Nancy Knapp Schilke
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa earned his first 2011 MotoGP pole in Brno
Dani Pedrosa was the winner in qualifying for the MotoGP Czech Grand Prix event in Brno with his best lap at 1:56.591; a tad slower than his flying hot lap in the first practice session yesterday on the Automotodrom Brno circuit. The 2010 champion Jorge Lorenzo placed his No. 1 Yamaha second on the grid, while Pedrosa’s Repsol Honda teammate Casey Stoner took the final spot on the front row.
"It's my first pole of the year and also after a long time, so I'm very happy for that. The weekend has been pretty good for us so far, the bike is working well and I'm feeling good physically as well,” smiled Pedrosa.
The morning practice was in the wet but by the afternoon, the track was dry and the rain clouds had cleared allowing for a hot competition between the top contenders. Lorenzo had his factory team Yamaha fastest in the early going but just past the halfway point, Stoner laid down a flying lap. Pedrosa was not to be outdone today after being the fastest rider in both practices on Friday and clocked off his hot lap which no one was able to touch.
“We made only a few small changes on the bike and this allowed me to concentrate more on my riding, so let's hope we are able to keep the pace tomorrow and fight for a good result,” said Pedrosa. “This is the most important thing and we need to keep our feet on the ground because the rivals are close.”
For Stoner, it had to be a disappointment after being fast in the rain but he could not match his teammate’s time nor could Lorenzo, who gave it a go at the end but came up just over one-tenth of a second short with his best lap at 1:56.704. The Spaniard actually bettered his earlier hot lap by four-tenths.
Lorenzo said, “The lap time improved from that and we got a lot closer to Dani today and finished in front of Casey. The pace in the last laps was quite good, so we’re happy. Big thanks to my team who worked hard to improve the bike. Tomorrow we aim for the podium, or if possible, to win the race.”
Stoner’s flying lap was nearly three-tenths slower than Pedrosa but his 1:56.860 put the Aussie on the front row. “We seem to be getting more and more chatter as the weekend progresses and the more I push the more it increases and the slower I get, so it's a little frustrating. I felt qualifying could have been better, we almost lapped with the same time on old and new tyres but in general we have a lot of work to do,” said the Australian. “We're obviously happy with front row, but we're not really where we want to be with the bike and there is still a lot of work to do. We're looking forward to tomorrow and I'm sure we can find some improvements in time for the race."
American Ben Spies was fourth fastest for the Yamaha factory team with a 1:57.178 followed by ‘Super Sic’. Marco Simoncelli slots in the middle of the 2nd row on his San Carlo Honda Gresini with a 1:57.351.
A bit of disappointment for Valentino Rossi who was third fastest in the final practice on his Ducati but the Italian was smiling as his time of 1:57.367 placed him on the outside of the second row; 0.77 seconds off the pace of the pole winner. It is Rossi’s highest grid spot this year and he commented: “Sixth position is nothing fantastic but I am satisfied because we worked better during the practice and we reduced the gap to the top guys step by step.. To be on the second row is a good start because it’s our best qualification of the season and also we are not so far from some Hondas and Yamahas.”
On row three will be Andrea Dovizioso who is the third rider for the Honda factory team. The Italian’s best lap was a 1:57.442, just shy of his fellow countryman’s time. Colin Edwards is the third best for Yamaha, having placed his Tech 3 bike eighth on the grid with a 1:57.676. Ducati’s Nicky Hayden made a remarkable comeback after Friday’s practice ended on the grid in ninth with his best lap of 1:57.721; very close to his American rival.
Rounding out the top 14 of the field for Sunday’s race were: Hiroshi Aoyama (Gresini Honda), Cal Crutchlow (Tech 3 Yamaha), and Toni Elias (LCR Honda), Hector Barbera (Aspar Ducati), Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) – all under two seconds to Pedrosa.
The final three on the grid are Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing Ducati) and his teammate Loris Capirossi. Local rider Karel Abraham starts from 17th as the lone rider for the Cardion AB Motoracing on the grid just 0.008 seconds off Capirossi’s best lap. The Czech rider is on am older Ducati.
One American rider is not on the grid due to a crash in the morning practice in the rain. John Hopkins was the wild card this weekend for the Rizla Suzuki team. It was in turn three where he hit the slippery surface and flew into the gravel. After a visit to the MotoGP’s medical center, it was reported that he had dislocated his third finger and fractured the second one on his right hand. He left the track after being treated and will fly home to the USA for the needed surgery.
Said team manager Paul Denning, “This morning’s injury is a huge disappointment to all of us at Rizla Suzuki and of course mostly to John. He is completely devastated that he is not able to compete in the Grand Prix tomorrow, especially as his form yesterday was extremely promising. He was just building up to speed very gradually in the wet conditions and, on the first lap that he tried to push a little bit harder, he made a simple mistake and folded the front.”