Colin Edwards took his debut MotoGP pole and Yamaha's fourth of the season at Le Mans today after a close Qualifying session ahead of tomorrow's French Grand Prix. The 33-year-old Texan's achievement was made all the more impressive as it followed a crash in this morning's practice session, when his M1 high-sided and he fell hard into the gravel trap at turn two. His Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi was also a front-row contender but was edged out in the closing seconds and will start from fourth tomorrow, the first time this season that he starts off the front-row.
Proving there were no problems remaining after his eventful morning, Edwards was quickly running consistently at the top of the standings as he looked to perfect the race set-up of his Yamaha. After yesterday's issues Rossi had shown considerable improvement this morning and he too was looking to use this afternoon's session to continue his progress towards finding the right race setting. The closing minutes of the session saw Rossi move into second behind Carlos Checa before the Italian was nudged down a place by Casey Stoner. Edwards meanwhile, having made a small mistake with his first qualifying tyre, was determined to make the most of his second and the Texan Tornado stormed into pole with a perfect final lap in a time of 1'33.616, a new pole position record for this circuit.
Colin Edwards. Position:1st Time: 1.33.616 Laps: 28;
"This morning's off was a pretty big one and as I was flying through the air I was pretty sure it was going to hurt! Somehow though I landed, the bike sort of rolled over me, I stood up and realised I was ok! I honestly think that had a positive bearing on my performance this afternoon; my bike was working great but I screwed up the last section with my first qualifying tyre and so I knew it had to make or break the second time around. As I went into that final section I thought "here goes, it's pole or crash and after this morning I've realised the ground doesn't hurt so much after all!" I gave it everything I've got and it paid off. Yet again the Michelin qualifying tyres were brilliant and my bike worked really well with them. It's my first pole in MotoGP so it feels good. As for the race, this place is something of a turnaround for us because we've actually got two race tyres that are working well. I can do 35.0s with both so it's just a case of checking a few things tonight and making our final decision for the race. I've got to say a big thank you to my team because they worked flat out to rebuild my bike after this morning and that's the one I did my lap on. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow; hopefully this is the start of a great weekend."
Valentino Rossi. Position:4th Time:1.33.876 Laps: 29;
"Today was much, much better than yesterday! We changed a lot of things on the setting and straight away this morning I could ride better, although things still aren't perfect and we definitely still need to improve more. I didn't use my qualifying tyres so well today and I lost the front row through a small mistake, but anyway fourth isn't so bad. Of course it would be better to be on the front row because I think, with these bikes and with everyone so close, it's going to be a big battle tomorrow! Our biggest decision now is about the tyre for the race and I think we've got some work to do tonight and in warm-up. Colin is looking really strong and I'm happy for him. Now I hope we can get a good start and stay with the leaders tomorrow."
Davide Brivio: Team Director;
Once again Yamaha is on pole and this time with Colin! It's his first pole position in MotoGP so we're all very happy for him. He did a great job and now we hope this can be a forerunner of his first win as well! This pole position is amazing after such a big crash this morning, and it's proof that he has enough trust in his bike to push hard like this despite this morning's problem. Valentino didn't quite make the front row but starting from fourth isn't a problem for him as we know. However with him we know we still have some more work to do to perfect his race package for tomorrow, when we have the real job to do!"
Casey Stoner, 2nd fastest, 1m 33.710s;
"I haven't been off the front two rows this year which is a big surprise for me because I'm not usually much of a qualifier. I thought we might've had the pole today but Colin [Edwards] just pipped me at the end. Anyway, the bike and tyres have been working brilliant all weekend. Today we capitalised on the work we did yesterday - we made a few more minor improvements, improving rear grip a little bit and getting the corner entry a little better, so it's helping me all round. This afternoon we were doing low 35s and I did a 34.7 with tyres that had done over 20 laps so we're looking pretty strong. I'm not doing anything much different myself this year but I've gone up a level in team and found a bike and tyres that suit me, so the level of everything has jumped up and we're able to keep that level through most racetracks and most sessions, so it's real good. I've heard all sorts of weather forecasts for tomorrow, so we'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow holds, you never really know what it's going to do here from hour to hour."
