By: Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
- Simoncelli surprises in Spain, 1st pole!
- Stoner & Lorenzo on front row
Marco Simoncelli grabs unlikely first pole position of his career ahead of Stoner and Lorenzo
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli will start tomorrow’s Grand Premi Aperol de Catalunya from pole position after the Italian had a faultless qualifying that has handed him his first ever pole position of his MotoGP career despite being on front of a Spanish crowd that was a little hostile towards ‘Super Sic’ following recent events between him and Dani Pedrosa who does not race this weekend.
Simoncelli was ecstatic at his post qualifying press briefing and said his first pole has made him very happy due to a turbulent past two weeks, “It went well and I am much happier now than I have been for the past two weeks leading up to the Grand Prix. I was strong even though we had a few problems at the start of the session when I couldn't push as hard as I would have liked,” said ‘Super Sic’.
“By the end we had solved the problems and I was able to ride really fast, although I never thought I would be able to set pole because Casey had been so fast in every session. I took a bit of a risk on the last lap trying to go faster and managed to save it, so finally my long legs have been good for something! Tomorrow won't be easy because both Casey and Jorge have a fast race pace but I will try to stay with them. My first target is to finish the race, the second is to finish on the podium... you can guess the third!” Simoncelli said cheekily.
My first target is to finish the race, the second is to finish on the podium... you can guess the third!
Simoncelli’s best time of 1m 42.413s was enough to see off Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner (1m 42.429s) who sat in first position on the timings for most of the session on his RC212V while reigning MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo (1m 42.728s) managed to secure third and the final position on the front row on his factory Yamaha YZR-M1.
Stoner wasn’t too impressed with his qualifying session but he the Australian went on to explain a problem with his Bridgestone tyres hampered his quest for pole. “I'm disappointed with qualifying, we had good pace and should have been able to go a lot faster on new tyres. In my first run of the session the bike wasn't working so well, the tyres weren't warming up as expected with that set up and I had a lot less grip on the soft tyre, which we couldn't understand why,” the 2007 champion said while cotinuing, “We tried changing inner pressure but it made it worse and we weren't able to do anything with the last tyre which I'm very frustrated with because I almost did the same laptime with the soft and the hard tyre.”
Despite being on the front row, a frustrated Stoner added, “Front row is obviously where we want to be but I'm annoyed as we spent the whole session working on the tyres and not improving the bike set up. For tomorrow we're confident with our race pace on hard tyres if the weather stays dry, it's just upsetting to have a qualifying session like this.”
Meanwhile, Lorenzo had a pessimistic view ahead of tomorrow’s race but also said that he and his crew made some gains on the frontmen saying, “It has been a tough session today. In the morning it was good but in the afternoon we struggled a little bit. I pushed as hard as I could for pole but it was not possible. The race will also be tough because we are still quite far from the front but not as far as yesterday. If we can take one or two tenths we can fight for something, but I think a win would be a miracle.”
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) looked more like himself today after having some lacklustre performances at the start of this year’s championship but the Texan’s time of 1m 42.742s was enough for fourth place. Spies heads the second row ahead of Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso (1m 42.749s) who is tipped by many for a podium tomorrow due to his previous success at the Spanish venue.
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) took some inspiration from a message that his injured teammate Colin Edwards sent to the team from hospital to put his sattelite Yamaha YZR-M1 on the last slot of the second row after setting a time of 1m 43.202s, a time good enough to see off Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro) who only managed seventh on his final lap of the day on his best time of 1m 43.223s. Rossi, who fell in this morning’s FP3 leads his teammate Nicky Hayden but only just after Hayden set a 1m 43.228s.
Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista continues his steady recovery to full fitness after breaking his leg at the start of the year in Qatar to head up the fourth row in ninth position on his time of 1m 43.447s. The final place in the top ten was picked up by Hector Barbera (1m 43.656s) much to the approval of the partisan crowd. Barbera leads Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) on his best time of 1m 43.734s.
Randy de Puniet continues to struggle this weekend and a sits in a lowly 12th position with a time of 1m 43.764s and leads his Pramac Racing teammate Loris Capirossi who sits in 13th on his time of 1m 44.068s. Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP) wasn’t able to improve throughout the session an at the end of the hour-long session the Spaniard posted a best time of 1m 44.510s and sits in 14th place.
Elias starts tomorrow’s race ahead of 15th and last placed Karel Abraham who crashed heavily on his Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati early in the session. Despite going out for some more laps on his second bike, the Czech Republic rider couldn’t get any higher than 15th. Tomorrow’s race sees just 15 riders starting due to Colin Edwards breaking his collarbone in practice and Dani Pedrosa who also broke his collarbone in an incident involving Simoncelli at the previous round in Le Mans.