Honda Once Again Take Top Two Slots on MotoGP Grid
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) stormed to his second consecutive pole position this afternoon at Jerez, venue for tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix, round two of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship. The Australian - who has never before started from pole at Jerez - ended the hour-long outing 0.158 seconds ahead of team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V). Reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) was third, completing a front-row line-up identical to that at last month's season-opening Qatar GP.
This afternoon's session was run under sullen grey skies, with rain a real possibility for race day. Strong winds have also buffeted the Andalucian venue, most noticeably yesterday afternoon when several riders blamed their crashes on the gusting winds.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) was once again in the thick of the battle for a good slot on the second row, ending the session in fifth place. Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) was one place behind his fellow Italian, making it four RCVs in the top six.
It has been another great two days of practice for Honda's latest MotoGP machine which has topped all four sessions, just as it did at Losail. Stoner led the way yesterday, just 0.028 seconds ahead of Pedrosa, who retaliated with a brilliant lap this morning to top free practice by 0.307 seconds.
The Australian and the Spaniard were the star performers at the end of this afternoon's showdown, the pair overcoming a strong challenge from Lorenzo who had led the early stages. Pedrosa went fastest with 12 minutes to go, only for Stoner to go quicker two minutes later, having spent the early stages of the session tweaking set-up. With five minutes remaining Lorenzo fought back, splitting the two Hondas.
At the very end Stoner was pushing to better his time once again when he got into Turn One a bit too hot, lifted the rear wheel off the tarmac and rode into the gravel trap, toppling off his machine as he came to a halt by the air fence. At the same time Pedrosa was making his final attack. With two minutes left and at the second split, the former 125 and 250 World Champion was one tenth inside Stoner's best, but he ended the lap two tenths down. His final lap was his fastest, moving him back ahead of Lorenzo.
Simoncelli was happy enough with his performance, though he might have done even better if he had stayed out on track after a close call during the closing stages of the session. Instead he pulled into the pits, effectively wasting a fresh soft rear tyre. Nonetheless the former 250 World Champion is feeling more confident for the race than he felt at Qatar.
Dovizioso did well to make the second row after sliding off at Turn 11 during yesterday afternoon's windswept practice outing. The crash interrupted his progress at a track that's always been a challenge for the former 125 World Champion.
There were six fallers during MotoGP qualifying: Valentino Rossi (Ducati), Ben Spies (Yamaha), Colin Edwards (Yamaha), Randy de Puniet (Ducati), Karel Abraham (Ducati) and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V). No one was hurt.
Aoyama's tumble was a disappointment for the Japanese ace who had run as high as fifth. The 2009 250 World Champion finished the session in tenth place, two places better than his Qatar qualifying performance.
Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V) had another difficult day, ending qualifying in 17th spot, albeit only 2.3 seconds off pole. The popular Spanish rider, who won last year's Jerez Moto2 race, has spent both days working on his RCV's suspension in an effort to improve rear grip.
Following the MotoGP session, Moto2 World Championship leader Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing-Kalex) matched Stoner's performance of two pole positions from two races. The young German - son of former Honda 250 GP hotshot Helmut Bradl who started the 1991 Jerez 250 GP from pole - dominated the session just as he had ruled both qualifying and racing in Qatar. With five minutes to go he was just two hundredths ahead of Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2-Suter) when he rode a scintillating lap to put himself almost six tenths ahead - a huge advantage in this ultra-close, Honda-powered series.
Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing Moto2-Moriwaki) did his best to make inroads into Bradl's advantage during the final stages and his efforts were very nearly rewarded, the Japanese rider coming within 0.282 seconds of pole to move him into second. It was an impressive performance considering that Takahashi had a big tumble yesterday morning.
A few minutes earlier a brave bid for pole by Moto2 rookie Marc Marquez (Team Catalunya Caixa Repsol-Suter) had also ended in the gravel trap. The reigning 125 World Champion lost the front going into Turn One, his machine sustaining too much damage to complete the session. Nevertheless, Marquez had already done enough to lead the second row, 0.626 seconds off Bradl.
Swiss rider Luthi, as usual, went about his business in a quiet and determined fashion, focusing very much on race pace, while still doing enough to squeeze in a very quick qualifying lap. The former 125 World Champion ended up third fastest, 0.582 seconds down on pole.