Loris Capirossi, 15th fastest, 1m 34.903s;
"Qualifying was difficult for me today, I'm not at all happy. What's really disappointing is that I'm one of the fastest guys in the first two splits, maybe even the fastest, but I'm losing a second through the slower corners in T3 and T4. I've got no feeling with the gas, with the throttle connection, so I'm struggling there. This is a big problem that we need to work on. For sure this bike is a winning machine with great potential but at the moment I can't use it at its best. For sure I need to work on my riding style but I also need help from Ducati. I have every confidence in them but we have to work on this engine. For tomorrow I'm sure I'll be better in race conditions. I'll give my best as always but starting from 15th will make my race very difficult."
Nicky Hayden - 1'34.247s, 58 laps 242 Km;
"That's the best my bike has felt on qualifiers for a while, with the least amount of chatter, and it felt pretty good today. I didn't get the final section of my best lap perfectly right and I wish I could have got through there a little bit quicker.
So it wasn't a stellar day finishing back in seventh in both sessions but overall I've felt better than I have in the last few races and the Michelin tyres seem to be working well too. Also there aren't any long straights around this circuit so I'm not losing out a whole lot top speed wise. My team came up with a few ideas which we tried today and that helped me get a better feeling - so the key thing will be selecting the right race tyre. I'll try to get an awesome start and fight like a dog tomorrow - it's pretty simple really. Back there on the third row it could get ugly in Turn One because it's really tight here. And the weather tomorrow could go either way so we'll see what we get. I'm definitely looking forward to this race."
Dani Pedrosa - 1'34.412s, 49 laps 205 Km;
"Yesterday went pretty well here but today we couldn't make as much progress in the practice and qualifying sessions. Obviously starting from tenth isn't really where I want to be and will make a good start especially important tomorrow.
There were a couple of issues with the machine today which cost us some time and then in qualifying I had some traffic in the second section of the lap which meant my time wasn't as quick as it should have been. It's a little frustrating, especially as I was on pole position last year, however we have some more options to try in the warm-up tomorrow morning. We'll look at the information from today and work with Michelin tonight to make the decision on the race tyre. I certainly need to get off the line quickly tomorrow and hopefully make up some places quickly."
Toni Elias (6th,1'34"125):
"I'm happy to be on the second row - this was our objective. We've done a good job over the last two days of practice. This morning I set a good pace but the situation was a little more complicated when the temperature rose in the afternoon. Hopefully the conditions for the race tomorrow are similar to this morning and I can get a good start and fight with the lead group."
Marco Melandri (9th, 1'34"360):
"We've been working mainly on the race setting and I have to say that my pace is quite good. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make the most of the qualifying tyre because I made a mistake on the last lap that cost me a few vital tenths. We'll keep working in the warm-up tomorrow to improve the feeling with the front, which will be really important to make up positions from the first lap. It will be important to get a good start in the race. The weather looks like it could change so we'll wait until tomorrow before deciding on the tyre".
Carlos Checa: 3rd - 1'33.859;
"This is a very important front row, especially at this track, and I feel I am ready to fight for a strong result in the race. Plus I have a very good pace on race tyres. When I set the fastest time on my first qualifying tyre I thought, ?OK, I want to fight for pole, but then on my final run I hit traffic and then lost the front-end in turn 4 because the brakes and tyre were cold. I feel this pace and position should be normal for us, but it has not been possible to have the speed to show this at past two races".
"I'm really happy with the way the day has gone. We got two full sessions with a dry track and we were able to dial in the set-up and finalise what tyres we'll use tomorrow - if it's dry! We did quite a long run this afternoon and got a good race pace going that felt really comfortable. I got a good rhythm and made a point of riding on my own and doing things my own way. On the qualifiers I gave it my all and I am happy that we made it onto the front two rows because it's going to be really crucial to get a good start tomorrow. I need to be in the front pack from the start. Hopefully it will be dry for the race and we'll go out and just give them hell!"
"I was a little bit frustrated at the end of qualifying as I didn't get a clear lap on my last tyre. It's a bit annoying, but you get that on tight tracks and it's all part of racing. We made a lot of progress this morning and I was consistently faster lap-by-lap. I was within half-a-second of the fastest rider on race tyres all session this morning, and again this afternoon I was right up there. The bike has improved and my crew has worked really hard to get it right for here. Fourth row is not an ideal starting position, but I've had good results from further back than that! It's just a matter of getting my head down and catching those front guys."
