Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Unpredictable weather prevails during qualifying for British GP
Alvaro Bautista secured his first ever pole position in MotoGP for tomorrow’s Hertz British Grand Prix at Silverstone where the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider topped the timing sheets ahead of Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies and Repsol Honda’s reigning World Champion Casey Stoner in a very eventful qualifying session. The front three men lead Spies’ teammate Jorge Lorenzo in 4th while Dani Pedrosa starts in 5th on his Repsol Honda machine with Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera qualifying in 6th position.
I'm really happy for myself and also pleased for the team.
The unpredictable weather played havoc with the teams in this morning’s warm-up session and in the afternoon and it was a struggle for the race crews to find a suitable set up for tomorrow’s race and there were also a number of heavy crashes. Cal Crutchlow crashed his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 this morning on his home track and the British rider missed qualifying but Stefan Bradl was lucky enough to take part following a crash this morning on his LCR Honda RC213V while in the hour-long session this afternoon Ducati Racing teammates Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden both crashed with Rossi heavily damaging his GP12.
The riders struggled to get heat into the tires due to the cool British weather equating to low track temperatures plus the addition of the new standard Bridgestone front tire that will be used for the remainder of the year being introduced this weekend. With just ten minutes left in the session it started to rain a little and Bautista, who continued with the early form he found yesterday, registered a lap time of 2m 3.303s just before the rain arrived and that was good enough to give his first MotoGP pole position ahead of Spies’ time of 2m 3.409s and Stoner’s 2m 3.423s lap.
Lorenzo couldn’t manage to set a better time of 2m 3.763s with Pedrosa close behind on a best lap of 2m 3.835s and Barbera making it all Spanish second row with his best time of 2m 3.876s. Despite his fall near the end of the session Hayden starts from 7th tomorrow (2m 4.162s) with Andrea Dovizioso settling for an 8th place start with his best time of 2m 4.304s for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Bradl starts from 9th with his best time 2m 5.035s even though the German rider injured his finger this morning. Rossi tops off the top ten after switching to his spare bike following his high-speed crash and ending up with a best lap of 2m 5.416s.
The top CRT rider today was Aleix Espargaro in 11th (2m 6.283s) and the Spaniard leads his Power Electronics Aspar teammate Randy De Puniet in 12th with his best lap of 2m 6.303s. Yonny Hernandez starts from 13th tomorrow for the Avintia Blusens team with a time of 2m 6.814s ahead of San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT rider Michele Pirro (2m 7.016s) with Colin Edwards rounding out the fifth row with his best lap of 2m 7.376s. Mattia Pasini starts in 16th with a best time of 2m 7.511s enabling him to start ahead of James Ellison and the Paul Bird Motorsport team (2m 8.228s).
Came IodaRacing rider Danilo Petrucci starts from 18th place with a best lap of 2m 8.686s and in 19th is Ivan Silva on the Avintia Blusens machine setting a time of 2m 10.092s. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motorsport) is not taking part this weekend after injuring his fingers during the one day test at Aragon in Spain while Crutchlow was confirmed as having a sprained ankle but was then taken to hospital for another examination and no announcement has been made if the British rider will start tomorrow’s race from pit lane.
Bautista was delighted with his first ever MotoGP pole position and beamed when saying, "I'm really happy for myself and also pleased for the team. This pole position hasn't happened by coincidence – it is the fruit of a lot of hard work from all the guys who have all been giving 100% and sometimes a little more. The conditions today were strange and difficult but we managed to find a good setting, I was up front for the whole session and set my fastest lap on my own.
It started to rain for the last few minutes and nobody was able to improve their time but I still had a fresh tyre to use and made a couple of mistakes on my best lap so could have gone faster too. Tomorrow I start on pole and have a good race pace so hopefully we can convert it into a good result," Bautista added.
Spies was happy to secure a second place start and was praised his team for setting up his bike so well. Spies said, “It was difficult conditions today again, like yesterday but it was the same for everybody. We tried our hardest, I’m happy for the team as they gave me a great bike and we set our best time with the hard rear tyre. When I put the soft one on we were a couple of tenths up then I made a mistake and hit the curb, I had a good lap going but messed it up. I’m just happy to be on the front row and working well with the team, let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Stoner wasn’t too pleased with third place and couldn’t find a good set up with his RC213V. "This afternoon was a little disappointing to be honest. We began the session and struggled with the bike,” said the reigning MotoGP World Champion who continued, “we couldn't really get any edge grip and seemed to make the chatter worse. We were trying to fix some problems we had in the morning but ended up making them worse so we tried various things to improve them. Finally we found something that was working so we decided to scrap the lap and come in and put a new soft rear tyre on but it didn't work for us as we got out there and the rain started to come, just enough to upset the bike a little.
I was waiting for the rain to disappear so I could put a lap in, but unfortunately we didn't get an opportunity and missed our chance at pole. For tomorrow I hope the race is one way or another, not a 50/50 race, but we'll deal with whatever we have and I feel confident with both situations,” Stoner added.