French GP: Honda qualifying report

Pedrosa And Honda On Pole at Le Mans Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) rode to his factory RC212V to a brilliant pole position at Le Mans this afternoon, marking himself down as a favourite for tomorrow's French Grand Prix, round four of this year's...

Pedrosa And Honda On Pole at Le Mans

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) rode to his factory RC212V to a brilliant pole position at Le Mans this afternoon, marking himself down as a favourite for tomorrow's French Grand Prix, round four of this year's 17 race MotoGP World Championship.

The Spaniard timed his final charge to perfection, moving ahead of his rivals in the final seconds of the session, leaving them no time to counter-attack. His final and fastest lap outpaced Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) by five thousandths of a second and third fastest Casey Stoner (Ducati) by seven hundredths of a second. This is the second year in a row that Pedrosa has scored pole at Le Mans.

Conditions were cool and cloudy for the afternoon qualifier, the best they have been all weekend, with the previous two practice outings spoiled by squalls of rain and drizzle that had track conditions changing throughout.

Pedrosa's first pole of the year (he was second on the grid in Spain two weeks ago) continues an impressive run by the Spaniard who started the season injured and is still far from fully fit because his still-healing left knee prevents him from undertaking his usual training regime. Despite those difficulties the 23 year-old finished third in last month's Japanese GP and second at Jerez, so he will be aiming to continue that progression tomorrow.

Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) was often the fastest man on track in the two free practice sessions and scored a solid second-row start in qualifying. Just three tenths off pole, the Italian didn't manage to get the maximum out of his final run on soft tyres but is nonetheless confident of a good race tomorrow. With conditions changing constantly here at Le Mans, Dovizioso will leave his decision on tyre choice until the last moment before the race.

Local hero Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) gave himself some work to do this afternoon by falling in the early stages when he touched a still-damp white line while braking for the Chemin aux Boeufs chicane. The Frenchman had to ride the rest of the session on his number two bike, though that machine was still fast enough to clock the second highest top speed of the session, at 290.3km/h. De Puniet ended up tenth fastest, putting him at the front of the fourth row.

Thirty stitches in his right arm didn't stop Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) from putting in a typically determined effort in qualifying. Following the Jerez GP the Spaniard underwent surgery on his right arm to cure an arm-pump problem and is still recovering from the operation which aggravated a tendon in the arm. Not surprisingly, Elias is struggling with his physical endurance here and he knows that tomorrow's 28 lap race will be one of the toughest of his career.

MotoGP rookie Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) had his best result of the year so far at Jerez and was looking forward to getting back to action here so he could work on improving his front suspension set-up, which is currently holding him back. The ever-changing weather conditions didn't help Takahashi here but his crew did make improvements during qualifying, which he ended in 15th.

Unaccustomed to starting from the back row of the grid, Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and his team are planning a radical change to the set-up of his RC212V for the race here. The San Marino rider was 16th fastest in qualifying, leaving him with plenty of work to do both in the morning warm-up and in the first few laps of the race.

Jerez 250 winner and World Championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) qualified a close third fastest here. Aoyama has high hopes of running at the front tomorrow, using his RS250RW's nimble handling characteristics through Le Mans' many tight turns and changes of direction. Team-mate Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) improved his front-end set-up on his way to seventh in qualifying.

Stop And Go team-mates Hector Faubel (Valencia CF -- Honda SAG) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) were tenth and 12th quickest in 250 qualifying. Faubel may have got closer to the front if he hadn't been slowed by traffic at a crucial stage of the session. Wilairot had a challenging two days trying to adapt his technique to ride round a hand injury, sustained at home last week.

Japanese rookie Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda) had a tough practice and qualifying period, sliding off yesterday in his first session at Le Mans and losing time this morning to a minor technical problem. Still not fully accustomed to the tight French circuit, he did well to qualifying 17th quickest.

Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda) kept moving forward throughout the three sessions, but is still struggling to find the rear-end traction he needs to effectively lay down the power on the corner exits. The Swiss teenager qualified 23rd fastest.


Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), pole position at 1m 33.974s, said: "Obviously I'm really happy with pole today and it was a very close battle for the front row. Right at the end we were able to set the fastest lap and I'm really pleased for the team as well as for myself. Being on the front row is important, and it's also lucky that we had good weather for this afternoon and for most of the morning session because this allowed us to test a few set-up options and learn more about the machine at this track. We still have work to do before the race though, so we're not going to relax at all. It's a long race tomorrow and there are some improvements I'd like to make to the machine settings to give us a good chance. And of course the weather can play a big part at this circuit as we've seen many times before. We have to prepare for many conditions, so we're staying focused."

