Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo battled through one of the most hectic qualifying sessions of the season today to take fourth and sixth respectively on the grid for tomorrow’s US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.
The quick fire qualifying heat gathered pace as the clock wound down, with the top five positions constantly changing as the fast times came in. Rossi’s first flying lap put him initially in third before a burst of activity saw him drop several places. The Italian came in to pit for fresh rubber with eight minutes remaining then re-joined the time attack, climbing to second place with just over three minutes to go with a 1’21.418. The times then dropped a little more, leaving the nine-time champion on the second row in fourth, just 0.045 seconds from the front row and 0.242 from pole.
Lorenzo continued his careful approach to the weekend today, gradually building speed whilst focusing on minimising any risk of damage to his freshly broken collarbone. The world champion was one of the first riders out in qualifying, recording a 1’22.589 before dropping down the timesheets a little as the lap times tumbled. He dropped under the 1’22 mark with his second lap before returning to the pits for fresh rubber. He returned to the track with just over six minutes to go and joined the fight for the front row. He was able to improve again, recording a 1’21.453 to take sixth on the grid just 0.277 seconds from pole.
Valentino Rossi 4th / 1'21.418 / 9 laps
Jorge Lorenzo 6th / 1'21.453 / 9 laps
“I felt better physically in qualifying than in the last free practice so I pushed a lot and made some good laps. Maybe I could do one or two tenths faster with a perfect lap and be in the first row but the position is ok. When I saw my lap times I hoped to stay third or fourth but the other riders improved their lap times from the free practice. They are so close, if I could improve one tenth I could be on the front row and with two tenths I could be in pole position. The important thing is I didn't crash and maybe tomorrow will be even better. It's a very hard track, almost all the braking zones are not completely straight so I struggle on the shoulder. It's a very long race with 32 laps so maybe with some painkillers I can be better than at Assen."
Wilco Zeelenberg Team Manager
“We are pleased with the result from today, second row was our target. It’s very tight, one tenth more and Jorge would have been on the first row. Tomorrow is a very long race. It was important to be on the second row to have a good start and be with the front guys in the beginning so there is no hassle in the first coupe of laps. He’s feeling better and better so let's see tomorrow if he can resist the pain for 32 laps.”
Massimo Meregalli Team Director
“I think overall we did a good job today, we were able to improve our package and the pace was not so bad. For me the time attack also went quite ok. This is not a circuit where it is easy to overtake so starting from the second row is good. For sure it's going to be a tough race, it’s long and physical so we will try to make something again for tomorrow to close the gap to our competitors, I’m expecting a good race for both riders. For sure for Vale it will be a bit easier because physically he is ok, for Jorge I’m expecting a really tough race. He will take some painkillers to try to have less pain but he will do his best to finish as high as possible.”
Crutchlow and Smith in top 10 in close Laguna Seca qualifying
An eventful afternoon for Crutchlow began when the on form British rider recovered from a heavy fall at Turn 3 to finish third quickest in FP4. Confident he had the speed to secure a fourth consecutive front row start in the 15-minute QP2, the 27-year-old’s second YZR-M1 machine encountered a minor technical problem that prevented him from taking to the track with the rest of the field. His Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew were able to rectify the issue and Crutchlow was quickly able to make up for lost time and put up a tremendous fight for a fifth front row start of the campaign. He clocked a personal best lap of 1.21.420 that was only 0.047s away from the top three and tomorrow’s 32-lap race promises to be an epic battle with the top six split by just 0.277s in a closely contested qualifying session.
Smith’s seventh successive top 10 position in qualifying was a great reward for the hard work and effort his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew have been putting in to help him feel comfortable and confident on the tight and technically challenging California track. Smith has made excellent progress throughout his first experience of the US Grand Prix and his best time of 1.22.075 was almost 0.7s faster than he’d managed earlier in the weekend. He finished just 0.899s off pole position and he has been able to set an impressive pace in full race trim throughout the weekend, raising expectations for another positive result in tomorrow’s race.
Cal Crutchlow 5th 1.21.420 – 7 laps :
“Today has been a tough day, so still to be on the second row of the grid is not too bad considering what has happened. I crashed on my first lap out of the pits in FP4 and we need to check the front tyre because I wasn’t even pushing. It was strange but we will sit down and analyse the data with Bridgestone to identify what happened. Unfortunately the bike couldn’t be repaired in time and we had a small technical problem with the second bike at the start of QP2. We are still checking to see what happened but it meant I only really got one flying lap in. I am fifth and very close to the front row but it is still my worst qualifying result of the season and it is a bit disappointing. But I am optimistic for the race. The times are incredibly close and as always the goal will be to fight for the podium.”
Bradley Smith 9th 1.22.075 – 10 laps :
“I am very happy with the improvement in my lap times all weekend. To do a 1.22.0 was a great step and I have to say a big thanks to my Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew because they did a brilliant job in improving the bike. I felt we had been going round in circles with the set-up a little bit but the bike felt great in QP2 and we really made a big step. This is not an easy track and tomorrow’s race is going to be really tough over 32-laps. It is always crucial to get a good start but tomorrow it will be essential because I believe I can learn a lot in the race. If I can find another couple of tenths from myself then I can stay in a fight and gain a lot of experience and that’s what I need more than anything. I am happy with my race pace and I am looking forward to the race.”