Valentino Rossi will start from second position for tomorrow's Grand Prix of Spain in Jerez after an exciting and extremely close qualifying battle today, while his team-mate Colin Edwards will be just behind him in fourth having lost out on third position in the dying moments of the session. It is Rossi's eighth consecutive top-three start for Yamaha, the Italian having started from the front row in the final six races of 2006 and at this season's opener in Qatar.
After struggling for grip once again this morning and finishing free practice way down the order in 18th position, it was clear from the start this afternoon that warmer temperatures and the latest changes made to the setting of his M1 had improved Rossi's package and he quickly posted his fastest time of the weekend so far. Edwards and his crew had made drastic changes to his bike setting overnight and he too showed a marked improvement to his race pace both this morning and again this afternoon, as he and Rossi used the improved track conditions in their quest to find the right tyre package ahead of tomorrow's 27-lap race. With eight minutes to go Rossi moved into pole position with the first of his two Michelin qualifying tyres, only to be ousted by his team-mate less than a minute later as the Texan set his first flying lap. The last five minutes saw the usual flurry of quick laps and position-changing amongst the leading protagonists before Rossi took the top slot once again with a lap of 1'39.453, before being pushed into second by Spaniard Dani Pedrosa (Honda), who set the eventual pole time of 1'39.402. Edwards' final lap seemed sure to give him a front-row slot alongside his team-mate but he fell victim to another local favourite as Carlos Checa (Honda) claimed third in the last seconds of the session.
Valentino Rossi - Position: 2nd Time: 1'39.453 Laps: 26;
"It's been an up and down weekend for us so it's good that we've achieved our number one goal of getting onto the front row. It's going to be very important for tomorrow's race I think. It was a good qualifying session and my lap was quite good, but we know it's possible to be a lot quicker because last month at the test I was more than one second faster! We knew it would be difficult to match the 1'38.394 I did then however, because then we had four qualifying tyres and with the new tyre restrictions now we only have two. With the race tyre we were struggling quite a bit yesterday and this morning it was even worse, so we were a bit worried, but we looked at the situation together with Michelin and found a good solution and this afternoon we were in much better shape. I think tyres are going to be the biggest issue tomorrow and the last ten laps especially are going to be very hard and difficult for everyone. I think it's going to be an exciting race for the fans!"
Colin Edwards - Position: 4th Time: 1'39.486 Laps: 28;
"I'm pretty annoyed to have missed out on the front row by so little! I didn't have quite enough speed into turn one with my last qualifying tyre and so lost a little bit of time in the first section and that proved to be the difference that mattered. Anyway, you live and learn! We were a bit worried last night but my team turned the bike upside down overnight and it felt much better this morning. Then this afternoon we used the tyre we're planning to use for the race and things improved again, so I'm feeling quite happy about my race pace now. We've still got a few things to tweak and a couple of decisions to make before tomorrow afternoon but we're more or less there so hopefully we're going to be able to get a good start and run a good race. It was pretty close today and everyone's really stepped up their game, I think it's going to be one hell of a race tomorrow! Finally I want to say thank you again to my team for working so hard last night to come up with a good setting - they did a great job."
Davide Brivio - Team Director;
"Well things are much better when it's warmer! This afternoon we could really work properly and get some proper testing done. In fact Colin was much better this morning and again this afternoon, he seems happy with his tyre choice now so I think he can do a good race tomorrow. Valentino had some troubles this morning but we found a good solution and this afternoon the situation was more normal. It was a shame Checa pushed Colin off the front row and we missed having them both there, like in Qatar, but anyway second and fourth is not so bad and I think they both have the pace to fight at the front now. We're in a good position for the race."
Nicky Hayden - 1'39.834s, 53 laps, 234 Km;
"We've made some improvements with the bike today and the feeling is pretty good. I'm wasn't totally satisfied with my qualifying laps and of course I'm definitely a little disappointed with my grid position - 0.4s doesn't sound like a long way off but right now in this league at this track it's a lot.
It's frustrating to be this far back especially knowing how tight it could be on the first lap - you've got to be smart in turn one, but you can't go in there tip-toeing either. Nonetheless I'll be trying to get an awesome start and ride hard for 27 laps and try to move forward. I'm due for a good start so I'll be banking on that tomorrow. I haven't got any excuses on the qualifying laps - I didn't hit traffic though the last laps I didn't get perfect. "
Dani Pedrosa - 1'39.402s, 55 laps, 243 Km;
"I think we did a good job and I'm very happy to have qualified on pole position of course, though the really important thing is to be on the front row - that was our main aim today.
