Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards carried on from where they left off yesterday on day two of the seasonopening Grand Prix of Qatar, topping the time sheets again in this morning's free practice before taking first and third in a gripping Qualifying session this afternoon. Rossi will start from pole for the 46th time in his Grand Prix career with his team mate two places away from him, the pair separated only by the Ducati of Casey Stoner who was just five-thousandths of a second slower than the Italian.
With the new tyre restrictions meaning the Yamaha duo had only two qualifying tyres to work with in the session, the first forty minutes were focused on perfecting the set-ups of their 800cc M1s and both continued to show a consistently strong pace on race tyres. Already holding the top spot after a string of fast laps inside the last twenty minutes, Edwards' first qualifying tyre saw him consolidate first place with ten minutes to go, his team-mate moving into second place behind him a few minutes later. The last five minutes saw a flurry of activity with Rossi, Edwards, Stoner, Toni Elias and Dani Pedrosa (both Honda) all putting in quick flying laps in a tense finale. All five riders lapped under last year's pole time but it was Rossi who took the honours with a lap of 1'55.002, over half a second faster than the existing record.
Valentino Rossi - Position: 1st, Time: 1'55.002; Laps: 26 Laps;
"It's great to have my first pole of the season at the very first race and it's extra special for me because it's pole number 46 of my career! I hope this is a good omen for tomorrow. I'm really happy for this pole position because everyone has worked so hard; all my mechanics, engineers, Michelin.everyone involved. Yamaha has built us a great bike. Anyway tomorrow is another day and the real race, but we're starting from first and Colin is on the front row too so I hope we can put in a good Yamaha show! We have a couple of things to check in morning practice but we're more or less ready. I really like this track, the grip is great, it's fast and technical and it's possible to have a lot of fun with the new Yamaha. It's also quite quiet here, with not too many people and this is a nice atmosphere in which to start the season as I can focus completely on racing without too many other distractions! I think tomorrow there are three or four riders who can fight at the top with Colin and me, but we're feeling confident in our garage."
Colin Edwards - Position: 3rd, Time: 1'55.223; Laps: 24 Laps;
"Yamaha, Michelin, Valentino and I have all worked so hard and it's really exciting to be up there together on the front row...although of course I would like to try to reverse the order tomorrow! Our bike is going so well so far this year, everywhere we go we've got a plan and it seems to work and the lap times are just amazing. It's a great feeling. I love this track and the set-up we have seems to be spot-on, really we don't have anything left to do tomorrow morning except double-check everything and make our final tyre choice. I've got a choice of two but honestly I'm not too worried, they both work well and I don't think either will be the difference between winning and losing - Michelin seem to have it all under control for us! It's going to be a matter of getting a good start and seeing how it goes. I think there's a few that can run with us but our race pace is pretty good so I am confident I can be up there fighting!"
Davide Brivio - Team Director;
"It's a very good start for us and we're very happy! The weekend so far has been very good for us and both riders are working in a very smooth, confident way. Tomorrow is the important test and it will be the final proof of where we are, but we feel that we're ready to race and I hope we'll be able to enjoy a great result together with both Colin and Valentino."
Casey Stoner, 2nd fastest, 1m 55.007s;
"Pretty much the whole day's been quite good, we had a real good qualifying session, I managed to do a good lap time, and this morning we did a really good race run, doing some consistent fast times. We seem to have been pretty competitive the whole weekend, in the top three, so I'm really happy. We did have a couple more dramas today, like this morning when I was pulling out of pit lane going into the first corner and the bike just went away before I'd even entered the corner. It was quite strange, we're not sure what happened. I'm going to go into tomorrow's race and do my best, I'm not expecting anything, I just hope things turn out the way I plan them to because sometimes they don't. I'm really confident with the tyres and the team and the whole bike, so I think we can have a good result here."
Loris Capirossi, 7th fastest, 1m 55.851s;
"I'm very happy. I'll start the race from the right side of the track and I think we'll be able to fight for the podium. I'm feeling confident for several reasons. We have a very good rhythm in race trim - I did a 1m 56s on my 15th lap with the same tyres - and today we recovered from a situation that could have been very negative for the tomorrow's starting grid. I chose a soft qualifying tyre which wouldn't finish a lap at maximum pace and in fact during my first run with qualifiers I almost lost control at the last corner and had to get back to the pit. Of course, with the new tyre regulations my second qualifying tyre was identical, so I asked Casey, who had a harder qualifier, if I could follow him to give me a reference through the first two splits. It worked out because I was very, very fast in the first part of the lap and when the tyre began to go off I slowed down, thinking only to complete the lap with the best possible time. Seventh isn't too bad and I feel really confident for the race."
