Front row for Lorenzo and Rossi improves to qualify fourth for final race
World Champion Jorge Lorenzo secured his seventeenth front-row start of the season in Valencia this afternoon, qualifying second behind Casey Stoner for the eighteenth and final round of the season. His Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi has struggled in all four sessions but the nine-time champion made a drastic improvement in the final stages of the session to qualify fourth for his final Yamaha appearance tomorrow.
Lorenzo, wearing a one-off crystal-encrusted helmet for his home race, was third in this morning's practice session and then spent the first half of qualifying second in the standings as he made some final set-up tweaks to his M1. Half-way through he moved into first and then put in a run of stunningly consistent fast laps, improving his time several times over. Stoner was even quicker today though and with six minutes left on the clock the Australian moved ahead of the Mallorcan and, despite Lorenzo pulling out all the stops in the final moments, pole was not to be today and he finished 0.331 seconds off Stoner in second. Lorenzo is nonetheless the season's best qualifier and will receive his prize of a new car this afternoon to add to his tally of plaudits from the year.
After yesterday's difficulties a major set-up change this morning did little for Rossi's feeling on the bike and the Italian was 10th in free practice. The early part of qualifying yielded no improvement and with five minutes to go he was still outside the top ten. A final alteration however left him feeling more confident on the bike and on his final lap the front row looked a not inconceivable target, as he was on course for second at the third split before dropping a couple of tenths in the final sector and coming home in fourth, 0.086 seconds off Marco Simoncelli.
Jorge Lorenzo - Position: 2ndTime: 1'32.130Laps: 18
"I'm really excited and proud to be on the front row in front of the Spanish crowd, at this home race. Especially racing here; the last race is always special and everyone wants to do well. I tried my best to make the pole position today but Casey was really very quick today, I couldn't beat him. Let's see if we can keep in contact with him tomorrow in the race, if we can stay with him we can challenge. We will try the maximum as always. X-Lite has honoured me with this special helmet and I am so proud of it, it looks like diamonds in the sunshine! Thanks to everyone and I hope to make a good race in it tomorrow."
Valentino Rossi - Position: 4thTime: 1'32.330Laps: 23
"It was a difficult day but luckily we were able to improve the setting right at the end of the session, giving me a bit more grip and allowing me to push for a fast time at the end. We're fourth and considering how the practices have been this really isn't too bad. We will have to see tomorrow, it's going to be very hard and we're still in a bit of trouble, while the others are very fast, but if we can improve a bit more then we can try to challenge. It's not particularly difficult to overtake at this race so the second row isn't a big problem if we have a good pace. Stoner is very fast here, it looked like he was in a different sport today, but it's my last race for Yamaha and I will do everything I can to be on the podium."
Wilco Zeelenberg - Team Manager
"We are happy with second because it was clear Casey had something different here today. Jorge feels fine with no problems; good pace, good lap times and good consistency. We need to decide which tyre we're going to use for the race as both options are possible for the rear so we're waiting for the weather tomorrow. It's a temperature issue, if it's hot we'll use one, if it's cooler we'll use the other. The bike feels great, an improvement on this morning's session so we are happy with the situation."
Davide Brivio - Team Manager "This morning we tried some different geometries and settings and then in the afternoon we continued in just one way, but it's clear that we still have some work to do and we have some problems with grip. In the end we stopped a little bit early to consider the situation, and now we will look closely at the data to find the right way forward for tomorrow so that we can give Valentino a bike to allow him to ride how he wants here."