Rossi salvages front-row start from soaking qualifying in Mugello
Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi will launch his quest for a sixth consecutive home victory from the front row for tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix, having kept his cool during a rain-battered Qualifying session to take the third grid spot. Despite some improvements to his race-pace during this morning's dry practice session, his team-mate Colin Edwards continued his unhappy relationship with Mugello this afternoon and could only manage a lowly 16th.
A torrential rainstorm during the preceding 125cc session meant the MotoGP Qualifying got underway with riders on wet-weather tyres, although the track began to dry quickly with the help of a strong wind and lap times soon improved accordingly. As they approached the half way point the heavens opened again and the riders were forced to take shelter in the pits until the storm abated. Luckily it was short-lived and Rossi, who was currently sitting in eight position, got back out as quickly as possible and set about making the most of the remaining ten minutes. On full wet-weather tyres the Italian put in a consistent run of laps, getting faster and faster as the track began to dry out and clocking his best time of 2'01.695 on his penultimate lap, just 0.3 seconds than last week's race winner Chris Vermeulen. Pole position went to series-leader Casey Stoner, who put in a lap of 2'00.359 just before the storm when the track was at its driest. Edwards continued to struggle throughout the session and 16th place will see him head the sixth row of the grid for tomorrow's 23-lap race, which gets underway at 1400 local time.
Position: 3rd Time: 2'01.695 Laps: 20
"I'm very happy about this front row because today was really a bit of a 'casino' with the weather and I think anything could have happened! We started off with wet tyres and actually everything felt quite good, then it began to dry out very quickly because of the wind. I was actually a bit unlucky because I put a harder rear in to try to do a faster lap on the drying track just as it began to rain again in the middle of the session. I was in eighth place and as soon as it stopped raining again I knew I had to get out and try to improve my time. With full wets the bike worked very well and I was able to keep on doing faster and faster laps as the track dried out. We found a good tyre for the rain and actually it seems here we're okay in the wet and the dry. Anyway I really hope it's dry tomorrow, for the riders but especially for all the fans who are camping on the hillside. I think in the rain it's maybe not so much fun! It's important to be on the front row here, now we wait and see for the weather and hope for a good race - rain or sun!"
Position: 16th Time: 2'06.254 Laps: 20
"Honestly I don't know what to say, I've always been good in the wet but this year it's just not working out at all. I'm losing everything on the corner entry; it's basically the same problem as I had in Le Mans. In the wet one or two seconds off the pace can be explained but six seconds? That's not right and I'm seriously disappointed. It seems I never have any luck at this track. Starting from 16th gives me a massive hill to climb in any conditions but I would definitely prefer it to be dry because I feel like we at least made some steps forward this morning with our dry set-up."
Davide Brivio - Team Director
"Valentino came out of what was a very difficult session with a great result, it's really important for him to be starting from the front row for his home race. I think he and his team did a brilliant job once they found him down in eighth place when it rained. He did well to stay out there and keep pushing on a drying track with wet tyres and he deserves to be on the front row. Colin still has some difficulties in the wet and now we will work hard to try to fix them and make him happier in these conditions. We're hoping for a dry race now, it will be better for everyone!"