Nicky Hayden - 1'56.041s, 46 laps, 247 Km.;
"My last Michelin qualifier felt really good and my first three splits were not bad, but in the last split I didn't quite put it together and I actually went a little bit slower in that split. Up until that point I had a pretty decent lap going.
The third row isn't really where I hoped to be starting the first race of the year and we're just trying to get the front end right so that I'm able to roll around these corners and not have to do so much stop-and-go riding. We've got a few little issues with some chatter but the bottom line is that I've got to come in here tomorrow, do my part and get the most out of the bike. The team's working hard and I've got faith in the boys in my corner. It's going to be a big day tomorrow. We'll bring all we've got, try to get a smokin' start and not got pinched down there on the inside of the third row. I'm definitely looking forward to going racing again."
Dani Pedrosa - 1'55.361s, 49 laps, 263 Km;
"Starting from fifth position is ok, though obviously I would have preferred to be on the front row. We continued to work on the set-up of the bike in both sessions and I was able to improve my speed from yesterday.
The set-up for the race is just about there, though we still have to make the final decision on the race tyre, so we'll use the warm-up tomorrow morning for this. My qualifying runs went quite well - the first one was calm and not so quick and on the second one I was pushing more and improved the time quite a lot. For the race I hope to be fighting at the front, though some of the other riders are looking pretty fast so it may be difficult. I'm on the middle of the second row so the track may be a little bit dirty there - still, I'll be aiming to get a good start in the race tomorrow."
Toni Elias (4th , 1'55"358):
"I'm really happy with this result after such a difficult winter. We've worked hard on the set-up of the bike to try and create a solid base with the Bridgestone tyres. This afternoon we just worked right to the end of qualifying and found a compromise that allowed me to make the most of the qualifying tyre. Te be in fourth place, at the front of the second row, is important for the race - especially at a circuit where it is difficult to overtake. Hopefully I can get a good start! We still have a little work to do to improve the race pace."
"From where we started the weekend I've got to say that I am pretty happy to be starting from the second row. We've got a lot of work done over the last two days and the set-up of the bike is really good right now. We have a good race tyre that should go the distance and has lots of grip, so cheers to Bridgestone for that and for making the improvements that were needed. As far as qualifying goes I think we chose a bit too hard a compound on Wednesday - but I guess that is all part of the new rule. We had a bit of movement and it wasn't stuck to the track like the Bridgestone qualifiers usually are. Considering the pain I've been in this weekend I'm pleased with where we are and I'm sure that the adrenaline will kick in come race time. I can't wait to be racing and trying to run at the front - I'm sure I'll have a good time out there!"
"This afternoon the wind changed direction and it made it a bit more difficult out there. For the tests and up until this afternoon it had been a strong headwind down the straight, but then it turned around and was not as strong so it was all a bit different than what we were used to. I got up to speed on the race tyre and felt quite comfortable. I moved into the top 10 and think I will be able to find a bit more speed tomorrow. The qualifiers just didn't give me the right grip and I wasn't able to go much faster than I had been already. It'll make it a bit harder tomorrow having to start from 13th, but that's racing and we'll try our best to get closer to the front."
"I knew qualifying would be difficult because the team had expected front-end chatter using the softer tyres, front and rear, but I did not expect the problem to be at such a high level. By the final two corners of my fast lap I had a big problem on the brakes turning into the corners. But I'm happy with my pace in race trim and I am quite confident, the rear is stable with our race tyre. We need to understand the qualifying chatter for the future but my main focus now is a good start and a strong race."
Marco Melandri (10th, 1'56"222):
"I am satisfied with the bike and the tyre choice for the race. Unfortunately I made a mistake with my choice of qualifying tyre, which is why I haven't qualified a little closer to the front. We didn't find the right feeling with the first qualifier and I didn't feel comfortable, which meant I couldn't get the best out of the second tyre. Hopefully I can get a good start and make a few passes over the opening laps to make up positions. I'm confident about it all because we've worked hard towards the race and the rhythm is good. In the test on Sunday I'll work on the qualifying tyres because it is always important to start near the front if you want to battle for a top position."
Randy de Puniet: 8th - 43 Laps - Best Lap 1'55.933;
"This morning we tried different tyre options and I managed a fast and consistent simulation. We confirmed it in the afternoon and we will use Bridgestone's medium option. I'm satisfied with the qualifying, as I improved my lap time with each of the three qualifying tyres used. I pushed as hard as I could; it would have been difficult to be faster. The race will depend on the start and if I do well I think I can defend my position."
