Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi will launch his quest for a sixth consecutive home victory from the front row for tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix, having kept his cool during a rain-battered Qualifying session to take the third grid spot. Despite some improvements to his race-pace during this morning's dry practice session, his team-mate Colin Edwards continued his unhappy relationship with Mugello this afternoon and could only manage a lowly 16th.
A torrential rainstorm during the preceding 125cc session meant the MotoGP Qualifying got underway with riders on wet-weather tyres, although the track began to dry quickly with the help of a strong wind and lap times soon improved accordingly. As they approached the half way point the heavens opened again and the riders were forced to take shelter in the pits until the storm abated. Luckily it was short-lived and Rossi, who was currently sitting in eight position, got back out as quickly as possible and set about making the most of the remaining ten minutes. On full wet-weather tyres the Italian put in a consistent run of laps, getting faster and faster as the track began to dry out and clocking his best time of 2'01.695 on his penultimate lap, just 0.3 seconds than last week's race winner Chris Vermeulen. Pole position went to series-leader Casey Stoner, who put in a lap of 2'00.359 just before the storm when the track was at its driest. Edwards continued to struggle throughout the session and 16th place will see him head the sixth row of the grid for tomorrow's 23-lap race, which gets underway at 1400 local time.
Valentino Rossi - Position: 3rdTime: 2'01.695Laps: 20;
"I'm very happy about this front row because today was really a bit of a 'casino' with the weather and I think anything could have happened! We started off with wet tyres and actually everything felt quite good, then it began to dry out very quickly because of the wind. I was actually a bit unlucky because I put a harder rear in to try to do a faster lap on the drying track just as it began to rain again in the middle of the session. I was in eighth place and as soon as it stopped raining again I knew I had to get out and try to improve my time. With full wets the bike worked very well and I was able to keep on doing faster and faster laps as the track dried out. We found a good tyre for the rain and actually it seems here we're okay in the wet and the dry. Anyway I really hope it's dry tomorrow, for the riders but especially for all the fans who are camping on the hillside. I think in the rain it's maybe not so much fun! It's important to be on the front row here, now we wait and see for the weather and hope for a good race - rain or sun!"
Colin Edwards - Position: 16thTime: 2'06.254Laps: 20;
"Honestly I don't know what to say, I've always been good in the wet but this year it's just not working out at all. I'm losing everything on the corner entry; it's basically the same problem as I had in Le Mans. In the wet one or two seconds off the pace can be explained but six seconds? That's not right and I'm seriously disappointed. It seems I never have any luck at this track. Starting from 16th gives me a massive hill to climb in any conditions but I would definitely prefer it to be dry because I feel like we at least made some steps forward this morning with our dry set-up."
Davide Brivio - Team Director;
"Valentino came out of what was a very difficult session with a great result, it's really important for him to be starting from the front row for his home race. I think he and his team did a brilliant job once they found him down in eighth place when it rained. He did well to stay out there and keep pushing on a drying track with wet tyres and he deserves to be on the front row. Colin still has some difficulties in the wet and now we will work hard to try to fix them and make him happier in these conditions. We're hoping for a dry race now, it will be better for everyone!"
Casey Stoner, pole - 2m 00.359s;
"At the start of qualifying we were going round and doing some pretty good lap times and it seemed to be getting drier and drier, so I decided to come in and wait it out. I had been in the garage for two minutes when it started to pour so we waited that out, then when we saw it getting drier so we went out for a couple more laps. No one managed to go quicker than my time during those last few laps but I still man to go quicker than everyone else in those conditions, so that's pretty good. It's been really confusing this weekend. This morning wasn't really dry, there were a few wet patches but you could petty much ride it like a dry session, so we've been able to make our settings from that. We've got a good enough dry set-up for now and I think we can improve in morning warm-up. I've heard all sorts of forecasts for the race and I'm not going to believe one of them till I see what's happening tomorrow."
