Pole and new record for Stoner as new Indy surface keeps improving
Casey Stoner continued his strong form in qualifying today to seal his seventh pole position of the season. As the level of grip from the 1.5miles (2.4km) of new tarmac at the 2.62mile (4.216km) Indianapolis Motor Speedway continued to improve today, his best lap was also an impressive 0.9seconds faster than the previous pole position record, set by Dani Pedrosa in 2009.
Lining up second on the grid for tomorrow’s race is last year’s pole-man Ben Spies and completing the front row is reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, both of whom were also faster than the previous pole record.
After yesterday’s running and this morning’s free practice, the track condition was much improved this afternoon although it hasn’t reached its full potential yet and is continuing to change with each session run. Tyre graining was a much smaller issue today as the tarmac is much cleaner and with all the rubber laid down the grip is better, but tyre choice and setup balance are both tricky given the constantly changing conditions.
The surface has undoubtedly improved since yesterday and from previous years, hence the marked improvement in laptimes, but this has had an effect on tyre wear. Just as significant is the way in which the character and grip of the tarmac is changing from session to session. This morning the grip balance was quite good between front and rear, but this afternoon, with yet more rubber down, rear tyre grip increased which led to many riders experiencing the front tyre pushing more and increased wear.
The favoured combination for front-runners during the qualifying session was the harder front for its greater stability and wear resistance and the softer rear for its extra traction. Several riders tested race distance durability of the softer rear slick, including Stoner and Spies, and in current conditions consistency is good.
Hirohide Hamashima – Assistant to Director, Motorsport Tyre Development Division
“As we expected, the track condition changed again today as it keeps on improving almost with every lap that’s run around it. The laptimes were very fast, and Casey beat the pole position record by almost one second, so this is a good indication that the new surface is already much better than it was at the start of the weekend.
“Performance of the softer spec rear was good today and we were able to confirm race-distance durability so this is likely to be the favoured choice for the race alongside the harder front. Conditions today were especially tough on the front tyres though. As the circuit grip character changes, so does the grip balance and this afternoon a lot of riders experienced the front end pushing, accelerating front tyre wear. We can expect the tarmac to change again tomorrow, so trying to predicting the changes and get the right grip balance with setup will be very important. Good tyre management and making the best use of the tyres in the overall bike, rider and tyre package will be even more important here than usual and tyre wear is likely to play a significant role in the outcome of tomorrow’s race.”