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Rossi on the pole for title race - October 28th 2006


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    Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi will launch his bid for the MotoGP World Championship title in the best possible circumstances tomorrow after sealing pole position for the final race of the season in today's qualifying session at Valencia. The Italian repeatedly smashed the pole record here to make sure of the top spot, eventually clocking a best lap of 1'31.002 to hold off the twin challenge of Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi (Ducati), who join him on the front row. Tomorrow, in front of an expected crowd of over 120,000 fans, the five-time MotoGP World Champion will defend an eight-point advantage over Nicky Hayden (Honda) as he aims to secure his sixth consecutive title.

    Hayden, the only man with a mathematical chance of denying Rossi, starts from the second row after qualifying fifth fastest, meaning there are three riders between the championship contenders on the grid. Unfortunately Rossi's Camel Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards is not one of those, having struggled to significantly improve his lap times on a qualifying tyre this afternoon. Nevertheless, the in-form Texan has set an impressive pace throughout the day on race rubber. In the morning free practice, when Rossi also topped the time sheets, Edwards was fourth fastest and in the afternoon he lapped consistently inside the circuit record before being forced to settle for tenth place on the grid.

    Valentino Rossi (1st - 1'31.002; 30 laps);

    "We knew we had great potential with the qualifying tyre because we tried it this morning in the free practice and then this afternoon I did three very good laps, each one better and better and then the final lap was very fast. To do a 1'31.0 was really incredible. This pole position is crucial for me because it is an important part of my race tactics to start from the front. The session couldn't have gone much better for us because we have a couple of other riders between myself and Nicky. It is a shame Colin is not one of them but he has a good race pace so hopefully he can help me out like he did at Estoril. The team has done a great job this weekend, especially with the balance of the bike. Now we need to make one or two small changes for tomorrow and then we'll just wait and see. I hope the weather will be like this - for the riders and for the fans because it looks like there will be a great crowd! Now we have the most important thirty laps of the season left to complete our target."

    Colin Edwards (10th - 1'31.711; 28 laps);

    "I'm really pleased with the race setting although we could still make a little more time up in the second sector so that is something we will look at in the warm-up tomorrow. I'm also having a slight problem under braking into turn one but it's good to know that even with those small setbacks we are still right up there in terms of the pace we can expect to see at the front tomorrow. The bike is a lot better than yesterday - we were confident that the changes we had in mind would work and they did, so I have to give my thanks to the team for that. They've done a great job on the bike and we're all set to give a good showing in the last race. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get it done on the qualifying tyre today so the starting position is a little further back than we would like but I know this circuit really well and hopefully I can use that knowledge to make as many passes as possible at the start of the race, get up there and help Valentino win this championship."

    Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;

    "We couldn't have asked for a better starting position for the most important race of the season but the main thing is that Valentino's general feeling with the bike is good and he is comfortable going into such a big day tomorrow. Of course, anything can still happen but we feel ready for this last battle and happy in the knowledge that our bike will be competitive enough to go out and race. Unfortunately Colin wasn't able to take advantage of the qualifying tyre today but we're pleased with his pace on race rubber and we expect a big effort from him tomorrow. If he can get a good start then I'm sure he can stay with the lead group and help out Valentino, just like he did at Estoril. We are ready for D-Day!"

    Nicky Hayden: "We're starting on the second row and that means I need a lightning start tomorrow. We're definitely going all in for the win and it'll be interesting because there are some guys going really fast out there. I need fast guys - but I don't need them to be faster than me! I didn't get on the front row where I needed to be which makes it a bit harder for me - and I'm not thrilled about that. On my last qualifier I had a good lap going and then had a bit of an issue with traffic in the last split when I had to pass a guy who was starting a lap while I was still on a hot one. It kinda got me off line and I lost a lot of time in the last split but I don't want to make excuses. We need to tweak on it tonight and see if I can find a little more pace. Regardless I just need to focus on the race and finish the year strong - whatever happens happens."

