Stoner on Pole Again for Honda, Pedrosa a Close Third
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) continued his remarkable form at Misano today, claiming his eighth pole position of the season in gruelling Italian heat. Tomorrow the Australian’s aim is to score his fourth consecutive victory to further tighten his grip on the 2011 MotoGP World Championship.
Stoner will be joined on the front row of the grid by team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) who qualified a close third fastest this afternoon. Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) and Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) will start from the second row after recording the fifth and sixth fastest times.
Stoner – who has won seven of the 12 races so far this season – comes to Misano on the back of successive victories at Laguna Seca, Brno and last Sunday at Indianapolis. With six races to go he holds a 44 point advantage over reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), who was second quickest this afternoon, just 0.120s shy of his rival. The pair traded blows during qualifying, both taking their turns at the top, just as they had done during the first three practice sessions – Stoner was fastest in FP1, then it was Lorenzo in FP2 before Stoner moved ahead once more in FP3 this morning.
Despite his domination of recent races and his speed at Misano, Stoner refuses to write off Lorenzo and expects the Spaniard to keep fighting to defend his crown until the very end. As always, race-long tyre performance will be the key here, with Stoner working hard with his crew to get the best out of the harder option Bridgestone rear tyre. He rode his best qualifying lap with his first softer rear, because when he went out with his second softer rear, he found the tyre was gripping so much that it made the front tyre push through the turns.
With just 0.180s separating the top three, Pedrosa expects a hard-fought battle for victory. Second at Indianapolis last weekend and winner here last year, the Spaniard is hopeful that he can challenge both his team-mate and Lorenzo tomorrow. Pedrosa finished this afternoon just six hundredths of a second behind his compatriot and believes he can put up a good fight tomorrow.
Simoncelli performed well this afternoon in preparation for his home race. The former 250 World Champion – who hails from Cattolica, just a few kilometres from the Misano racetrack – had been seventh this morning, but improved to fifth fastest to make sure of a row-two start. Simoncelli, who has been working to solve front grip and fuel consumption issues, sits between Ben Spies (Yamaha) and fellow Italian Dovizioso.
Dovizioso is another local (from Forli, a short drive up the autostrada) and will be doing everything in his powers to repeat the emotional podium result he scored at Mugello in July. The Italian knows that he is stronger on race pace than when he is hunting one-off fast laps during qualifying, so he is hopeful of being able to chase the top three and see how the later stages of the race work out.
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) was both satisfied and frustrated with tenth place today – happy because he is in better physical shape than he has been for some while and because he is feeling more and more confident on the bike, frustrated because he was determined to make the third row for his team’s home race. The former 250 World Champion missed out by just 0,045s.
Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V) was also frustrated, at a track where he has podium form in the premier class and where he won the Moto2 race last year. Elias and his crew have been working to improve machine balance to better load the front tyre but so far the perfect set-up eludes them.
Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 33.138s
“It’s been a pretty good weekend for us here, steadily improving the bike each session. We struggled a little with the hard tyre this afternoon, trying to find the correct balance, but then we made an improvement and got the bike feeling better. Then when we put the soft tyres on, we got a great lap in but the bike wasn’t working too well in the front, which is something we need to improve for tomorrow. It will be a tough race, Dani and Jorge are both running very well so I’ll try to get a good start, but there are a few more overtaking opportunities here at Misano, it’s not a track with only one line. The weekend on the whole is going well. Tomorrow we’ll have to decide on tyres depending on what the weather is doing, hopefully it will cool down a little which would be nice!”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd – 1m 33.318s
“I’m happy with the qualifying session. I spent most of the time working on the tyres, swapping from the soft to the medium compound, trying to find the right one for tomorrow; normally before the qualifying session you have almost decided, but here it’s been more difficult because of the weather and track conditions. We were working on that a lot this afternoon and in the last couple of laps I was pushing to be on the front row. We’ve made it, which is very important here because the first corners are very tight, and the times between the three of us are very close, so that’s positive. For race pace, Casey and Jorge are still slightly faster than me, but we will look for something more on the settings tonight and try to be with them tomorrow for whole race.”
Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 5th – 1m 33.990s
“I am quite strong here, but we need to be stronger because the front three are extremely fast. However, I am confident because I think I can fight with Spies and Dovizioso. We will make some more slight changes to the settings in the morning and try to improve the bike under braking. I am sure with a harder front compound I would have had less problems, but this is the situation and we have to adapt. As for fuel consumption, which was our biggest worry yesterday, we have improved today and should be able to finish the race.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 6th – 1m 34.026s
“This morning we worked on the set-up, reducing the issue of the pitching we had yesterday. This afternoon we improved the rhythm with the hard tyre in preparation for the race. Our target was to start from the first two rows, so the final result is not too bad. Tomorrow it will be crucial to make a good start and try to stay with the front riders. Casey and Lorenzo are really strong and Dani is very fast off the start so it will be important to stay with them if we want to gain some points on Lorenzo and control Dani. We will continue working, but the good point is that we are more competitive on race pace than we are in using the soft compound tyre for qualifying. With these high temperatures and humidity the race will be really tough tomorrow. I hope that the Italian spectators will give me an extra boost.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 10th – 1m 34.637s
“I am satisfied that we have made notable progress – my only disappointment that I couldn’t put the perfect lap together to break onto the third row. I have got my confidence back with the bike and my physical condition is much better. Starting from tenth place makes me think I can have a good race because my pace is quite good.”
Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP: 17th – 1m 36.167s
“I am very frustrated and I cannot believe I will start from the last spot on the grid on the circuit where I’ve achieved good results in the past four years. This morning we have found a little adjustment which helped me drive out of the corners and in this afternoon’s session we tried to improve our rear suspension and chassis set-up. Basically, we have been trying to improve the weight transfer to load the rear tyre and get the correct temperature, but we could not achieve what we were expecting and I am not comfortable with our overall package. Tomorrow I must make a good start and try to follow the group because I do not want to race alone. It’s going to be very tough.”