Loris Capirossi (Ducati) qualifed on pole here on a dry track after the rain of Australia, with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) second fastest and with last weekend’s winner Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V) completing the front row. Series points leader Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) qualified seventh fastest.
This is Capirossi’s second pole of the season and the Italian, who currently lies fifth overall in the World Championship points table, looks as if he may repeat his feat of 2005 – qualifying on pole and then winning the race.
But this time he has to reckon with the revelation of the final races: Marco Melandri. The Italian Honda star finished last season strongly with wins in Turkey and at Valencia and now he looks as if he might make the same strong showing with three races to go.
Marco knows he is in with a fighting chance of taking this season’s title after his win at Phillip Island. His victory last weekend was the third time he has topped the podium in 2006. Were it not for his being a victim of the mass turn one crash at Catalunya, he could well be doing better than third equal in the points table.
But he has momentum with him, and at just 0.526 seconds shy of Capirossi’s pole he has every chance of adding another win to his tally, and to take another step towards what looks like a title showdown that will be played out at the final round at the end of next month.
Marco said, “It’s a very good moment for me. It’s great to be back on the front row. The most important thing is we are competitive on qualifying tyres. This morning the set-up of the bike was good and I could lap at a good pace. In the afternoon session, because of slightly changed track conditions, I struggled more. Tomorrow it’ll be important to make a good start. The race will be tough but I have nothing to risk in terms of the Championship so I will take some risks, if necessary.”
His team-mate Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V) qualified sixth and said, “I’m very happy. We’ve met our first target, which was starting from the first two rows. I’m confident for the race, the bike is well balanced and I have a good feeling. I still need to improve my rhythm especially with a full tank because I’m still struggling in the first laps. Tomorrow it’ll be very important to make a good start and to keep contact with the leading group. I’m ready to fight and give my best.”
Nicky managed the seventh fastest time and said, “Well I’m not thrilled about seventh and being so far behind pole position, especially after being on pole last week. But that’s racing and the quality in MotoGP is deep. We’ll see what happens tomorrow – we’re going to have a big job on our hands. We’ve been a step behind these boys all weekend and I’m not sure where we’re losing out exactly. We’ve still got to make the final decision about what tyre I’m going to use. I just don’t have enough feel from the rear. But we’ve come back strong before and we’ll put our heads together and give it all we’ve got tomorrow.”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V) qualified ninth. He said, “We improved our times from the morning session which is good, though we still have to find a few tenths because I’m losing a little bit everywhere. Unfortunately when we put the qualifier on we lost out. My race tyre choice is still not 100 per cent clear so tomorrow in the warm-up we want to make a further test – providing the weather lets us. We’ll have to see if it’s a dry race and aim for a great start.”
Casey Stoner (LCR Honda RC211V) on row four, as 11th fastest man, said, “For race pace I’ve got a really good set-up – no problems at all, and if I get away with the front guys I should up be there – the team has done a great job. It’s not a long run to the first corner and in the past couple years there have been some problems at turn one, so maybe the fourth row is the best place for the start. The bike feels strong on race tyres, both on the brakes and off the turns. I just need to get away with the front group and I’m reasonably confident.”
Kenny Roberts Jnr(Roberts KR211V) qualified 14th and said, “Basically, we jumped into qualifying and just had chatter at the front. The faster I went the more chatter I got. We just got hung out to dry with the chatter. We kind of had a bad day as far as that goes. Basically, I think if I get a good start I can sneak into the top ten by the first couple of laps. I think from there I should be able to make some progress.”
“Today was not my day,” said Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) who qualified 18th. “Since this morning I did not have the necessary rear grip feeling. I am really disappointed because I wanted to have a good performance here. Today’s afternoon temperature was lower than forecasted and this probably had a negative effect. Now, I need to talk to my technicians to understand if and how to change the set-up tomorrow morning.”