Row two was completed by impressive British rookie Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing-Tech 3) and 250 and Moto2 race winner Alex De Angelis (JIR Moto2-Motobi).
Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: pole position - 1m 38.757s
“The Qualifying result was good but as for using the rest of the session and setting the bike up, we weren't totally happy with what we achieved and lost some time. We're struggling a little to get the balance of the bike where I want it, we make some improvements in the front and then some in the rear but never at the same time which is a little frustrating. On my last run of the session I was pushing a little too hard and was a bit late with the brakes, the rear came up and I released the brakes but I had way too much speed going in there, it was nice just to avoid the air fence. Anyway we're happy, we're on pole position again but we still need to finish the race tomorrow and I will fight for a podium position and hopefully the race victory, but I never underestimate the Spanish riders, they find something extra for this race and they are very hard to beat.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 2nd - 1m 38.915s
“To be on the front row is always very important and second is a good place to start the race. I would like to improve the bike a little bit, especially on the third section of the track, the only place where I lose some tenths, and it would help to have better braking and exit of the corners there. It's been tough with the shoulder - in fact this morning I decided to only do a few laps to not stress the arm so much - and it will be difficult also tomorrow, but there's nothing else I can do, I'll just try to finish the race in the best way possible and hopefully, bring home a good result. We need to see how the weather is tomorrow - perhaps it rains, but maybe it could be better for my shoulder.”
Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 5th - 1m 39.486s
“I made a little mistake on my way into the corner at turn nine and ran wide. I knew that lap was wasted so I came back to the pit but maybe that was the wrong decision because the tyre was still fresh so I should have stayed out there and tried to push for another lap. Anyway, it hasn't been a bad day at all even if this afternoon we struggled a little more than this morning, when I was able to set a steady 1m 39.5 pace on a race tyre. Everybody seemed to struggle this afternoon though and as far as the race is concerned I think we are in better shape than Qatar. If we can repeat our lap times from this morning we should have fun.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 6th - 1m 39.709s
“I'm happy to start from the second row as we have had a difficult weekend. We have worked a lot with the team and I could improve the feeling with the front, yesterday I struggled because of the crash and the wind in the afternoon. Tomorrow the race will be tough as always here in Jerez because there is little grip and the bikes slide a lot. For the championship, it will be very important to get a good result on this track as we have often struggled in the past, and racing here will be good to understand our level. I'm happy with the improvement but we have to keep on working to reduce the gap from Casey and Dani.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 10th - 1m 40.168s
“I could have done without that crash. The afternoon started really well and we were in good shape to get a decent grid position. Unfortunately I had a bit of a chatter problem and maybe that was the reason for the crash. The pain in my knee made it difficult for the rest of the session but I hope it subsides tomorrow so that we can get our feeling back and have a good race.”
Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP: 17th - 1m 41.114s
“This morning it seemed that we have found a good direction but as soon as we have tried to go a little bit faster I struggled again with rear grip problems and the bike was spinning a lot. We had different directions to try but every time we tried different adjustments the bike was worse. I cannot do what I am supposed to do especially on this racetrack which I like so much. Anyway we have got some more things to try in tomorrow's warm up...”
Stefan Bradl, Viessmann Kiefer Racing-Kalex: pole position - 1m 42.706s
“Everything is working so well at the moment - I'm very happy. The team has done a great job here, just as they did in Qatar. We improved a lot here, which hasn't been easy because of the wind yesterday. This morning we found something in the settings that worked really well. The bike is a great package at the moment and the tyres were good too. The difficult thing was trying to find a clear track - everyone was waiting for me, trying to follow me for a good lap. We don't know what the weather will do tomorrow but we are as well prepared as we can be.”
Yuki Takahashi, Gresini Racing Moto2-Moriwaki: 2nd - 1m 42.988s
“We had a good test here during the winter, but then at the start of this weekend I crashed yesterday morning and the bike was a mess. Yesterday afternoon we tried hard to come back from this problem and now we get a strong position. The team has worked very hard to get this far and I think I can do a good race for them tomorrow.”
Thomas Luthi, Interwetten Paddock Moto2-Suter: 3rd - 1m 43.288s
“First of all, we hope the weather is okay for tomorrow. The forecast looks like rain, which would be a bit of a disaster after two days of dry practice, but it will be the same for everyone. I think we have done a good job here so far. We have a good race pace, so I think we are well prepared.”