Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was Honda's top performer in this afternoon's thrilling Italian GP qualifying session, the Frenchman putting his non-factory RC212V on the second row of the grid. The session was topped by World Championship leader...
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was Honda's top performer in this afternoon's thrilling Italian GP qualifying session, the Frenchman putting his non-factory RC212V on the second row of the grid. The session was topped by World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) who grabbed pole position in the final moments. Weather conditions were just about perfect with ambient temperature at 25 degrees and track temperature at 42 degrees. Lap times were tantalisingly close, the fastest seven riders separated by just 0.661 seconds.
De Puniet was delighted with his fifth-place performance which matches his starting position the recent Spanish GP, which he turned into an excellent four-place finish. Mugello is one of MotoGP's greatest challenges, a magnificent rollercoaster of a racetrack which only reveals its secrets to the most talented, intelligent riders. De Puniet certainly found the track's secrets today, his fastest lap just 0.512 seconds off pole. Although he already has a good race pace here, de Puniet will try further minor adjustments during morning warm-up in a bid to give him even more rear grip for the race.
Repsol Honda duo Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa will start tomorrow's Italian GP, fifth race of this year's 17 rounds, from the third row of the grid. Dovizioso, readying himself for his first home race as a factory MotoGP rider, was seventh fastest, less than seven tenths of a second off pole position after making machine adjustments to improve corner-entry performance.
Pedrosa had a horribly unlucky day, sustaining a nasty injury this morning without even crashing. The Spaniard survived a big slide exiting the Scarperia chicane but the whiplash effect gave him an agonising right hip injury, pulling the gluteus medius muscle and causing a suspected crack at the top of the femur. Despite this injury, the brave former 125 and 250 World Champion intends to race here.
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) was the only faller during the qualifying session, the Spaniard sliding off at the Poggio Secco right-hander while chasing reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) at the start of what promised to be a very hot lap. Elias' best fastest lap rewarded him with ninth best time, just five thousandths of a second behind Pedrosa and equalling his best grid slot of the year. Team-mate Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) had a challenging qualifying session for his team's home race, ending up in 12th spot.
Today was a great day for class rookie Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) who scored his first top ten MotoGP qualifying result after making crucial adjustments to the rear end of his RC212V. Qualifying well at Mugello proves that Takahashi is really getting to grips with his four-stroke 800. The 250 GP winner's previous best MotoGP grid performance was 13th position at the Japanese and Spanish GPs.
Although Pedrosa didn't figure in the thick of the qualifying action today he yesterday became the fastest rider in MotoGP history, his RC212V clocking a remarkable 349.3km/h (217mph) on Mugello's long start-finish straight. A strong tail wind made conditions perfect for high top speeds. The figure was recorded on official MotoGP timing equipment but still has to be finally verified.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) rode a brilliant 250 qualifying session, securing himself a slot on the front row for what is expected to be a very close-fought race. Just 0.246 seconds covered the four riders on the front row, with series leader Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) in pole position and World Championship contender Aoyama looking good in fourth spot.
Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) did brilliantly to go seventh quickest for a second-row start following an incident in this morning's session which aggravated the left ankle injury he sustained during the Spanish GP. The Thai ace has made only minor adjustments to his RS250RW during the weekend and is feeling confident about tomorrow's race.
Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) survived a spectacular moment towards the end of qualifying when he was high-sided from his RS250RW. De Rosa made the save of the century, gamely hanging on to the handlebars like a rodeo rider and skiing alongside the machine at high speed before finally remounting without even stopping! After he returned to the pits he announced that he didn't want to crash because he knew he could go faster!
De Rosa may have amazed trackside fans and TV viewers with his antics, but the incident spoiled the session for Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) who had been right behind De Rosa and on his fastest lap when the Italian lost control. Faubel had to take avoiding action and thus spoiled what should have been his fastest lap. Now 13th on the grid, he knows he must make a lightning start if he's to feature well in the race.
GP rookie Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) is enjoying his first weekend at one of GP racing's greatest racetracks, learning more about this tricky circuit with every outing. This afternoon the teenager improved to qualify in 16th position.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), 5th fastest at 1m 49.499s, said: "I am very happy and this qualifying result is almost perfect. This morning we worked a lot on suspension and geometry set-up. Honestly, we did not achieve all that we are hoped; what we tried was not a real improvement but in the end it helped us to understand which way to go. We still have some issues with rear grip, so we will try some further adjustments in tomorrow's warm-up. Our race pace is acceptable and I made my life easier by achieving a second-row start. If we make a good start and can follow the leading riders for some laps we could get a positive result here."
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), 7th fastest at 1m 49.648s, said: "We have improved our lap time session after session, reducing the gap from the fastest riders and this is a positive move.
Yesterday we had a gap of 1.3s, this morning it was one second and this afternoon we got it down to five tenths so I'm happy about that. This morning we made an adjustment to the settings which improved the feeling during corner entry.
