Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner stormed to his fifth pole position of the season at Mugello today, making the most of the half an hour of dry running during qualifying to lap 0.4seconds clear of the field, setting a new outright two-wheeled Mugello lap record in the process.
In a repeat of yesterday, light rain fell during the 125cc qualifying session but stopped just before the premier class session got underway. The track was sufficiently dry for every rider to start on slicks, and the laptimes soon tumbled as riders pushed hard to set fast laps early on, fearing another rain shower. That rain came at the half-way point of the session, by which time the top nine riders were all faster than the existing lap record on the circuit’s new tarmac and using Bridgestone’s asymmetric rear slicks for the first time here this season.
In the still slippery conditions most riders started using the softer option front and rear slicks, but as conditions improved the harder front tyre was soon favoured for its extra stability and wear resistance. Rear tyre choices remained mixed though. Stoner used a softer rear, but teammate Andrea Dovizioso was the highest placed rider to use the harder rear, finishing fourth fastest.
Yamaha rider and winner last time out Ben Spies finished second fastest ahead of yesterday’s pace-setter Marco Simoncelli of San Carlo Honda Gresini, both of whom also used the harder front and softer rear tyre options.
As the rain fell steadily, only a handful of riders went back out on track in the second half of the session to complete some laps on Bridgestone’s soft wet tyres.
Hirohide Hamashima – Assistant to Director, Motorsport Tyre Development Division
“The laptimes today were very fast, but still I think they would have been even faster given two days of totally dry running. As it is, each rain shower has reset track conditions instead of the grip improving throughout the weekend as we normally see. Nevertheless, the new surface itself is extremely good and the undulation is much less, so the circuit has done a very good job. Both Jorge during FP3 and Casey in qualifying have lapped faster than the outright circuit record today which was set on qualifying tyres in 2008. Now in the single tyre era we don’t have qualifying tyres, only race tyres, so this indicates the level of the improvements. We were able to confirm race-distance durability of both specs of slick tyre this morning when we at least had a full 45minutes of dry running and slick tyre performance is looking good, but again valuable track time was lost this afternoon which is a shame for the teams and also the fans here. The tarmac is brand new here so it is very black in colour, and this made it very difficult for the riders to spot the wet patches or rain drops, especially when it was just damp at the start of qualifying. Today and yesterday the rain started falling around 1330hrs, and the race tomorrow is at 1400hrs local time so it will make conditions very challenging if we see the same rain tomorrow.”