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), fifth fastest at 1m 34.300s, said: "Starting from the second row is okay and I feel I could have gone quicker still if I'd managed to get the maximum from the soft tyre. I'm happy though, because I had a good rhythm and was able to maintain a fast pace on both the soft and hard Bridgestone tyre options during the practice sessions. We will have to take a lot of care with the tyre selection because, with the changeable weather situation and temperature here, the choice of tyres for the race will be crucial. It's likely that we won't know which ones to use until just before the race when we'll have the best idea of the conditions. Tonight we'll study a few more setting adjustments and aim to finalise things in the warm-up. I like this track and I'm looking forward to the race."

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), tenth fastest at 1m 35.399s, said: "I am not satisfied about my qualifying because I made a mistake at the beginning of the session and lost some track time. I probably braked on the white line and the surface was still damp. We have been doing a good job and the machine was on a good technical level. After the crash I rode my number two bike, but I could not do a perfect lap time especially on my last run because of the traffic. However, we have got the right race set-up and I must take a good start tomorrow so I can ride at the front. The first six riders are very fast and I have to do my best to finish just behind them."

Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 11th fastest at 1m 35.431s, said: "I'm really suffering here because I have no strength at all in my right arm and no matter how much I try I simply can't push the bike any harder. I've been trying to get behind other riders for a tow and it helps but it's so hard. This morning was particularly bad but we were at least able to improve the bike in the afternoon and the lap times came down significantly. I was able to hold my position from yesterday and I'm pleased with that. I'm doing everything I can, so are the team, and tomorrow we'll just try to get through the race and pick up as many points as we can."

Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda), 15th fastest at 1m 35.774s, said:: "Since Jerez I've had a few issues with the front suspension of my machine. To fix it what we need is lost of good weather and dry track time, which we haven't had here. Nevertheless, we have been able to make a step forward with the fork setting during this afternoon's qualifying session. For tomorrow, we'll see -- everything depends on the weather."

Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 16th fastest at 1m 35.785s, said: "We definitely improved the bike today on race tyres but when we put the softer compound in to push for a fast lap we ran into a lot of problems that we didn't expect. We're looking at the telemetry now, we can clearly see where the problems are and we have a radical idea to try tomorrow that we hope works. It is going to be difficult starting from so far back but we don't have much to lose by taking a big gamble on the setting so it will be interesting to see how it turns out."


Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda), third fastest at 1m 38.682s, said:. "Tomorrow I will start the race from the front row, and this is very important. I think it's as important to have a good start here as it is to have a good race pace. It's difficult to evaluate the performance of my rivals here because of the weather which has changed every session, so it's not easy to say how I will go. The weather will also have an important say in what happens tomorrow -- I just hope it will be consistent so we can have a good race."

Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda), seventh fastest at 1m 39.367s, said: "s a newcomer to the 250 class I always have to spend the beginning of every weekend adapting myself to riding a 250 round each new circuit. We changed a few things with the set-up here and I have found a better feeling with the front tyre, which is great news. We also did a good job with the rear end of the machine. During qualifying I found myself competing in the usual group of old friends, which was fun. For tomorrow, I have no real preference -- sun or rain is the same for me."

Hector Faubel (Valencia CF -- Honda SAG), tenth fastest at 1m 39.517s, said: "oday I feel very good on the bike. I'm tenth and the time covering the first positions is very tight. During the last ten minutes I used a soft tyre which was really good but there was a lot of traffic and I couldn't improve my lap times by the few tenths of a second I needed to get a really good position on the grid. I'm hoping that we get no rain tomorrow, even though this morning in the wet I was fifth fastest. I feel very positive here."

Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG), 12th fastest at 1m 39.667s, said: "The pain from my right hand is still bad like yesterday but I now have a better feeling with the throttle and the brake. I have used all the practice sessions here to adapt my style of riding to the injury -- now I am using only one finger to brake -- the third finger. I need to do some special therapy on the hand and arm because tomorrow I will need to brake harder than I did today in order to get a good finish in the race."

Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda), 17th fastest at 1m 40.661s, said: "This weekend has been a little bit hard for me so far, but I get very good support from my team, so I am feeling good about the race and I never give up. The machine is not so bad, but I am still learning the track. I will push harder in the race and try to get some more points."

Bastien Chesaux (Racing Team Germany Honda), 23rd fastest at 1m 43.342s, said: "I'm quite happy because this afternoon we took a second off my previous best lap time here at Le Mans. However, we are still facing the same problem that has been troubling us all year -- not enough grip on corner exits. We have some more ideas to try which may hopefully cure the problem for tomorrow."

-credit: honda

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Randy de Puniet , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Toni Elias , Casey Stoner , Hiroshi Aoyama , Shoya Tomizawa , Dani Pedrosa , Yuki Takahashi
Teams CIP