For the qualifying session we tried another modification but we didn't get the results we expected, so we'll need to make some changes to finalise the set-up tomorrow morning in the warm-up. I'm confident we can improve by two or three tenths but it will be difficult to consistently match the pace of the fastest riders. Tomorrow the race will be tough and really I was hoping to start from the second row.
Still, I will do my best to get a good start and try not to lose contact with the first group.
It's my home race and the atmosphere here is incredible. The fans are so passionate and so I'll be going all out to give them something to cheer about tomorrow."
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), 8th fastest at 1m 50.073s, said: "Considering what happened today, eighth place on the grid is actually quite good because I was in a lot of pain on the bike and for a while it was touch and go whether I'd be able to ride at all. In this morning's session I had a slide from the rear tyre and the bike went into quite a violent shake. During this, I pulled a muscle in my right hip really hard and maybe caused some more damage -- we'll have to check what the next scans show. But what I can say is that it was very painful and I had to stop riding immediately because the pain stopped my right leg from working properly -- it was like a switch.
This afternoon I had some painkillers, but it was still very difficult. It's very hard to make a prediction for the race -- I will try, but at the moment I don't know for how long I can continue my pace -- we'll see."
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 9th fastest at 1m 50.078s, said: "Overall I'm happy because we've improved the bike a lot here, we're moving in the right direction and my pace is good. I'm also pleased because I rode my best lap alone in qualifying, whereas this morning I set my best time following Lorenzo. The crash was a shame because I was following Valentino and through the first split we were 0.00 seconds down on pole. I felt like it was going to be a great lap! The problem is that when you know things are improving and you feel good, you can get a little excited! That's what happened to me and I was too aggressive with the bike, which caused the crash.
Anyway, the good thing is that despite the crash my next best time was still good enough for ninth on the grid and if I can get a good start tomorrow I think we can have a great race. I'll be aggressive in the race too but not too much!"
Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda), 10th fastest at 1m 50.305s, said: "We made a very good job of working on the chassis set-up, working with the rear end of the machine, adjusting swing-arm pivot point, springs and so on. This is a very flowing track, so I always expected that it would be good for us. Tomorrow a good start will be crucial, then I will do my best to get my best MotoGP result so far."
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 12th fastest at 1m 50.448s, said: "I don't think we could have gone much faster than that but the gap to the riders just ahead of me is quite small so it's a shame we couldn't just manage a little more so we could gain some positions. Anyway, we've got a good chance for tomorrow because my pace on race tyres is good -- good enough for a top-ten finish, which would be really important to us. The races are always tough here because of the heat and the physical nature of the track, but also because the riders push to the limit from the first lap to the last. There really is no respite and it looks like it's going to be a close one tomorrow. As always I'm ready to fight and do my best but the important thing is to finish the race with a good result for the team in their home Grand Prix."
HONDA 250cc RIDER QUOTES
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda), 4th fastest at 1m 53.050s, said: "This is the home race for my team, so this is an extra motivation for all of us. The feeling with the bike has been good since the beginning of practice yesterday afternoon, so we have not had to make any big adjustments. My pace is good so I am confident that I can fight for position at the front of the race, though of course I cannot predict what tomorrow will bring."
Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG), 7th fastest at 1m 53.811s, said: "Towards the end of this morning's free practice session I almost crashed; I saved it but my left ankle got tangled with the footpeg, so now I have a lot of pain in the ankle once again. At the start of the qualifying session I really felt the pain but it got better and finally I was able to get a second row start. I'm happy, it's a good result, especially since I've improved a lot since last year here. The bike is good -- we have only made very small adjustments, just carburation and different tyres -- so I am confident I can have a good race tomorrow."
Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda), 9th fastest at 1m 53.941s, said: "When I lost control this afternoon I didn't want to crash because my feeling with the bike and with the circuit -- I love Mugello -- was so good that I wanted to give myself another chance to try to improve my lap times! My ideal time -- with all my best section times added together -- says that I could be fifth on the grid. Anyway, I'm satisfied with today and looking forward to the race."
Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG), 13th fastest at 1m 54.351, said: "During the early stages of the qualifying session we made a few minor adjustments to the suspension settings, and finally we were in a position to go for a good lap time to put us close to the front of the grid. I was on my best lap of the day when De Rosa lost control in front of me and I had to go very wide to avoid him. That lost me a lot of time and ruined my best lap, which is a bit annoying. I am 13th on the grid as a result of that, so I will need to make a very strong start tomorrow."
Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda), 16th fastest at 1m 54.992s, said: "This afternoon's qualifying was very, very interesting for me. Everyone making their time attack, so I can how the other riders ride this circuit which is very, very complicated. This afternoon I was able to follow some of the other guys, so maybe now my circuit knowledge is 60 per cent. The bike is good, maybe we make some small changes tomorrow, but only very small adjustments to the suspension."
Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda), 24th fastest at 1m 59.617s, said: "Qualifying hasn't been easy here, so we must keep working tomorrow morning and see if I can improve my lap times. The main thing is to keep learning.