    Troy Bayliss, 2nd fastest, 1m 31.210s;

    "It's been a great weekend so far, now I'd just like to finish it off with a good result. This is a great opportunity to finish the story I started with the Desmosedici in 2003 because this is the last 990cc MotoGP race, so I really appreciate getting the ride. I'm back with my old guys from this team in 2004 and I've come with a few guys from Superbikes, Ernesto Marinelli, Paolo Ciabatti and Davide Tardozzi, so I've felt at home all weekend. We expected quite a bit before we came here even though I hadn't been on this year's bike or on Bridgestone tyres. We didn't put any pressure on ourselves, we've just taken it step by step and every session we've got better. The bike and tyres are obviously working pretty good, though we'll be looking for a little more in the morning because you've never got a perfect bike. To be on the front row is so important here. Now I hope to get a good start and be part of the race."

    Loris Capirossi, 3rd fastest, 1m 31.307s;

    "Troy and I are like wine - the older we get the faster we get! I am very happy with the work we've done today, especially this morning when I did a semi-race simulation of 20 laps, maintaining a very good pace throughout. This afternoon I started on new race tyres and managed a 32.2 which is really good. We will have to wait and see what the conditions will be tomorrow but I think we are pretty strong because that race simulation suggests we can be fast all race. Furthermore, it's great that we are starting from the front row because overtaking here is very difficult."

    Dani Pedrosa: "Today we had a good practice in the morning and made some more progress with the race set-up and tyre choice. We more-or-less have the set-up now although we still need to find a few tenths of a second because some riders improved their race pace in the afternoon. On the qualifying tyres this afternoon at first I was not so fast. I improved a little on my later runs and we finished in sixth place - which is not perfect because Rossi is on pole. From the second row I will need to do a great start tomorrow and get away with the leaders. It's going to be a big race in front of many, many fans so I'm really looking forward to it."

    Chris Vermeulen:

    "The qualifying session was quite a bit hotter than yesterday afternoon's free practice and we spent the first part of the session working with race tyres, and hopefully we have found something that will work well tomorrow and last the distance. In qualifying I felt like I used the tyres to the best of my ability, but we were struggling to get a full lap out of them. I got around in eighth and I'm on the third row. That gives us a chance to get away with the front guys. The times around here are so close and it's difficult to overtake, so a third row start will give us a good opportunity to be up there and we'll try our best tomorrow."

    Casey Stoner: "I did the best qualifying lap I've ever done compared to my times on race tyres after finally getting a decent qualifying tyre. And I made a small mistake on my fast lap and lost 0.2s, which would have put me up in the top four positions. But I'm close to the front, and not 14th, which is where I was before I got that new tyre from Michelin. The tyre felt more predictable and didn't upset the bike. My back is OK when I am riding so that's OK. This race is always close in qualifying but a lot riders drop-off towards the end; I'm just going out to do my own thing in the final race of the season".

    John Hopkins:

    "I think today we have made a big step in performance, and we have started to use a different family of Bridgestone tyres from what we were using yesterday. On race tyres we improved consistently on yesterday's times throughout this morning and into this afternoon. We have a few more things that we are sure will work well tomorrow. We have qualified better than that before but Chris and I are both on the third row and I'm sure we can get good starts and give Rizla Suzuki an exciting final race of the season!"

    Carlos Checa (16th, 1'32.747, 31 laps);

    "I am not too disappointed with the session, although of course we would like to be closer to the front, but I did a race pace on a new tyre selection so we hope we can do the same times and be able to do the entire distance. We are quite satisfied with the job we did as on the last lap we did a flat 34. Our main problem is the consistency and to be able to race all laps in the 33s will be quite difficult. Unfortunately, with qualifying tyres we had a lot of chattering and couldn't improve too much. I thought I may be able to do one more lap but this was not possible. We are not in the best place on the grid as we are a bit further back than we would've liked but I am confident after doing the lap times today on race tyres that if we can get a good start we may be able to push our way through a few positions to get closer to the front but we have to remember that this is a very hard place to pass so we must aim for the best of starts. Also, as it is my last race with the team I want to have a good result to say thanks for all the hard work they have put in this year. At the beginning of the year we knew this would be a very difficult season but for everything that has happened I must say that it is one of the most personally satisfying years I have had in my career."

    James Ellison (19th, 1'33.953, 25 laps);

    "The session was ok at first and I really thought we may pull out a half decent qualifying position but we are still hitting a barrier that we can't push through, as once we start pushing through it we are having heaps of chattering problems on the right side. It starts to chatter then you try and ride through it and sometimes you get away with it and it stops chattering and sometimes it doesn't and that's what happened when I lost the front through the second right-hander. I can follow Carlos on exactly the same line and speed but when we look at the telemetry we see how different each bike is performing but it seems to have been the case all year. We have a pretty good idea for a race setup as I can run around in the 34 second bracket quite comfortably so I am fairly confident that we can run a good pace tomorrow and finish off a difficult year in the points.

