Japanese GP: Honda qualifying report

Dovizioso Gets First Pole on Honda's Home Track Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) stepped in to fill the void left by injured team-mate Dani Pedrosa to take his first-ever MotoGP pole position on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the the Twin...

Dovizioso Gets First Pole on Honda's Home Track

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) stepped in to fill the void left by injured team-mate Dani Pedrosa to take his first-ever MotoGP pole position on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, Honda's home track north of Tokyo. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) was second and Casey Stoner (Ducati) third.

Pedrosa was forced to abandon his championship hopes when he fractured his left collarbone in a Friday afternoon practice crash. The only rider able to challenge Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) for the title flew back to Spain, where he was expected to have surgery to plate the damaged collarbone. A date for his return to racing has not been set.

In his absence, Dovizioso stepped up, the Italian picking the perfect time to perform above even his own expectations and achieve pole position. The front row start was only his second, to go with a third place qualifying effort in this year's United States Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.

Dovizioso lapped the 4.8km track 60 miles north of Tokyo with a time of 1m 47.001s. Dovizioso had posted his fast lap with nearly six minutes remaining in the one hour qualifying session, which made him vulnerable to attack. But the mark was out of reach of the rest of the 16-rider MotoGP field and Dovi had reason to celebrate.

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) had put his name at the top of the order earlier and hoped to be on the front row. He was on a flyer late in the session when he ran wide and into the turn one gravel trap. The Frenchman stayed upright, but any hope of a front row start was gone. Instead he'll start from seventh on row three and just in front of Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V). De Puniet said he was finally back on form after breaking his leg at the German Grand Prix in July and he chose to use race tyres to find a good race setting, rather than one outright fast lap on a soft tire.

Simoncelli wasn't happy to see the chequered flag. On his first visit to Motegi on a MotoGP machine, he found speed throughout the hour, turning in his best performance with his last lap. The team needed more time to work on a race setting, as the Italian said he was losing time in the final section, which includes the circuit's longest straightaway.

Team-mate Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) found the qualifying session difficult with a recurrence of many of the same problems he's had all season, on top of which he was suffering from a fever. The weather forecast for Sunday was mixed, and Melandri was one of the few riders hoping for inclement weather, which he felt would be an equalizer.

Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP) was disappointed to qualify 14th in his first home grand prix in the MotoGP class. Aoyama had been an encouraging sixth in Friday practice, but that form didn't follow him into qualifying. He did improve on his Saturday morning time, which would be more indicative of his race pace, rather than the time he spent on the softer rear tyres.

Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter) earned his second pole position in the Moto2 class - his first was in Indianapolis - in another tightly fought qualifying session. What made his performance more impressive was that he had a cushion of 0.284s on the second fastest rider, Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team, Suter). Discounting Simon's cushion, the riders from second to 18th are covered by the same second.

Redding was on the front row for the fourth race in a row and aware of its importance. With such a tight field, getting into the first corner ahead of the scrum was important, and Redding had put himself in a great spot heading into Sunday's 13th round of the Moto2 World Championship. His best lap came late in the hour as his crew continued to improve his machine. Redding was lucky to find a clear track as the session wound down, a rarity with 41 motorcycles, and he made the most of it, setting his best lap on the 17th of his 18 laps.

Yuki Takahashi (Tech 3 Racing, Tech 3) was on the front row for the fourth time this season and the first since the Catalunya race in late June where he earned his maiden Moto2 victory from second on the grid. Now third, the Japanese rider was looking forward to a similar result in his home country and in honour of his late friend, Shoya Tomizawa, who will be honoured on race day.

World Championship leader Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki) qualified at the end of the front row in a bid to return to winning form. He'd arrived in Japan with a class leading six wins, including four in a row leading up to the last race in Aragon, Spain, and that performance had elevated him well above the championship fray. Going into Sunday's race, the first of the final five, Elias holds a 76 point lead on Simon. Elias might have been closer to the pole, but he was surprised to find that the softer rear tyre didn't offer a significant performance upgrade.


Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda RC212V: 1st - 1m, 47.001s
"I'm really happy to be on pole position and also surprised because I didn't expect to get so close to going under a 1m 47s lap here. This is like my second home race because it's the home of the team, which makes it even more special to get my first pole position here. I'm also so happy about the performance of the RC212V. We've got the electronics working really well here - the anti-wheelie system in particular - and also the power is very strong which helps a lot. We're looking good for the race because my style is usually not to go at my absolute maximum pace in practice and qualifying, so I'm hopeful for tomorrow. I'd like to say thanks a lot to the team because they are working really well for me. It's the race tomorrow that really counts though, so we'll be concentrating hard to make sure we have a strong race."

Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda RC212V: 7th - 1m, 47.752s
"It seems we found the right adjustments and I could finally ride as I did in the first part of the season before the bad injury. The team made the right changes working on chassis set-up especially on hard braking and we have solved the rear grip issues so my race pace is pretty good at the moment. Probably I could be faster than this on qualifiers, but 7th spot on the grid is positive and in my opinion it's more important to be consistent on race trim. We still have to choose the rear tyre for tomorrow's race but I am pleased with the bike overall set-up. The weather is the only uncertainty, but I am always quick in the wet."

Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 8th - 1m, 47.914s
"I managed to do a quick lap at the end. It was a shame the flag came out because I could have taken another couple of tenths off and moved up to the second row, but in any case we're in good shape for tomorrow's race and all we have left to decide is the tyre choice. To be honest we still have to work out why I am losing so much time in the final section - maybe we need to look at the electronics and see if we can get a little extra acceleration out of the corner and I also need to check my approach to the three corners in that section."

Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 12th - 1m, 48.238s
"Another difficult session with the same problems as the whole season. We haven't found a solution and we need help from Honda if we are going to get over this. I also had a little bit of a fever this morning but thankfully the doctors at the Clinica Mobile made sure I was fit to take part in qualifying. My big hope for tomorrow is that we get some bad weather, which should shuffle the pack."

Hiroshi Aoyama, Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V: 14th - 1m, 48.396s
"We lost some positions and I am not happy about that. Nevertheless we could improve our lap time in the afternoon and that is something positive. As you know the qualifying is different to the race and the race still can be a good one, but I am definitely not happy with the result of the qualifying."


Julian Simon, Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter: 1st - 1m, 53.008s
"The grid is very close on lap times. I will try to win tomorrow because I have a good feeling at this track and I rode a good session, staying in front most of the time. And I have a good rhythm, so tomorrow I think I can have a good race with Toni. We wait to see what the weather will bring, but rain or dry is okay for me. I enjoy Moto2 and I like this track, so I can make a good race tomorrow. The start of the race is always very important in Moto2, so from the first corner I will be trying to win."

Scott Redding, Marc VDS Racing Team, Suter: 2nd - 1m, 53.292s
"I'm happy to be on the front row for the fourth race in a row, especially as we had some problems with the bike today. Traction is a real issue here and I had a crash at the hairpin this morning after running out of grip. We made some changes to the bike ahead of qualifying and then continued improving the set-up during the first half of the session. I was lucky to get a clear track right at the end of qualifying and managed to string a good fast lap together to finish second behind Julian Simon. The race will be tough, as grip is a real issue here, but I've got my sights set firmly on the podium and I'll be pushing as hard as I can to achieve this tomorrow."

Yuki Takahashi, Tech 3 Racing, Tech 3: 3rd - 1m, 53.439s
"I am really happy to be on the front row of the grid for my home race. It is always special to race in front of the home fans and we've all had to wait a long time for this moment after the race was cancelled in April. I am really satisfied that we could get third because it has not been an easy weekend and my Tech 3 Racing crew have been working really hard to improve the bike. We have had to change the bike a lot but we have finally found a setting that allows me to push at my limit. At the end of the session I had a good rhythm and I was able to get third position on my last lap. I think that Shoya (Tomizawa) was with me on that last lap and now I am going to give my maximum effort tomorrow to get a good result for him."

Toni Elias, Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki: 4th - 1m, 53.504s
"I am happy because a front row start is definitely an improvement on Aragon but I was hoping for more because I have been fast on a race tyre and I expected a bigger improvement on the soft compound. To be honest I thought I could take another half a second off but it wasn't to be the case. Anyway, we have to take fourth place, which still isn't bad, and hope for a good start tomorrow that can help us fight for the win."


Marcel Schrotter, Interwetten Honda 125 Team: 21st - 2m 1.763s
"The first half of the qualifying I didn't have a good feeling with my bike and it took me too long to get my fastest time, which was at the end. If I would finally make it happen earlier to have a quick lap I would be really happy. I hope tomorrow will be the day this happens."

-source: honda

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Randy de Puniet , Marco Melandri , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Marco Simoncelli , Toni Elias , Julian Simon , Hiroshi Aoyama , Scott Redding , Shoya Tomizawa , Dani Pedrosa , Marcel Schrötter , Yuki Takahashi
Teams Marc VDS Racing