Qualifying Struggles for Bridgestone Riders in Qatar Ducati Corse's Casey Stoner will start the opening race of the 2008 championship from the second row of the grid as Bridgestone's qualifying tyres struggled for pace around the cool Losail ...
Qualifying Struggles for Bridgestone Riders in Qatar
Ducati Corse's Casey Stoner will start the opening race of the 2008 championship from the second row of the grid as Bridgestone's qualifying tyres struggled for pace around the cool Losail International Circuit on Saturday evening. Stoner's time of 1m54.733s was a one second improvement over his best "qualifying" time in last week's test and he will line up fourth on tomorrow's grid. Jorge Lorenzo took pole for the Fiat Yamaha Team with a time of 1m53.927s.
In his first race weekend using Bridgestone tyres, Valentino Rossi posted the seventh quickest time on qualifying tyres, but the Fiat Yamaha rider has made important improvements with his race tyre performance during Saturday, which will set him up well for Sunday evening's landmark Qatar night race. Completing the top ten is John Hopkins who will make his Kawasaki race debut from tenth place after a strong qualifying lap in the difficult conditions.
Several riders have nevertheless shown better-than-expected performances on race tyres, an area that Bridgestone also highlighted as a pre-race concern. Stoner and Rossi were both able to set times on race tyres at the start of the qualifying session under the 1m56s barrier, in conditions which are likely also to be faced in Sunday's race.
Tyre Talk with Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
Were the qualifying results as you expected?
"Based on the results from last week's test session, we knew that we would face a tough time in the qualifying session and so it proved. Nevertheless, Casey, Valentino and John all produced lap times that perhaps defied the competitiveness of their qualifying tyres and so they fully deserve their top ten results. Casey showed a marked improvement over the time he achieved in the test, managing to dip under 1m55s, which was also around a one second improvement on his lap times on race tyres. Our qualifiers simply did not offer the riders sufficient grip for these colder night-time conditions, especially in comparison to the performance of our rivals. I would like to reassure all our teams that we will continue to work hard in this area for coming races."
How has race tyre performance been?
"Actually, I must admit that the race tyres have performed slightly above expectations, although it will still be a tough race for everybody on Sunday. On Saturday morning, with track temperatures slightly above what we forecast for the race, there were a number of our riders able to lap under 1m56s, including Casey and Valentino, but also Alex de Angelis who was the top placed Honda rider in fourth position. Even though the track was only a few degrees warmer, this has a positive effect on our tyre performance. At the start of qualifying, some degrees cooler, Casey and Valentino continued to lap in the mid-high 1m55s, which was encouraging, and I hope they can both compete for strong results on Sunday. Of course, our rivals have been competitive and have set a high benchmark this weekend, not least Lorenzo, who will be on pole on Sunday and is therefore the man to beat."