An incredible flying lap from Valentino Rossi saw the Fiat Yamaha Team rider take his third pole of the season in China this afternoon, the Italian bettering last year's pole time by more than half a second with a perfect lap around the 5.2km Shanghai International Circuit. For the third time this season Rossi is also joined on the front row by his team-mate Colin Edwards, who qualified third, with the Yamaha pair separated by Edwards' fellow American John Hopkins.
The promised rain once again failed to appear and the hour-long qualifying session was played out on a dry track with the clouds giving way to bright sunshine by the end. The first 45 minutes passed busily for the Yamaha duo, who were intent on using all the available time to fine-tune their set-up and gather information about tyres before concentrating on their qualifying laps in the final stages. Edwards' first run with a soft Michelin qualifying tyre moved him close to the top of the order but it was Rossi's first flying lap that left everyone amazed, the Italian completing a faultless lap right on the limit of his Yamaha's capabilities to put in an incredible time of 1'58.424. Edwards' second flying lap was good enough to move him into second but he was eventually pushed down one place by Hopkins. Although Rossi's lap proved well out of the striking distance of his rivals, he showed it was no fluke by going within 0.1 seconds of his own time on his second qualifying tyre just minutes later.
Valentino Rossi - Position: 1stTime: 1'58.424Laps: 24;
"That was sincerely an incredibly exciting feeling for me; to ride my M1 right on the limit and make such a perfect lap at 100%. When I saw the time on the television I was quite surprised because I didn't know it was that fast, but I had pushed the bike to the maximum and I knew that it was a good lap. I had great grip from my Michelin qualifying tyre and my Yamaha worked perfectly, so a big thank you to everyone involved. I was able to arrive at every corner very fast and to brake at the last possible moment; a couple of times I was worried I was too late but every time my bike responded perfectly and I had great grip. I felt a lot of adrenalin from this lap! Despite both of us being on the front row, maybe we're not favourites for tomorrow and the race is a very different story. Anyway we've all done very well today. We need to make a couple more small modifications to the setting and then we will just hope for good weather again, a good start and a good race."
Colin Edwards - Position: 3rdTime: 1'59.406Laps: 18;
"Well done to the team, once again they've done a really good job, worked their tails off and here we are again on the front row alongside Valentino. The qualifying tyres are working really well this year and with the extra grip they give us we can really push hard. As for the race setting, we've changed a few things with the geometry today and it seems to have improved things a fair bit, although we've still got to make a final decision with regards to the race tyre. It's always going to be a little bit of a gamble but hopefully we'll make the right choice. The bike feels very good and a podium is definitely a realistic aim, but it's going to be a very long and hard race. Starting from the front row will be pretty important here and hopefully we can make the most of this advantage, avoid any repeats of the first-lap pile-up in Turkey and try to better last year's podium!"
Davide Brivio - Team Director;
"It's great for the team to have both riders on the front row once again, after the problems we had last year it's very encouraging that this is becoming a regular occurrence. When everything is working well our riders are always at the top so this shows the great potential of our package. Valentino's lap was exceptional today and Colin is also in good shape and riding very well; we're especially happy for him to be on the front row again after his unlucky crash in Turkey. Despite this qualifying result we know that tomorrow's race is going to be very difficult and our riders will have to fight at 100% throughout it. The team have done a great job and now they just need to make a few final preparations in the morning and then we'll be ready for an exciting race!"
Nicky Hayden; 2'00.087s, 45 laps, 238 Km;
"The day hasn't gone quite as we'd hope and we didn't make much of an improvement over yesterday. We tried a few changes to get the bike turning better and improve the edge grip though we haven't found what we needed so that's not great.
