By: Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Reposol Honda’s Casey Stoner is untouchable at rain affected Qualifying session
Casey Stoner put himself in the best position for tomorrow’s Italian grand Prix in Mugello after the Australian took top spot in this afternoons’s Qualifying session that was affected halfway through by rain.
While the first 30 mins saw ominous grey clouds rolling in over the Tuscan hills, the riders all set a frantic pace early on to guarantee a good time before the inevitable rain began.
Stoner set a record breaking time of 1min 48.034sec in just the 36th minute and, more importantly, before the rain began falling. The 2007 champion put his Factory Honda in front of the resurgent Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) who grabbed second spot on the grid following on from his first ever MotoGP win last week in Assen, Holland.
Spies set a time of 1m 48.479s to finish ahead of the ever impressive Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) who took third on his RC212V, much to the delight of thte Italian crowd. Simoncelli’s time of 1m 48.485s was just enough to finish ahead of another Italian in the form of Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso with a time of 1m 48.694s.
I'm really happy to get pole here especially on a used tyre.
Speaking after taking his his fifth pole position of the season, Stoner said that after trying a number of settings on noth of his bikes, he finally found something that works well for him.
“After the two sessions yesterday and also in FP3 this morning, we weren't too happy with the set up we had, so we were looking to utilise all of this afternoon's session,” said the Australian while conintuing, “However, we made some changes to my second bike, which I made my fastest lap on and we've come out with a fantastic bike. I'm really happy to get pole here especially on a used tyre, the start of qualifying didn't look too good, there was some rain and it was difficult to know how much to push so we went with soft tyres on front and rear to try and get a good lap time before the rain arrived.”
Stoner added, “Once I was on track I realised the rain hadn't affected conditions so much, so I came back in and made a change on the second bike and went back out with a hard front which gave us a little more stability and we managed to go a lot faster. The way the surface is working and everything in general is perfect, even with difficult conditions, we made the right choices at the right time.”
Spies was very happy with his second position but wished he could have used the whole hour of the session, “Everybody only got about ten laps in this afternoon, we only used on set of tyres so we have plenty for tomorrow. We’re pretty confident we know which rubber we want to use after the qualifying session. I wish we could have had the whole hour in the dry but there you go, it was the same for everyone. We think we can make the bike a bit better for the race so we’ll work on it and I’m looking forward to challenging for the podium.”
Simoncelli for the first time this year decided that less was more and aired caution to the worsening track conditions on front of his home fans. “I am on the front row and I am happy with that. Maybe I could have made a challenge for pole position but it had started to rain and I preferred to back off,” he said while contining, “I was actually improving my lap time about halfway through the session when I saw a few drops on my visor and with a lap time already in the bank I decided not to risk it. It was a tough session because you had to trust the grip even though there was water on your visor.”
Simoncelli added, “Everything is pretty much sorted with the bike, my pace is good and tomorrow I will try to do the best I can. I hope we have a dry race and not conditions like today. I want to stay calm because everything is in place for us to do well so I just need to pay attention at critical points. They say it's hard to sleep here at Mugello but I like the atmosphere and to be honest it actually helps me sleep, even though I would really like to be out there with the fans.”
Sitting 5th on the grid is reigning MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo (1m 48.756s) wo will be lookong for a much better race this weekend after being collected by Simoncelli’s bike in the last round, leaving the Spaniard to remount and finish sixth in that race.
Colin Edwards again proves he still has what it takes and set a time of 1m 48.974s on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 while teammate Cal Crutchlow is a close 7th on a time of 1m 49.021s. The return of Dani Pedrosa this weekend has gone well and despite still being somewhat fragile, the Spaniard registered a time of 1m 49.398s to sit in 8th place on the grid.
While the Italian crowd has a great deal to cheer about with Simoncelli and Dovizios at the front of the grid, there wasn’t as much to be happy about for Ducati fans with the first of the factory Marlboro Ducati bikes home in 9th spot with Nicky Hayden on a time of 1m 49.509s.
The top ten is rounded off by Hector Barbera on his Mapfre Aspar Ducati after a setting a time of 1m 49.663s. Barbera finished ahead of another Ducati rider in Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) with his best time of 1m 49.678s.
Sitting in 12th position Valetino Rossi who will be red-faced enough this afternoon to match the colour of his Marlboro Ducait leathers. Rossi has encountered electrical problems on both his new GP11.1 bikes that he rode for the first time last week. Despite trying a number of settings the seven-time MotoGP champion can’t seem to get his head around what the problem is.
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) followed Rossi into 13th with a time of 1m 50.156s and starts the race just ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) who set a time of 1m 50.460s. The final two places on the grid go to Pramac Racing’s Randy de Puniet with a time of 1m 50.651s while 16th and last place went to Toni Elias on a time of 1m 50.742s on board his LCR Honda.