The race set-up we have for the bike is quite good and the tyre choice looks ok as well so we'll have to see how their performance continues over the race distance. I don't think there's any extra pressure that comes from being on pole position but the times are very close so a good start will be very important tomorrow. The crowd was amazing today. On the last lap coming into the pits I was more relaxed and I could actually notice how many people there were. It's great for the Spanish riders and the others to have so much support and I think the atmosphere tomorrow will be very special. I hope I can make a great start and fight for the win."
Casey Stoner, 5th fastest, 1m 39.524s;
"This morning we were struggling with a few set-up problems, we seemed to go backward with the turning and the grip. So we looked over everything, saw what we needed and came up with a good package before the afternoon session. We hadn't been able to find a good feeling with the second bike, so we swapped the forks out of the first bike and that seemed to solve the problem. Straight away I felt comfortable, we made a couple more changes during the session and our race pace is looking very good. I'm not sure if the problem was in my head or in the forks! I don't know which bike we'll race, both have performed pretty well. We found out what race tyre we wanted in the last session and if it's around this temperature tomorrow we're going to be pretty happy. Qatar worked out perfectly and this weekend could do the same but we've got to be realistic because there's going to be a lot more riders up front in this race. As you saw last year the first turn can be a bit rough here, I think I went from 15th to fifth, you never know what can happen at this track."
Loris Capirossi, 15th fastest, 1m 40.391s;
"We started the qualifying session quite well, I was soon faster on race tyres. But then I took two big risks and nearly lost the front, and given that the crash I had in Qatar was because I lost the front, and we still don't know why, I lost a bit confidence in the front. We tried to make some small set-up changes, but with no success, so we have decided to make quite a drastic change for morning warm-up, trying to put more weight on the front. Anyway, our race rhythm isn't so bad. We are all very, very close and in the race the situation is always different from practice. We have to get the maximum from the warm-up and to try to do our best in the race."
"I'm a lot happier this afternoon than I have been throughout the rest of the weekend. We really got through a lot of work and made some headway with the race tyres for tomorrow. We did a decent run in the qualifying session and I'm feeling comfortable with our race pace. There are still a few things that we need to sort out, we'll look at the data tonight and improve on it for tomorrow. Going into qualifying I said I'd be happy with being on the front two rows, but when the time comes you always want more. I am quite happy to start there and the field is so close that a good start is essential. I need to get away well, through the first corner cleanly and then stick with the front group - we'll see what happens from there!"
"I'm really disappointed with how I qualified! I felt quite consistent and strong on race tyres during the session but I just didn't get it right on the qualifiers. We had a bit of a problem early on with one of the bikes, but I got on to the other one and everything seemed alright. I had two different types of qualifying tyre and the first one worked really well, but I felt like I didn't use it to its full potential, as I tried to get used to the extra grip. On the second one I just couldn't get the grip I wanted and although I did a similar lap-time I wasn't able to move up the grid. I now have a lot of work to do - again - but hopefully we can get off the start well and get a good result."
Alex Barros (1'40.841 free practice - 1'40.196 qualifying practice):
"I can be happy with my day, even if my position on the starting grid isn't very good! We have found good setting for my DUCATI GP7 and I have the right feeling with it; unfortunately I made s ome mistakes with the BRIDGESTONE qualifying tires and I wasn't able to obtain the time I was capable of. Despite this, I'm confident for tomorrow because my racepace is consistent and if I start well from the grid, I'm sure to be able to fight for the first five positions! I have a strong desire to race, because I know that it will be a difficult race, but at the same time very exciting; all the rider's times are very close to each other, so every one of us will push at the maximum to do the best we can! I hope to achieve my goal, for both my satisfaction and for my team"
Alex Hofmann (1'41.886 free practice - 1'40.710 qualifying practice):
"I' don't really know what happened this afternoon, but certainly I'm not satisfied with my performance! The time I made is too high for the start I expected tomorrow. As I already said, the Jerez Circuit is difficult and if you don't made good start, it's really complicated to overtake the others. I'm displeased because I could done better than this, but in MotoGP, some times are better and other times are worse. Tomorrow, before the beginning of the race, we have the warm up, and I hope that could be useful to improve and reallyl understand what the real problems are. I know that I want to achieve good final position so no matter what, I will wage "a war ontrack!"