There are a lot of guys going fast and I'll definitely be sitting down with the team tonight to see if I can come up with a few ideas to improve the machine for tomorrow. My qualifying runs didn't go perfectly. My ideal time would have put me sixth but I was the next guy through after Vermeulen and Capirossi crashed. Looking back now it shouldn't have slowed me down but when I was approaching that corner there were bikes sliding across the track and they came together. I didn't know if one bike was going to stay in the middle of the track or if they were both going to slow down and really that ruined my second flying lap. I did my best lap on my first qualifying tyre and normally you can go faster on the second one. So, I need an awesome start tomorrow and we'll try to hang in there."
Dani Pedrosa; 1'59.602s, 48 laps 253 Km;
"Well, the weather forecasts were wrong and the rain never came so we were lucky to have two dry sessions in which to work on machine settings and tyres choice.
This allowed us to test all the tyre options from Michelin and we've improved the bike set-up here and have a pretty good idea of which tyres we'll use in the race - so let's hope it stays dry tomorrow too. I struggled a little bit on my qualifying runs and braked too deep at the end of the straight on both laps which cost me a better time. However Rossi did a very fast time today and there are several riders with a good pace on race tyres. A front row position would have been nice but I'll look to get a good start tomorrow and hopefully we can have a good race - it looks like it could be close."
Casey Stoner, 4th fastest, 1m 59.516;
"We are competitive with our race tyre lap times, they are very good, so once again we are feeling quite confident. Unfortunately we were a bit unlucky in qualifying, I had a little problem with my number one bike, with which I've been doing all the settings, it stopped just before we went to start our qualifying laps and I think it took me maybe ten minutes to get back to the box on a scooter. That was a lot of time out and also we didn't have the same settings on the second bike, so when I tried to do some fast times I just didn't feel as comfortable as I had with my number one bike. Anyway, the second row is quite good enough, with almost the same lap time as the front row. I'm very happy with the settings we found during practice and I'm looking forward to the race even if there are a lot of other riders going so fast this weekend, the race tyre times are very close indeed. I think it will be a very close race until maybe the last five four laps."
Loris Capirossi, 14th fastest, 2m 00.369s;
"Unfortunately when I was doing my final fast lap I had an accident and lost the chance to get a good starting position for the race. I was using a wider line through that corner in order to get a better exit speed. Vermeulen saw some space and tried to pass me but there wasn't enough room. I'm disappointed that I didn't have the chance to improve my time but I'm not complaining about the accident because these things can happen. I'm okay, though my right arm is bruised and quite painful. Tomorrow we'll try to make a good start and recover during the race, because in race conditions we are not so bad at all."
Marco Melandri (6th, 1'59"863):
"I'm satisfied with this result. We have met our primary objective, which was to qualify on the front two rows. We are improving a lot and with the first qualifying tyre I set a good time without realising I was going that fast. On the second lap I made a couple of mistakes which meant I wasn't able to improve the time. We still have a little work to do on the suspension but I'm happy with how the bike is working at this demanding circuit. Tomorrow I hope to get a good start in order to stay with the lead group from the beginning. It will be a really tough group race because there are a lot of fast riders out there. For this Grand Prix I'm using a special helmet inspired by this country. The idea is to bring Europe and China together. Also, red and yellow are the colours of Ravenna, my home town."
Toni Elias (12th,2'00"205):
"We have improved a little compared to yesterday but we're still having some small problems that are not allowing me to ride as I like. Unfortunately it seems our tyre choice for this race is not the best but tomorrow I will all I can to get the best result possible."
"I'm really happy with the way things have gone today. We've put in a lot of work already this weekend, to make sure we get the best set-up for the race tyres. Bridgestone has done a great job and the Suzuki GSV-R is working exceptionally well. We have been consistent throughout all the practices and have been really running hard to make sure everything is right. Now it's time to translate that hard work into the race. It's still a bit up in the air with the weather, but whatever comes we'll be ready, and if it's dry I'm certain we will be running near the front!"
