By: Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
- Simoncelli grabs his 2nd 2011 pole
- Rain again a factor at TT Assen
- Spies and Stoner on front row
Rain-affected qualifying day in Assen fails to hinder ‘Super Sic’
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli grabbed his second ever MotoGP pole position at today’s qualifying session for the Iveco TT Assen in Holland with the Italian heading the grid for tomorrow’s race ahead of Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies and Repsol Honda rider and current championship leader Casey Stoner.
Weather conditions have played havoc with the paddock since the first Free Practice session on Thursday morning and led to yesterday’s afternoon sessions being cancelled due to oil being spilled from Moto2 rider Alex Baldolini’s bike, which he could not see due to the spray from torrential rain in the morning.
The cancellation forced Race Direction to re-schedule the practice sessions and the decision was made to move them to this morning giving the MotoGP riders a combined 90-minute FP2&3 before this afternoon’s qualifying session that, to the relief of the riders, their teams and the fans, took place in much better conditions that saw lap times tumbling throughout the afternoon qualifying session.
This morning’s 90 minute session was an interesting affair right from the off with Repsol Honda seeing Casey Stoner, Andrea Dovizioso and Hiroshi Aoyama (deputising for injured Dani Pedrosa) all falling off their machines early. None of the riders were seriously hurt with the worst injury being a badly hurt big toe for Dovizioso.
Following on from yesterday where he set the fasteest time in the wet, Simoncelli set the fastest time in this morning’s session before the rain set in about halfway through the session. His time was enough to stay at the top of the pile and his position was further consolidated with his pole time of 1m 34.718s proving that the Italian was the first to push near to the limit to achieve this time.
Speaking about his pole position and fifth front row start in this year’s championship, Simoncelli said, “Obviously I am really happy, but right now I just want everything to go to plan on race day and finally pick up the result I feel myself and the team deserve. The bike is good although obviously not quite 100% because we have not had much time to set it up and there is not a lot of grip in a lot of the corners. I have been fast in the wet and the dry and my pace is good, but now it is important to do well tomorrow - maybe the fact we're racing on a Saturday could be a good omen!”
Spies pushed hard and was given his just desserts in claiming second position on his YZR-M1 setting a 1m 34.727s with the Texan the only rider to be able to stick with Simoncelli in the 1m 34s time bracket. Stoner came tantalisingly close to the top two setting a 1m 35.008s to secure the final place on the front row and more importantly ahead of reigning MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) who set a time of 1m 35.143s. Lorenzo will be looking to claw back some valuable points from Stoner after losing the lead in this year’s championship after crashing out of the british GP at Silverstone two weeks ago.
... maybe the fact we're racing on a Saturday could be a good omen!
Spies was very content with his best qualifying this year for the factory Yamaha team especially at this weekend’s race as the Japanese manufacturer is celebrating “The best qualifying of the year so far, it was a good session for us. We would have liked to get pole position but unfortunately on my fast lap Loris went down and there were a lot of yellow flags. I want to be a little bit upset but I want him to be ok a lot more than I wanted pole position. All in all it was a great qualifying, the bike is working really good, race pace is good so I'm confident for the race tomorrow. I don't know what kind of weather we are going to get so we'll see how it goes.”
Stoner said he hasn’t been happy since his first free practice session and despite being on the front row after qualifying and ahead of main championship rival the Australian has some issues with his bikes setup. “Today hasn't been the best day for us. After this morning's fall, our confidence was dented a little and we weren't willing to push too hard. The only dry track time we've had is today, which has meant we've had to do everything in one day,” the 2007 champion said while continuing, “We're struggling with the left hand side of the tyre; we just can't seem to get the temperature in to it, so I'm losing a lot of time on all the left hand corners. Also, we found it difficult to get the bike settled in the rear, so we have some work to do tonight and tomorrow in warm-up, but we're confident we can find something and improve.
“Qualifying went OK. We're happy with front row and I don't think we could have matched Marco's time; it was pretty impressive and he's been consistently fast all weekend here. To be honest, I'm a little bit disappointed with our race pace which we need to improve quite a lot, so we'll have to see what we can do for tomorrow,” he added.
Dovizioso was next up on his RC212V taking 5th position after setting his best time of 1m 35.244s despite his big toe causing him some discomfort after crashing this morning. Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) put in a heroic effort this weekend and grabbed 6th spot on the grid with a best time of 1m 35.329s despite riding with a healing collarbone that he broke in five places at the British GP two weeks ago.
Sitting in seventh place was the best of the Ducati’s and it wasn’t in the form of seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi who is riding his new GP11.1 this weekend but that of Karel Abraham and his Cardion AB Motoracing team. Czech MotoGP rookie Abraham, who set his best time of 1m 35.742s has eveidently had his confidence boosted to no end after he and his team have renewed its partnership with Ducati that will see him on a GP12 in next year’s championship.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards starts tomorrow’s race in 8th position – Edwards (1m 35.818s) is also nursing an healing collarbone that he broke in multiple places at the Catalunya GP in Spain. Edwards will once again be looking for a strong finish after ending up on the podium in third position last time out at Silverstone.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro) ended today’s qualifying in 9th position on his quickest time of 1m 35.866s despite his best efforts with the GP11. Hayden finished ahead of Pramac Racing rider Randy de Puniet in tenth position on a time of 1m 36.435s. Both Ducati riders were, like Abraham, able to lap faster than Rossi (1m 36.564s) who ended today’s session on the hybrid GP11.1 in 11th place with the Italian hardly breaking into the top ten in dry qualifying hour but his times in the wet were much better.
Aoyama, still getting to grips with the full factory Repsol Honda RC212V, only managed 12th fastest this afternoon (1m 36.580s) but his progress was somewhat stunted after falling off this morning. Hector Barbera (Mapfre Aspar) was next up in 13th place with his best time of 1m 36.590s and the Spaniard finished his qualifyign session ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) after posting his best time of 1m 36.820s.
The final place on the fifth row went to veteran Loris Capirossi on his Pramac Racing Ducati GP11 (1m 37.130s). Filling the final two spots on the grid for tomorrow’s race will be Toni Elias (LCR Honda) with a best time of 1m 37.651s wtith ‘Tiget Toni’ starting ahead of 17th place man Kousuke Akiyoshi (1m 39.006s) who is filling in for Aoyama this weekend.
Following the qualifying session, Pramac Racing had released a statement regarding Loris Capirossi who had a serious crash while pushing hard for a quick lap time. the incident was the Italian hit by his own bike. Two separate medical exams, one at Clinica Mobile and one at the hospital ruled out serious injuries but identified a dislocated right shoulder and injured rib cartilage and forced the veteran to sit out the race despite qualifying in 15th for the race.