Ducati's Casey Stoner and Suzuki's John Hopkins have secured strong second row grid slots for tomorrow afternoon's Spanish Grand Prix after a fiercely competitive MotoGP field saw the top twelve riders separated by less than half-a-second. Qatar...
Ducati's Casey Stoner and Suzuki's John Hopkins have secured strong second row grid slots for tomorrow afternoon's Spanish Grand Prix after a fiercely competitive MotoGP field saw the top twelve riders separated by less than half-a-second.
Qatar GP winner Stoner was just 0.122s from Dani Pedrosa's pole-setting time but the Australian was ultimately forced to settle for fifth place after some last-gasp efforts from other riders. A mere 0.1s adrift of the Ducati was Suzuki's John Hopkins who had to settle for a competitive sixth place after another solid qualifying showing from the Anglo-American.
Honda Gresini duo Toni Elias and Marco Melandri have shown promising race pace on their Bridgestone tyres this weekend and will look to make their way up the order from 8th and 9th places on the grid respectively. Ensuring that all four manufacturers on Bridgestone tyres are represented within the top twelve for the second consecutive GP, Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet took 12th position.
After some difficulties with qualifying tyre performance over the winter and at the pre-season IRTA test in Jerez, the reduced gap to the front runners in this afternoon's session gives Bridgestone cause for optimism even if the final grid results do not truly reflect the increased competitiveness of its qualifying rubber against its rivals. Bridgestone will now carry out further development work on its qualifying tyres during a two-day test in Jerez on Monday and Tuesday.
Tyre Talk with Shinji Aoki - Bridgestone Motorsport - Assistant Manager, Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
Were you pleased with the outcome of qualifying in Jerez this afternoon? "On the one hand, I am pleased that our qualifying tyres have measured up against our rivals in terms of lap time and that the gap to the pole time has been significantly reduced following the pre-season Jerez test. However, the end results effectively masked the competitiveness of our qualifying tyres because of the compact nature of the grid. With the top five separated by just 0.1s, it was hundredths-of-a-second that made the difference between pole position and second row."
How do you expect Bridgestone's selection of race tyres to perform tomorrow? "We were able to do some long run tests in today's practice sessions and we did not experience any major problems. We evaluated both soft and medium compounds over 20 laps or so and based on the results, we believe that we are ready to race with either option. So far, it would seem that tyre wear over a full 27 lap race distance will be crucial and the battle for podium places will be between those riders who can lap consistently in the low-mid 1m41s. That said, the final race tyre selection will be quite dependent on the weather because the current forecast is for cooler, cloudier conditions than we have experienced today."
Riding Perspective - Casey Stoner - Ducati - 5th Place
"We have struggled a bit to get the rear tyre to work at a hundred percent and we have experienced some spinning, but this afternoon we have found an almost perfect setting to get the bike and Bridgestone tyres to work well. We only missed out on pole by a tenth and if I had pushed a little more we would have had it, but I'm happy. After last year everything is already working much better and I am very confident for the race. I am sure we can last the distance."