"We had made progress all day long with the bike on race tyres and in this afternoon's session we went quicker again. We made a change to the bike on the first qualifier but it was the wrong direction so we changed it back for the second one. That lap felt good and I was catching Loris, he made a mistake and I went up the inside of him and he then hit my back wheel and we both went down - that's the second time in two weekends someone has taken me out! I'm obviously not very happy about that as I think I could have been on at least the front two rows. That's racing though and we need to try and get a good start and see how the race goes."
Carlos Checa: 13th - 2'00.319;
"Again I struggled with a lot of chatter at the front on the qualifying tyres. I expected some chatter, but not at this level and it was impossible to use the full potential of the bike and the tyres. But my race pace is OK, not enough to win, but the chassis and tyres are consistent. The LCR team and Ramon Forcada have worked very hard to find solutions but one thing we are missing is more engine performance, and perhaps a little more grip at the rear. It is possible to pass here, but first you have be close to the rider in front."
Alex Barros (2'01.662 with race tyres - 2'00.052 with qualifying tyres):
"I'm very satisfied with my team's work that enabled me to get a good position on grid. After the last free practice in the morning, we work hard, changing my bike's setting that made me more confident to ride. Now I have the right confidence for tomorrow even if I know that during the race anything can happen. Our Bridgestone qualifying tires worked very well today, but at first I found the right feeling with the race tire that gave me the possibility to have very good race pace and to be competitive with the other riders. I'm eager to run and I hope to do an exciting race, even further lowering my lap time to stay with the leading group."
Alex Hofmann (2'01.584 with race tyres - 2'00.175 with qualifying tyres):
"At the end everything went quite well, our aim was to improve with qualifying tires and we succeeded in doing it. Finally we exploited the full potential of the tires and the result arrived. I'm not completely satisfied because I would obviously like to start from better position, but during the last flying lap I lost some tenths observing the yellow flag for Capirossi and Vermeulen's crash. We must now wait for tomorrow to see how we go, but if I get a good race start, I believe we can finish in the top ten, because our race set-up and race pace are both good".
Randy de Puniet; 7th - 40 Laps - Best Lap 1:59.985;
"It has been a really positive day. Yesterday, we decided the plan would be to focus on refining the set up and doing a good qualifying session and I feel we've done that almost perfectly. During this morning's session we worked on the front and rear suspension in order to get the bike to turn better and to improve the stability. The bike improved a lot with the little adjustments we made. At the beginning of the qualifying session, I was able to follow Rossi for a few laps without any problem. I learnt some things from his riding style and lines, which I am confident, will help me tomorrow. Then I switched to the qualifying tyres and, even though I improved my lap time with the first set I used, I had a problem with the brakes with the second and third sets. Without that problem, I am sure I would have been on the second row but still, I am really excited about tomorrow's race as I am feeling good and the bike is now working perfectly. Getting my best MotoGP result is possible; I just need to get a good start."
Shinya Nakano - Rider, KONICA MINOLTA Honda (40 laps - 2' 00.157" - 10th position);
"We had a meeting after practice yesterday and decided to go back to our previous standard settings which helped. I also tried to improve my riding and checked all my braking points and found my lap times getting better and better. I think we made too many changes yesterday so the Team helped me and things improved when we reverted to the previous set-up. We also had improved top speed today thanks to some gearing changes. We have found a tyre for the race tomorrow, which should be good as I have quite a good feeling with it. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, but I would prefer a dry race - I think everybody does!"
- 1 Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1'58.424
- 2 John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1'59.315
- 3 Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1'59.406
- 4 Casey Stoner, Ducati (AUS) 1'59.516
- 5 Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1'59.602
- 6 Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1'59.863
- 7 Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 1'59.985
- 8 Alex Barros, Ducati (BRA) 2'0.052
- 9 Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 2'0.087
- 10 Shinya Nakano, Honda (JPN) 2'0.157
- 11 Alex Hofmann, Ducati (GER) 2'0.175
- 12 Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 2'0.205
- 13 Carlos Checa, Honda (ESP) 2'0.319
- 14 Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 2'0.369
- 15 Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 2'0.680