Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Repsol Honda rider snatches top spot away from championship rival Lorenzo
Dani Pedrosa jumped to pole position at today’s qualifying for the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM under glorious sunshine at the Mugello circuit where the Spaniard beat his fellow countrymen Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) and Hector Barbera grabbing third place for the Pramac Racing team. Pedrosa crossed the line in pole position ahead of Lorenzo who looked to have an unexplained problem on his last lap forcing him to terminate his last lap.
We definitely made another step forward today and to get the pole position here is great.
Lorenzo had led for 90 percent of the hour-long session with none of his rivals able to match his pace where he was lapping in the 1m 47s bracket. Pedrosa did his best to keep his fellow countryman in his sights but in the final 15 minutes the Repsol Honda rider found some extra pace and then began swapping lap times with Lorenzo, who later explained that he ran into an electrical problem with his machine on the final lap. Leaving Pedrosa to start from pole with his best lap time of 1m 47.284s to that of Lorenzo’s 1m 47.423s while Barbera set a best of 1m 47.545s.
Ducati Racing’s Nicky Hayden was fast from the off today and was sitting in second place for a short time until the dying minutes of the session when he got bumped down to 4th place with his best lap of 1m 47.671s while Pedrosa’s teammate Casey Stoner was not able to do better than 5th place today (1m 47.689s). Cal Crutchlow sits in 6th for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team with a personal best lap of 1m 47.749s, despite a fall earlier in the session. Heading the third row is Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso (1m 47.751s) with LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl starting from 8th with a best lap of 1m 47.857s and Ben Spies in 9th for the Yamaha Factory Racing team 1m 48.149s. The American also had a fall in the session but, like Crutchlow, he walked away unhurt.
The final spot in the top ten went to Valentino Rossi for the Ducati Team with a best time of 1m 48.502s and he will start ahead of Alvaro Bautista (1m 48.894s) for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team who are back in their traditional white, red and black livery in tribute to former rider Marco Simoncelli. The top CRT rider today was Aleix Espargaro setting a best time of 1m 49.387s and better than his Power Electronics Aspar teammate Randy De Puniet with a best lap of 1m 49.450s. The final two places on the fifth row went to San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT rider Michele Pirro with a time of 1m 50.263s and Yonny Hernandez and the Avintia Blusens team (1m 50.610s).
James Ellison starts in 16th place tomorrow for the Paul Bird Motorsport team (1m 50.812s) with Mattia Pasini and the Speedmaster team in 17th setting a best time of 1m 50.953s. Ivan Silva is in 18th place, his lap of 1m 51.242s for the Avintia Blusens squad, followed by NGM Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards in second to last position with a best lap of 1m 51.348s. Just ahead of last place man Danilo Petrucci and the Came IodaRacing Project team (1m 51.473s).
Speaking after the session, Pedrosa was very happy with another pole position to add to his name. He said, "We definitely made another step forward today and to get the pole position here is great, although to always be on the front row is what really matters to me. We had a good practice in the morning and managed the timing well in qualifying to be on track when everybody started to improve the lap times. It will be a very hard race for sure, it's very hot out there and the race pace will be also very high looking at the lap times this afternoon. I'm quite happy with the set up of my bike, we've had better grip today and I'm pretty confident, but we have to keep very focused and push at the maximum because Lorenzo has an incredible pace.”
Lorenzo wasn’t happy when speaking about his bike’s problem that robbed him of pole position saying, “In the lap before the last I felt a loss of power in some corners. On the final lap I was red until the last corner then I felt the power drop much more so I had to enter the pits and stop. I made some good laps, although not completely perfect and I felt I could make a better one. It’s going to be a very tough race for everyone so we have to stay calm and save some energy for the end.”
Barbera was delighted with his first ever front row start in MotoGP and could still hardly believe what had happened when speaking afterwards. “If yesterday somebody told me that I could start from the front row, I would not have believed it. But today I’m on the first row and tomorrow I will start Pramac Racing’s home race from an amazing third spot on the grid. It’s like a dream. I had to say thanks to my crew, who worked tirelessly during every session, understanding how to work with our Ducati machine. But there is another important point: I really enjoyed riding my bike and these kinds of sensations allowed me to have a more consistent and faster pace. Tomorrow I will try to have a good start and fight for the whole race with the front guys,” he said.