this I was able to take pole position. As everyone else switched to qualifying tyres I slipped back on the provisional grid, but I really thought it was possible to improve my position with my final flying lap on a qualifier. I don't know why, but the last lap didn't come together as I was expecting, leaving me on the third row of the grid. But, my times have been good in race trim, and I'm confident it's possible to put in a strong performance in tomorrow's race, despite my starting position."
Naoki Matsudo: 16th - 1'47.826;
"We had a mechanical problem with my number one bike very early on in this afternoon's session, so I completed most of qualifying aboard my second bike, on which I was unable to improve on my previous best lap time. Tomorrow we'll try the number one bike again. Both the engine and tyres are working well, but we might make some small changes to our chassis set-up depending on the conditions for morning warm-up. I've enjoyed myself so far at my first MotoGP event for Kawasaki, and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's race."
Alex Hofmann #66 (20th - 1'48.748):
"I gave the 100% but in these conditions it was difficult to make anything more. Today I was at most and I'm not satisfied. Even if we are quite far from the first riders in qualifying configuration, I'm confident about the race as my DUCATI has a very constant pace. The Team has been working a lot in these days and I really want to thank every member of it. Tomorrow, I would like to fight as in Phillip Island to get some more points. I must make a good start and then I hope to have some luck as well. These 24 laps will surely be a great show!"
Jose Luis Cardoso #30 (21st - 1'50.359):
"I made the best I could but todays' qualifying practice couldn't go much better for us. I have difficulties with the traction and tomorrow, during the warm-up, we will try to arrange the last details and allow me to make a good race. I'm confident about the constant pace I have at my disposal and the stability of my motorcycle to get back some positions and satisfy my sponsors, my fans and my Team that assisted me with precision and efficiency".
Makoto Tamada - (18° - 1'48.426");
"Today was not my day. Since this morning I did not have the necessary rear grip feeling. I am really disappointed because I wanted to have a good performance here. Today afternoon temperature was lower than forecasted and this probably had a negative effect. Now, I need to speak with my technicians to understand if and how to intervene on tomorrow morning set up."
- 1. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 1'45.724
- 2. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1'45.991
- 3. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1'46.250
- 4. Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) 1'46.291
- 5. Sete Gibernau, Ducati (ESP) 1'46.316
- 6. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 1'46.326
- 7. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 1'46.489
- 8. Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 1'46.512
- 9. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1'46.576
- 10. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1'46.726
- 11. Casey Stoner, Honda (AUS) 1'46.847
- 12. Kousuke Akiyoshi, Suzuki (JPN) 1'46.958
- 13. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1'47.071
- 14. Kenny Roberts, Team Robert KR (USA) 1'47.310
- 15. Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 1'47.451
- 17. Carlos Checa, Yamaha (ESP) 1'47.905
- 19. James Ellison, Yamaha (GBR) 1'48.716