"The session started out in pouring rain, but with the wind it dried up quite quick. I came in with 25 minutes to go and said I needed to put on a slick tyre as there was a lot of grip, and then it started raining again! I thought it would dry out a bit more than it did at the end, but it didn't. I tried to go a bit quicker for the last few laps, but my timing wasn't right and I missed out on another full lap. The Bridgestone wet tyres worked well again and being on the front row gives me a good chance in the race, whatever the conditions may be."
"We made a great start to our programme yesterday and followed that up this morning - we had a clear idea of where we needed to be for this afternoon. Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to make the improvements as the rain came down again. I am not happy to be ninth, but considering what a lottery it was at the end I am quite satisfied to be on the third row as it was easy to crash out there! I am confident I can get a good start tomorrow and be running near the front come rain or shine!"
Loris Capirossi, 5th fastest, 2m 01.797s;
"I'm a little disappointed with my final lap time which is due to the strange and difficult conditions - the weather made qualifying a bit of a lottery. Otherwise I'm pretty happy - in both today's sessions I used the new spec engine and we've worked well on this spec, even if we have only just started to understand how to set it up. We also worked a lot on the chassis and I've found a better feeling in that area too. I will race the new engine because it's more rider-friendly, even though it's a few horsepower down. I want to heartily thank Ducati for what they've done for me because they've prepared the new spec in a very short time. We still have to work on it, but I feel are going in the right direction. I'm confident for tomorrow - rain or shine I think I can fight up front".
Nicky Hayden - 2'04.353s, 51 laps, 267 Km;
"The conditions were fairly crazy this afternoon. One minute the sun was out, the next minute it was raining, then the sun was out again - I just couldn't believe it. And my grid position pretty well sucks.
When it was fully wet I felt pretty good but when a dry line starts to appear I really struggle and I think it's something I've got to improve on a lot. We've put ourselves in a hole for tomorrow so I'll be looking to get an awesome start, get a good first couple of laps and try to pick off as many guys as possible. It's going to be a really tricky race tomorrow even if it is dry because we haven't had a lot of dry set-up time and there's a few tyre options I haven't even tried. So we'll just see what conditions we get in the warm-up tomorrow and use that time well."
Dani Pedrosa - 2'02.776s, 43 laps, 226 Km;
"In the dry I think that we have a good pace and it would have been nice to have had some more time this afternoon to work on the dry set-up and tyre choice. Qualifying was really difficult because we had heavy rain and then it stopped completely.
The track condition was changing on every lap and we never knew exactly which tyres to fit. It was always a bit of a gamble to be on the track at the right time on the right tyres. And then it rained again. I was able to improve my lap time a little towards the end of the session but it wasn't enough to get to the front row so I am a little disappointed with the qualifying position. I must get a very good start in the race. I hope the conditions tomorrow are clear one way or the other - either dry or fully wet, rather than half and half like Le Mans two weeks ago. It could be another very interesting race."
Carlos Checa: 14th - 2'04.971;
"In full wet conditions I feel comfortable, but in the dry we need to improve the set-up. I need a more positive feeling on the corner entry and some more rear stability, the bike feels more difficult to turn. Of course a wet race is a gamble for everyone and depending on the tyre choice and conditions it is difficult to predict. When I was forced to switch bikes I did not have a good feeling in the half-dry conditions, even using a soft tyre right at the end of the session."
Alex Barros (2.03.025 - 21 laps ):
"Unfortunately today wasn't very good for me, I'm not satisfied with my result. It's crucial to have a good qualifying time if you want to do well in the race, therefore I can't be happy with only tenth position. I don't really know what the problem is. With dry race configuration we are satisfied and competitive, but with rain setting I'm not as fast as I want; we need to work hard, if we want to improve for tomorrow. During the qualifying session we tried two different kind of tires, a harder and a softer compound, but I didn't get the right feeling with either of them. I'm very displeased for that, and also quite worried for the race. I just hope that somehow we can turn things around tomorrow."