Olivier Jacque: 14th - 40 Laps - Best Lap 1'56.754;
"Today I began with the same set up I finished with yesterday to corroborate the improvement that I felt. But, unfortunately, it didn't work. We then worked hard on chassis balance and front suspension and finally, in the afternoon, we found a better set up. I'm not yet 100% used to the qualifiers and I lost a lot of time at the first split as I don't warm up properly the tyre. However, I went fast through the other three sectors and that made me feel good. I'm so excited and I will do my best to finish in the points tomorrow."
Alex Barros (15th - 1'56.814):
"I am happy with todays session because we found a good balance for the bike and that will allow me to make a strong comeback through the field tomorrow, but on the other hand, I'm not satisfied with the Qualifying session because during the last minutes I wasn't able to exploit the full potential of the Bridgestones tires for a couple of reasons. The ground temperature of the circuit was warmer than I expected and some things didn't work out the way I thought they would. We will spend tonight checking the data and verifying what happened. Tomorrow I will ride full on and I know it's going to be difficult to regain a lot of positions. I feeling very competitive for the race, and for this I want to thank my team for all their excellent work which begin in the first Winter test session. When we tested here in Qatar a few weeks ago, we were very consistent and always in the first positions. I can't stand this situation, therefore tomorrow I will give 100% becaus e I want to repay my team, our sponsors, and all my fans who follow me with great affection".
Alex Hofmann (17th - 1'57.274):
"During the last test here in Qatar I ended the day with an unofficial time of 1'56.315, which was good for fourth place at the end of the day! I don't understand what happened today in the Qualifying session, because we were a second slower than before. The feeling with the bike wasn't good in the qualifying configuration, but the race set-up is good. We're losing a lot of time in the two slow corners, but we're ok in the fast corners. I didn't want to start the season like this. Technically, we'll double check everything during the morning warm-up session, and for the race I'm ready to fight! There are 22 laps and points to score, and I'm fe eling confident that I'll ride to the maximum tomorrow.".
Jeremy McWilliams, Ilmor GP Rider (20th 1'59.606, lap 10):
"It's a shame that I couldn't get a full lap on the
qualifying tyres, I messed up the first lap and there wasn't a second in the tyres but the bike was in good
shape and I would have liked to see what I could have done. I'm relieved that all I appear to have is some
bruising, I can bend my knee and I'm able to put weight on both legs. I'm feeling a little weak and lucky, very
lucky! I should be okay tomorrow and I have every intention of racing."
Andrew Pitt, Ilmor GP Rider (21st 1'59.725, lap 7):
"It wasn't a great day for me, we had an engine change
and then there was a fuel leak which hampered our overall progress today. The major positive that we can
take from today is that we made some good steps forward on the tyre front - we established which tyre not to
use fro the race - we will use a harder compound to deal with the high track temperature. I'm still experiencing
quite a lot of chatter but I know the guys are working on that - I'm not expecting miracles overnight but the
team are working very hard to give Jeremy and I the most ridable bikes possible for the race tomorrow. "
Shinya Nakano - Rider, KONICA MINOLTA Honda (46 laps - 1'56.306" - 11th position);
"Despite the crash I feel OK and I'm not hurt. It was a fast crash on one of the right-hand corners, so I was lucky. Compared to my crash down the Mugello straight a few years ago, it was a slow one! I was trying to improve my lap time and was adjusting my riding style a little but perhaps it was the wrong thing to do as I lost the front. I'm obviously a little disappointed, as I wanted something better from today for the Team and myself. After the crash I could improve my lap time with a qualifying tyre, but now we have to look forward to tomorrow and use morning warm-up to choose a tyre for the race."
2007 MotoGP Qatar, Doha/Losail - Qualifying 1;
- 1 Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1'55.002
- 2 Casey Stoner, Ducati (AUS) 1'55.007
- 3. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1'55.233
- 4. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 1'55.358
- 5. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1'55.361
- 6. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1'55.833
- 7. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 1'55.851
- 8. Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 1'55.933
- 9. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 1'56.041
- 10. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1'56.222
- 11. Shinya Nakano, Honda (JPN) 1'56.306
- 12. Carlos Checa, Honda (ESP) 1'56.609
- 13. Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 1'56.639
- 14. Olivier Jacque, Kawasaki (FRA) 1'56.754
- 15. Alex Barros, Ducati (BRA) 1'56.814
- 16. Sylvain Guintoli, Yamaha (FRA) 1'57.257
- 19. Makoto Tamada, Yamaha (JPN) 1'58.024