Toni Elias (8th ,1'39"660):
"I'm happy because we are continuing to improve. We are only two tenths off pole but I can't say I'm satisfied with eighth position. Today we worked well and my race pace is quite good. Tomorrow I just hope to get a good start and recover some important positions. The fans at Jerez are amazing and I'm sure they'll give me plenty of support."
Marco Melandri (9th, 1'39"722):
"I'm happy with the bike. This morning we had a good endurance test with the bike in race setting and I'm confident. We're getting much better with a qualifying tyre and I was able to get a good lap in with the first one. I was confident because there was still room for improvement. With the second tyre I pushed a bit too hard and the tyre went off. I made a mistake in the final corner which cost me the few tenths of a second that mean I'm now on the outside of the third row. Physically I feel better - the fever has passed although I am still a little blocked up and it's hard to breathe."
"This front row is a very good feeling, especially for my home race. Predictions are difficult but if the weather and track are the same for the race as in practice, then we have a very good set-up, and a chance to fight for the podium. The LCR team has done a great job, especially to give me more confidence with the front-end. And until today I have struggled with a lot of chatter on the soft rear qualifying tyre but, with the support of Michelin, we have made a lot of progress in this area."
Randy de Puniet;
"Compared with yesterday, this morning I felt better riding the bike and I improved my lap times on race tyres in the afternoon. With the changes done, we reduced a little the rear tyre sliding but it is not enough. I don't feel yet at 100% but I hope to make the last adjustments tomorrow morning. With the qualifying tyres I improved my lap times with every set that I used. Finally I did the same lap time that I did here one month ago at the IRTA test, but today I have qualified twelfth. If I do a good start tomorrow, I think that a top ten position is still possible."
Oliver Jacque - 16th, 43 Laps, Best Lap - 1,40.405;
"We worked hard this morning but things seemed not to change at all compared to yesterday; it was a little bit frustrating. However, things went a little bit better in the afternoon, although I don't like the way the bike is working on the track. We don't have enough rear grip; I fight to make the bike turn and I can't keep the speed in the corner. The bike is controllable but not efficient. I improved my lap times and I felt more comfortable with the qualifying tyres than I was in Qatar, but I couldn't do it better."
Shinya Nakano - Rider, Konica Minolta Honda (54 laps - 1'39.632" - 7th position);
"That was so much better than yesterday! Overnight the Team explained what my problem has been. I think that maybe I was pushing too hard in some areas. From the data and by following some of the top guys I could see that something was missing from my technique with this new 800cc bike. I was losing a little confidence, but then I could see that I was entering the corners way too fast and then as a result I could not get on the throttle early enough. As soon as I stopped trying so hard and relaxed a little the times improved. From 7th on the grid the start will be so important and if I make a start like I've made during practice then we should be able to get away with the top riders. Race pace will be low 41s I think, so maybe I need to improve by a couple of tenths. I want to have a good race as my father is over from Japan to watch me!"
- 1, Daniel Pedrosa, Honda, ESP, 1'39.402
- 2, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha, ITA, 1'39.453
- 3, Carlos Checa, Honda, ESP, 1'39.406
- 4, Colin Edwards, Yamaha, USA, 1'39.486
- 5, Casey Stoner, Ducati, AUS, 1'39.524
- 6, John Hopkins, Suzuki, USA, 1'39.625
- 7, Shinya Nakano, Honda, JPN, 1'39.632
- 8, Toni Elias, Honda, ESP, 1'39.660
- 9, Marco Melandri, Honda, ITA, 1'39.722
- 10, Kenny Roberts, KR212V, USA, 1'39.727
- 11, Nicky Hayden, Honda, USA, 1'39.834
- 12, Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki, FRA, 1'39.883
- 13, Alex Barros, Ducati, BRA, 1'40.196
- 14, Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki, AUS, 1'40.328
- 15, Loris Capirossi, Ducati, ITA, 1'40.391
- 16, Olivier Jacque, Kawasaki, FRA, 1'40.405
- 17, Makoto Tamada, Yamaha, JPN, 1'40.617
- 18, Alex Hofmann, Ducati, GER, 1'40.710
- 19, Kousuke Akiyoshi, Suzuki, JPN, 1'41.202
- 20, Sylvain Guintoli, Yamaha, FRA, 1'41.219