Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) secured his first ever front row start with a brilliant lap of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon. Dovizioso will start third behind pole-sitter Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and Casey Stoner...
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) secured his first ever front row start with a brilliant lap of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon. Dovizioso will start third behind pole-sitter Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and Casey Stoner (Ducati).
Dovizioso is well established among the elite of the MotoGP field, with four podiums already this year and victory in last year's British Grand Prix at Donington Park. But until today he'd never started among the top three.
That all changed when he took to the 3610m track outside the idyllic seaside town of Monterey on California's Central Coast. The pace for the ninth of 18 rounds of the MotoGP Championship was quite quick. Dovizioso was among the front-runners from the start and well placed for the final frantic minutes. He moved to third with nearly eight minutes remaining, only to get bumped down the order by others, including team-mate Dani Pedrosa. It was with his 36th and final lap, and after time had expired, that Dovizioso jumped to the front row by mastering the tricky fourth sector of the track.
By qualifying third, Dovizioso guaranteed a Honda presence on the front row for the eighth race in a row.
The 2009 winner here, and also the winner of last week's German Grand Prix, Pedrosa was poised to start on the front row until a small problem denied him a chance at the end. Pedrosa wasn't able to take full advantage of the softer option rear tyre at the end because of a chattering problem as the hour expired. Yet he'd done enough laps on the rear tyre to feel confident over race distance.
Despite losing out on what would have been his sixth front row start in nine races, Pedrosa starts in a strong fourth place position at the head of a tightly contested second row: Fourth to sixth are covered by .071s. It was from this same fourth place grid spot that he launched en route to last year's victory.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) won the battle of the Laguna Seca first-timers, despite a first day crash. The tall, lanky Italian was one of five riders who'd never ridden around the physically demanding circuit until this weekend. Learning the intricacies of the twisty track caught him out on Friday, but he quickly rebounded. And his qualifying performance was impressive in that he earned a third row starting position next to two very experienced Americans. Simoncelli will start Sunday's race in ninth place next to Nicky Hayden, the seventh-fastest qualifier who twice won this race on a Honda, and eighth fastest Colin Edwards.
Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini) will start two spots behind Simoncelli. The track has always been good to Melandri and he was hoping for more of the same. This weekend the team received upgraded electronics, which will ultimately be of great help, but can be tricky to adapt to in the short term.
The final two Honda replacement riders shared the sixth row. Alex de Angelis qualified 16th fastest in his second ride in place of Hiroshi Aoyama on the Interwetten Honda MotoGP mount. De Angelis raced in the MotoGP class last year at Laguna Seca, but spent the first seven races of this season in the Moto2 class. Roger Lee Hayden returned to the MotoGP class for the first time since he raced here as a wild card in 2007. Six days ago he was asked to fill in for the injured Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) after the Frenchman broke both bones in his lower left leg last Sunday at the Sachsenring. Hayden was offered the ride by team owner Lucio Cecchinello on a recommendation from former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz.
The youngest of the racing Haydens, who's currently racing in World Superbike and will race a Moriwaki-framed American Honda in the Moto2 class at next month's Indianapolis Grand Prix, improved his lap time by 1.668s over the course of practice and qualifying. The two areas he found most challenging were the carbon front brakes-he uses metal in World Superbike-and the control Bridgestone tyres, which he was careful to get up to proper operating temperature.
The qualifying session was held in nearly ideal conditions, with an ambient temperature of 25C and a track temperature of 47C. Similar conditions are expected for Sunday's ninth round of the world championship, after which the teams scatter for the summer break.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda RC212V: 3rd -- 1m, 21.617s "I'm very happy about this session because this is my first front row of the season and qualifying was an area that we had to improve. We were fast from the beginning today and I have to thank the team because they've done a good job this weekend. Yesterday and also today I have been losing some time in T4, but for the final qualifying lap I pushed at 100 per cent and did my best final sector time - which gave me my fastest lap time and a place on the front row. I have a good race pace but we still need to improve a little because Stoner and Lorenzo are very fast. There is still a gap but we are not too far away. I think the race pace tomorrow will be between the high 1m 21s and 1m 22 dead, and I'm confident I can fight with the others. Plus, starting from first row makes this easier. For the tyre choice we will probably go with the soft option rear. Our machine balance is good and we have a positive feeling on this track so I'm confident for tomorrow."
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda RC212V: 4th -- 1m, 21.655s "We've improved the feeling from yesterday and this morning our pace was pretty good - we were closer to the other riders in terms of lap times. This afternoon with the soft rear at the end of the session we didn't go quicker, but the front of the second row isn't a bad place to start and we could probably have been further forward if we hadn't had a bit of an issue with some vibration at the rear of the machine on my final run. We put a lot of laps on the Bridgestone tyres this afternoon - more than 30 on the same tyre - and they are working well. In the warm-up tomorrow we need to make a few final adjustments to the machine settings to improve our race pace by a tenth or two - we've got a few things to try. The choice of race tyre will be important so that we have the best feeling for race distance. I think we can be competitive if we make the most of the warm-up well tomorrow."
Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 9th -- 1m, 22.300s "I'm quite happy with that. We were struggling yesterday but that was normal because it was my first time at the track and considering everything it wasn't so bad. We weren't brilliant this morning, when we spent the session on a used tyre and made a few changes to the setting that didn't quite work. Thanks to the help of our Japanese technician from HRC, who made a suggestion about the set-up, the bike immediately felt better and I was able to ride alone and make progress. I wasn't following anybody for my fastest lap so that gives me a lot of confidence for the race. I'm happy I know my way around Laguna Seca now and I think I have the Corkscrew sorted out, so all in all I am satisfied."
Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 11th -- 1m, 22.407s "It has been a difficult day and we have struggled a lot. The new electronics package definitely has a lot of potential but we need more time to set it up -- we are still a long way from getting the most out of it. In qualifying this afternoon (Mika) Kallio got in my way in the Corkscrew when I was on my fastest lap and I lost it. But that doesn't cover up the fact that we are still some way off where we should be."
Alex de Angelis, Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V: 16th -- 1m, 23.226s "I had many problems this morning, because the bike was not right in any way, especially with the front I had problems. But in the qualifying we found a solution, mainly the problem with the grip was almost solved. Then I was nearly 1.5 seconds faster straight away and that is great. Of course we have to continue like this and improve more, but I am happy that the direction is the right one. At the end of the session I really started to have fun riding the bike. It is not enough yet and we still have a lot to do, but I am much more satisfied than I was yesterday."
Roger Lee Hayden, LCR Honda: 17th -- 1m, 23.764s "Today was much better! We went almost 2 seconds faster than yesterday and it was a nice feeling because the Team have been working hard to improve the bike for me. Even though we are the last bike on the grid we are improving every lap and with the changes that we will make for the warm up I am confident we can make a good race. I am quite happy with the way qualifying has went: all I am missing is time on the bike. It is such a good feeling to race at my home GP with all my family and friends supporting me and I want to say a massive Thank You to the Team for this opportunity and for the way they are making the bike work for me.