Alex Hofmann (2.03.920 - 20 laps):
"Today's qualifying session was like a lottery until the end. Like yes terday, the rain interrupted our search for a good set-up. We started with a harder rain tyre compound, and when the rain eased, we continued with a softer set. After just a couple of laps, I came in for another pit stop to re-fuel and to go on a longer run, but when I went out again, the rain came back with a vengeance. It really bucketed down, and there was little we could do. Only a few minutes from the end I finally managed to do my best lap, and I'm sure that I could have further improved if the session had continued for a little while. The race tomorrow will be difficult, because we don't know what the track conditions will be like. But my motivation is very strong and I will give my best to confirm the result of Le Mans."
Olivier Jacque; 4th - 20 Laps - Best Lap 2'01.709;
"That was the most exciting qualifying session of the season so far. Our tactics worked perfectly and I got my best ever grid position in MotoGP. The feeling in the wet was good and we improved the set up both for wet and dry conditions during the course of the day. I have more rear traction and, working with the mapping, we managed to make the engine less aggressive under damp conditions. In the afternoon, we first went out with wet tyres and I took the opportunity to improve my lap times when the track was drying out, just before it started raining again. Our strategy paid off later, too, as we waited until 10 minutes before the end to go out again, this time with intermediate tyres. The track had dried out again and I almost got a first row spot. I must thank my crew as today everything worked perfectly. Physically, I felt on good form in the wet and even this morning was better than yesterday. My arm is not painful anymore, although I can still feel a lack of strength in the dry. The weather is quite unstable and, at the moment, we're not sure what it's going to be like for the race. Personally, I'd prefer a wet race, even though the conditions are trickier, as it's less demanding physically and I enjoy it."
Randy du Puniet; 7th, 21 Laps - Best Lap 2'02.443;
"I'm really disappointed about how the qualifying session ended. We did a good job throughout the day, improving both the dry and the wet set up, and I was among the fastest riders for most of the qualifying session. But I got confused at the end when I saw on my pit board that there was one minute left. I pushed as much as I could and I improved my lap time. What I didn't know was that I just crossed the line with a couple of seconds left and, considering the track was drier and my bike was feeling fantastic, I'm sure I could have got a second or even a first row place. Today, my injury felt much better and I don't think I'll have any problems in tomorrow's race, even if it's dry. The target is to finish among the first eight, though this circuit has plenty of overtaking points and anything can happen if it rains."
Shinya Nakano - Rider, KONICA MINOLTA Honda (44 laps - 2' 04.185");
"Rain, sunshine, rain, sunshine! Very strange weather today! I think if it had not rained in the middle of the qualifying session the end would have been completely dry. When it rained we came into the pits and waited for a while to see what the weather was going to do. As it dried towards the end of the timed session I tried a medium compound wet weather Michelin and made my best lap with this tyre. The conditions do make it difficult to choose the correct compound wet tyre, but I do have a good feeling on a half-wet, half-dry track and we did find a good dry tyre in the morning, so I'm confident in both these conditions. The only conditions you don't want here are monsoon or full-wet conditions as it's a high-speed circuit and the rear will spin on these GP machines even down the straight in the high gears!"
- 1. Casey Stoner, Ducati (AUS) 2'0.359
- 2. Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 2'1.381
- 3. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 2'1.695
- 4. Olivier Jacque, Kawasaki (FRA) 2'1.709
- 5. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 2'1.797
- 6. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 2'2.001
- 7. Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 2'2.443
- 8. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 2'2.776
- 9. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 2'2.932
- 10. Alex Barros, Ducati (BRA) 2'3.025
- 11. Alex Hofmann, Ducati (GER) 2'3.920
- 12. Shinya Nakano, Honda (JPN) 2'4.185
- 13. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 2'4.353
- 14. Carlos Checa, Honda (ESP) 2'4.971
- 15. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 2'5.592
- 16. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 2'6.254
- 17. Sylvain Guintoli, Yamaha (FRA) 2'6.426
- 20. Makoto Tamada, Yamaha (JPN) 2'9.080