Alex Barros ( 1'35.085 with race tyres - 1'34.817 with qualifying tyres):
"My afternoon session wasn't very good today, sincerely I hoped to find a better time in order to have as little difficulty as possible getting away at the start of tomorrow's race. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the right feeling with the Bridgestone qualifying tires and I succeeded in only gaining a few tenths which was not enough to get a good position on the starting grid. In spite of that, I'm anyway confident for my race because my race pace and my Ducati Desmosedici's race settings are very satisfactory. I know that tomorrow will be a very complicated day, in this k ind of track, as it is very difficult to overtake, but I will push as hard as possible to be with the leading group and to get final good result.
Alex Hofmann (1'36.070 with race tyres - 1'35.578 with qualifying tyres):
"This weekend seems to be a difficult one for me and we lost too much time because of some technical difficulties. As yesterday, after a little time that I was on track, I had to come back to the box a nd change my bike. I'm not very satisfied because I have not yet found the right feeling and I do not feel confident which is why it has been difficult to obtain favourable lap times. Now, together with the team, I hope to set the bike up successfully for tomorrow, but I am sure that it will be a tough race for us tomorrow afternoon."
Randy de Puniet, position: 8th - Best Lap: 1'34.318;
"We definitely improved the bike today and the adjustments made to the front and rear suspension were spot on. The bike is more stable now and that lead to a quick improvement in my lap times this morning. We tried a couple more rear tyre options today but this only served to confirm that yesterday's set-up, which I was already happy with, is the best one for tomorrow's race, if conditions remain the same. We switched to the qualifying tyres early in the afternoon session as we had four different sets to get through. The first and the second ones were fine but the third one was much better. I was so confident for the fourth set but I had a problem during my fast lap. My out lap was too slow, so the tyre wasn't warm enough when I had to push harder and I lost eight tenths in the first two splits. Then, when I got up to speed, it was too late to improve my lap time to get a better spot on the grid. Tomorrow's is going to be a close race and, more than ever, I'll need a good start to follow the leading group. I'm sure I'll be able to, though, as the bike's feeling very good indeed and the fans will be there to support me."
Fonsi Nieto, position: 19th - Best Lap: 1'36.312;
"Things are much better today! Yesterday I was quite nervous and spent both sessions trying to get used to the Ninja ZX-RR and the tyres. Today, I've been much more relaxed and quickly improved my lap times. As soon as I went out on track this morning I was two seconds faster and every time I got on the bike I was quicker and more confident. I'm still struggling with braking and getting the most from the tyres but I've only had three hours on the bike. It would have been great to have more time to find the best set up but I'm happy with the job we've done. My first experience with the qualifying tyres has been a bit frustrating. The grip is amazing but I wasn't able to make the most of the three sets I used. With the first two, the front was pushing and vibrating a lot. I improved my times a little on the second lap out with the third set but the tyre was already worn. Anyway, we're feeling positive for the race tomorrow. My target is to finish and it would be fantastic not to have to ride the race alone, but either way, I know it will be fun."
Shinya Nakano - Rider, KONICA MINOLTA Honda (53 laps - 1' 34.834");
"This morning we had a good session and did a fast run and then we made some changes to the clutch which helped reduce chatter from the front a little. The new Michelin front tyres are helping to give me more confidence in the front-end of the bike, which is an improvement. Our tyre choice for the race is decided, but in the morning tomorrow we will make some changes to the front suspension to see if we can reduce chatter still further. I don't give up - the start here will be vitally important, as will who gets through the first chicane."
- 1. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha Factory Racing 1'33.616
- 2. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team +0.094
- 3. Carlos Checa (SPA) Honda LCR +0.243
- 4. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha Factory Racing +0.259
- 5. John Hopkins (USA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +0.486
- 6. Toni Elias (SPA) Honda Gresini +0.509
- 7. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda Team +0.631
- 8. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Kawasaki Racing Team +0.702
- 9. Marco Melandri (ITA) Honda Gresini +0.744
- 10. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team +0.796