San Marino GP: Honda qualifying report

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) kept the momentum rolling at Misano today, adding a brilliant San Marino Grand Prix pole position to the dominant race win he took at Indianapolis last Sunday. The Spaniard got the better of a thrilling ...

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) kept the momentum rolling at Misano today, adding a brilliant San Marino Grand Prix pole position to the dominant race win he took at Indianapolis last Sunday. The Spaniard got the better of a thrilling end-of-session battle with World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), Casey Stoner (Ducati), reigning MotoGP king Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and Ben Spies (Yamaha).

At the end of the hour the top five were separated by just 0.524 seconds, Pedrosa's final lap moving him ahead of Lorenzo by a solid three tenths of a second. The performance completes an impressive two days of practice and qualifying for the Repsol Honda Team, which made a brilliant start to the weekend, running one and two in yesterday's opening practice session with Pedrosa leading the way ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V).

Currently second in the 2010 World Championship, Pedrosa is making superb use of recent improvements to the RC212V. His aim tomorrow is a fast, clean getaway (the first esses here are a notorious black spot for lap one accidents) and then a mistake-free race which will hopefully lead to his first back-to-back victories in MotoGP. Pedrosa is still a lot of points behind series leader Lorenzo, but every success will bring him closer to his compatriot.

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) produced a heroic performance in scoring a second-row start in only his third MotoGP event since he broke a leg at July's German GP. The Frenchman -- who made his comeback at last month's Czech GP, a miraculous four weeks after the accident -- posted sixth quickest time in qualifying, just two tenths behind Spies. De Puniet and his crew worked carefully on machine balance to give him a great bike for this tricky Italian circuit, which is one of his favourites.

Dovizioso was hoping for better than a third-row start for his home race. The 24-year-old local made some big changes to his RCV's weight distribution with the aim of improving front-end feel, but as can often be the case with set-up changes, the adjustment made things worse instead of better. Dovizioso will sit down with his engineers this evening to decide the best way forward for tomorrow's warm-up and race. He will be very focused on making the fastest possible start without getting into trouble in the first few corners.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) is even more local than Dovizioso -- he hails from Cattolica, just a few kilometres from the track -- so the fast-improving MotoGP rookie is happy to be starting from the third row in ninth place, after taking a wrong turn and then a right turn on his settings. This is the former 250 World Champion's seventh top-nine qualifying performance from the last eight races.

Team-mate Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) scored his first top-ten qualifying slot in four races by going tenth fastest, just 0.084 seconds behind Simoncelli. The Italian started the session well and was looking good for a better starting position, but then struggled after going the wrong way with front fork settings.

Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) was an impressive 13th quickest in his second Grand Prix since breaking a vertebra at June's British GP. The Japanese ace, who returned to action at Indianapolis, is wearing a special back brace to support and protect his back while he is riding.

Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki) shrugged off the effects of illness to take the Moto2 pole position at Misano this afternoon. Despite feeling far from his best, the Spaniard was able to outpace Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team, Suter) by 0.44 seconds. Surprisingly, this is Elias' first pole since he started from the very front of the grid for the first-ever Moto2 race at Losail in March. This is the home race for Elias' Gresini squad, so the Spaniard is wearing the San Carlo colours worn full-time by Fausto Gresini's MotoGP riders.

Elias will be chasing a fifth consecutive win tomorrow to extend his 67 point lead over Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up). Perhaps the former 125, 250 and MotoGP winner had something of a head start this weekend, because he tested here during the summer break, unaware that he was breaking Moto2 regulations. He was punished for the misdemeanour by missing first practice for last month's Brno GP.

Redding's second place on the grid gives him his second Moto2 front-row start in as many weekends and tomorrow he will be looking for his second podium in as many weekends. The young Briton -- who at Indy became the youngest-ever podium finisher in the intermediate class at 17 years and 237 days -- knows that he will have a big fight on his hands but he is more than ready for some close-fought action.

The last two men on the front row in the Honda-powered series are Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter) and Jules Cluzel (Forward Racing, Suter). Simon has been one of the more consistent performers in this action-packed class, with four podium results so far, though the reigning 125 World Champion has yet to score a win. Cluzel on the other hand has scored a win -- at Silverstone -- but has scored only one other podium so far.

Mugello and Assen Moto2 winner Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up) qualified fifth, despite struggling with two small breaks in his left wrist, sustained in Indianapolis qualifying. The injury didn't stop the Italian from finishing fourth at Indy despite starting from the seventh row of the grid, so he is sure to feature in tomorrow's race.

Honda RS125 rider Marcel Schrotter (Interwetten Honda 125 Team) was 18th fastest in today's 125 qualifying outing after a fall in the early stages of the session. This morning the 17-year-old German had been 14th in free practice. Pole position went to Briton Bradley Smith (Aprilia)


Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda RC212V: pole position, 1m 33.948s "I'm happy to be on pole position because we were strong throughout practice and things have gone according to plan so far this weekend. We are doing a very good job at the moment, improving at every round and now we have the chance to have another good race. I've never won two MotoGP races in a row and this is a good challenge for me -- I really want to go for it. Today went well especially because this was a very tight qualifying session and, as I said yesterday, it was crucial to be on the first row of the grid to have the best chance of getting through the first corners cleanly, because they are very tight. It's a quite a tricky circuit and tomorrow it will be important not to make any mistakes -- particularly on the brakes -- in order to keep a high pace for the whole race distance. I think it will be very difficult to make a gap, but we'll wait and see what the strategy is for the race. Hopefully we can get through the first corners cleanly, and then we will simply need to push very hard to win. We have a good opportunity."

Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda RC212V: 6th, 1m 34.751s "It is good to be back up there with the guys! After the bad weekend in Indy, I knew that I could bounce back here in Misano because I like this track very much and my leg is getting better day by day. This morning we struggled with the front end in the entry of some corners but we reduced the problem quite a lot. Honestly we are not at 100% yet but I am delighted with this performance. Hopefully if we can take a good start tomorrow we will be able to fight for another positive result."

Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda RC212V: 8th, 1m 34.826s "We made a big change to the set-up of the bike in terms of weight distribution to get a better feeling with the front end, but it didn't work for us. I was struggling a lot with the front and at the end of the session I almost crashed -- like in Brno. It is very difficult to improve your lap time when you don't have the confidence with the front. Now we have to decide whether to keep going in this set-up direction with something more radical or go back to what we had before. I'm disappointed to have qualified this far back for my home race, so we have some work to do tonight to find a setting that can improve things for warm-up and in the race. We've made it quite tough for ourselves, but we'll aim to get a good start and make up as many positions as possible early on."

Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 9th, 1m 34.934s "We were having problems yesterday and they continued for the first 20 minutes of qualifying this afternoon. Then we went back to an old set-up because we had made some changes to the bike to suit Indianapolis. It was a step backwards in one way, but with a few modifications we were able to set a good lap time. I am fairly happy right now because up until this morning we were not in good shape but now we have seen the light."

Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 10th, 1m 35.018s "That was actually a positive session. Unfortunately we made some changes to the forks and that had a negative effect, which meant I couldn't improve my lap time. However, my pace is pretty good and the target for tomorrow is to get a good start and set a strong pace. I am in better shape than in recent weeks and I hope I can have a decent race tomorrow."

Hiroshi Aoyama, Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V: 13th, 1m 35.286s "The qualifying was interesting because we stayed with the old set-up and we were still able to improve. Also the lap times improved more than I expected. Also, the gap to the others in front of me got smaller and that is very positive for us. I don't know how the conditions will be tomorrow, but I hope they will be similar to today and that I can improve in the race. I am looking forward to the race."


Toni Elias, Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki: pole position, 1m 38.991s "I'm very happy to be on pole because my physical condition is still quite bad. After my illness in Indy I came home and have taking a course of antibiotics, but yesterday my blood pressure was quite low and I didn't feel good. Anyway, I tried my best in every session. Today I feel better and I hope to feel better still tomorrow. I have to say a big thanks to the team because they gave me the chance in qualifying. This morning I couldn't get below a 1m 40s lap, but this afternoon I could do 39s. It will be a hard race and I want to win for my team which is based very close to this track."

Scott Redding, Marc VDS Racing Team, Suter: 2nd, 1m 39.035s "The race is going to be really hard. I was pushing hard today, I had a good feeling with the bike and a good rhythm. The traffic can be a problem in Moto2 but it wasn't so bad today at the end of qualifying because I used my head. To end this race on the top of the podium will be very difficult because I expect a big fight with Elias and Simon, and we may be battling with Cluzel too. We'll see what happens."

Julian Simon, Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter: 3rd, 1m 39.280s "This morning I had a good feeling and I was able to run a fast pace, but I found things more difficult this afternoon with the hard rear tyre because it was difficult to get good feel from the tyre. It got better at the end, although there was a lot of traffic, so I wasn't able to ride a perfect lap. But we are on the front row and that was always the objective. I expect a battle with Elias tomorrow -- we will try to get a good start and then have a good race."

Jules Cluzel, Forward Racing, Suter: 4th, 1m 39.413s "I'm happy to be on the front row because it's been quite a difficult weekend so far. In the end we were able to make a good lap, but we still need to improve the feeling so that we can have a strong pace in the race. I hope we can make the bike better for tomorrow so I can battle with Elias and the rest."


Marcel Schrotter, Interwetten Honda 125 Team: 18th, 1m 46.309s "The qualifying was really bad. In the second lap I crashed. I wanted to push from the beginning this time and that was maybe the reason why I crashed. I didn't want to go for it in the last laps only this time and I felt comfortable on the bike, but the rear slid away from me. A crash always costs us time and we had to continue riding with some problems because we didn't have time to fix the bike. I hope tomorrow I can continue more like in the second practice this morning."

-source: honda

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Bradley Smith , Ben Spies , Randy de Puniet , Marco Melandri , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Marco Simoncelli , Toni Elias , Casey Stoner , Julian Simon , Hiroshi Aoyama , Scott Redding , Jules Cluzel , Dani Pedrosa , Andrea Iannone , Marcel Schrötter
Teams Forward Racing , Repsol Honda Team , Marc VDS Racing