    Shinya Nakano: 4th - 1'31.341;

    "My aim today was to make sure I started the last race of the season from the front row of the grid, so I am a little disappointed to have missed out on third position by such a narrow margin. But, I am happy with my race set-up and we have good tyre options whatever the conditions tomorrow, so starting from the second row will not be such a big disadvantage I think. I crashed out of the last two races, so my first priority tomorrow is to make it to the chequered flag, but I'd also like to finish the season with a strong result for both me and the team, so I'll be pushing as hard as ever. The battle for the championship between Valentino and Nicky is sure to be intense tomorrow, but there is no pressure on me for the championship, and I hope I can ride my own race without becoming involved in their fight for the title."

    Makoto Tamada - Konica Minolta Honda Rider (15 - 1'32.467");

    "I made a long series of laps with a race bike setting and I have to say that, with these conditions, the set up I'll have at my disposal tomorrow is really satisfying. When using qualifiers, instead, the feeling with the bike changed completely and, as many times throughout the season, I was not able to make the best use of the grip I had. The bike handling becomes harder in cornering entry."

    Randy de Puniet: 11th - 1'31.892;

    "Once again we've been the victims of bad luck. The bike felt good in race trim, so we opted to run a qualifier early on in the session. I was happy with my first flying lap, and I was confident that we could improve further with the second and third qualifying tyres. But, on my second qualifying run towards the end of the session I suffered a mechanical problem with my number one machine. I had just enough time to get back to the pits, get the mechanics to put my last qualifying tyre on my spare bike, and head back out to try and improve my position. Unfortunately, I couldn't improve on my first lap on a qualifying tyre and, as a result, I will start the race tomorrow from the fourth row of the grid. But, our race set-up is good, and Bridgestone have the tyres we need, so I still think it's possible to end the season with a top ten finish tomorrow afternoon."

    Alex Hofmann #66: "The truth is that I could have done a better laptime with the qualifying tyres. I used three of them, the first two were identical and I thought these were the best. Unfortunately, the third one was more efficient and I didn't really take advantage of it at 100%. So We could have done a better result but, anyway, our aim was to find a set-up adapted to the temperatures of the afternoon, as the race will be done in the same conditions. Things went better than yesterday but it's not enough and we will keep on working tomorrow morning. Personally, I hope that the weather conditions will be a bit colder. With lower temperatures, as in the morning, the bike is more stable and I can ride easier and faster. For the warm-up, we still have some options to test. This is the last round of the season and it will be necessary to make our best to obtain a good result. It won't be an easy race but I will do my best".

    Jose Luis Cardoso #30: "Today, we worked for the race. Unfortunately, we had to forget the tyre we chose yesterday as it wasn't constant enough for the duration of race. That's why we had to concentrate ourselves on another tyre I didn't really like. We made the best we could and we managed to improve our rhythm. It's not enough but we will test some other solutions tomorrow morning, in the warm-up, to find more stability. With the qualifying tyres, we made what we could. In general, we're a bit closer to the other riders and this can be considered "positive". Tomorrow, it will be an important race, in front of my public and I really want to make a good race ".

    Qualifying;

  1. 1. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1'31.002
  2. 2. Troy Bayliss, Ducati (AUS) 1'31.210
  3. 3. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 1'31.307
  4. 4. Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) 1'31.341
  5. 5. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 1'31.378
  6. 6. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1'31.385
  7. 7. Casey Stoner, Honda (AUS) 1'31.470
  8. 8. Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 1'31.606
  9. 9. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1'31.663
  10. 10. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1'31.711
  11. 11. Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 1'31.892
  12. 12. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1'32.062
  13. 13. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 1'32.144
  14. 14. Kenny Roberts, Team Robert KR (USA) 1'32.358
  15. 15. Makato Tamada, Honda (JPN) 1'32.467
  16. 16. Carlos Checa, Yamaha (ESP) 1'32.747
  17. 19. James Ellison, Yamaha (GBR) 1'33.953