TT Assen: Honda qualifying report

Honda privateer Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) continued his impressive qualifying form by taking the second spot on the front row for the second race in succession. Today's success came during the one hour qualifying session for ...

Honda privateer Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) continued his impressive qualifying form by taking the second spot on the front row for the second race in succession.

Today's success came during the one hour qualifying session for Saturday's 80th Dutch TT, held under warm, sunny skies at the circuit known for its inclement weather. De Puniet held the fastest time well into the hour before eventually being displaced by championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha). Lorenzo would have to be at his best to beat De Puniet's time of 1m, 34.797s, and he was. But, other than Lorenzo, whose fastest lap was his last, no one could match de Puniet's pace. And de Puniet proved his race pace was strong by starting his final run with two laps in the 1m, 34's.

Because the track had been slightly shortened, Lorenzo's final lap of 1m, 34.515s would stand as a new circuit fastest lap. The lap was over a full second faster than the previous circuit best lap of 1m, 35.520s set by Casey Stoner in 2008. The new length of 4.542k was achieved by taking 13 meters out at the Ruskenhoek left hander near the end of the track's longest (560m) straightaway. Though it's a minor modification, the adjustment transformed the track and brought back some of the speed it had lost in recent modifications.

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) finished the session at the end of the second row. The Italian spent much of the hour in the top three by setting his fastest time on the 11th of his 30 total laps. But he wasn't able to improve on his lap of 1m, 35.105s and found himself slowly slipping down the order. Still, starting from the second row puts him in perfect position to protect his second place in the MotoGP World Championship.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) sits third in the championship, only five points behind his team-mate, and certain to further secure the position. Pedrosa finished the session just behind Dovizioso with the seventh fastest time at a gap of .147s. Pedrosa said he needed to improve his braking performance and also had to choose between the two Bridgestone rear tire options.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) had a career best MotoGP qualifying effort. The MotoGP rookie finished the session with the eighth fastest time, right behind the veteran Pedrosa. The qualifying performance left Simoncelli confident that he could also achieve a career best MotoGP race finish.

Simoncelli will likely be the lone flag-bearer for the Gresini Honda team after team-mate Marco Melandri dislocated his left shoulder in a Friday morning high-side. Melandri, who didn't take part in qualifying, said he would test the shoulder in Saturday morning warm-up, but wasn't hopeful of racing. He expects to be ready for next week's race in Barcelona.

Kousuke Akiyoshi (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) qualified 15th in place of the injured Hiroshi Aoyama, the winner of the 250cc race here last year. The 35-year-old Japanese test rider will replace Aoyama at Assen and next week in Catalunya. Aoyama broke his back at the previous week's British Grand Prix at Silverstone and is expected to be out for a few months. A more permanent replacement is expected during the one week break between Catalunya and the German round at the Sachsenring.

Moto2 had yet another tight qualifying session, with the top 15 covered by one second and the top 33 of 41 covered by two seconds. For the second time this season, Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up) took the pole position. The Italian's first pole came at his home race in Mugello, which he converted to his first Moto2 win.

Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT Singha SAG, Bimota) had an eventful session that ended with him qualifying a career best second fastest. Early in the session, however, Wilairot was involved in a racing incident with Alex Debon (Aeroport de Castello-Ajo, FTR), on the lap after Debon had set his fast lap. Debon ended up with a fractured shoulder and has been ruled out of Saturday's race. Wilairot was fined 3000 euros for riding in "an irresponsible manner." No appeal was lodged and the decision of the race direction was final.

The Thai rider Wilairot finished second with a lap that was only .215s off the pace set by Iannone. He believed that starting from the front of the grid, rather than towards the back-his best Moto2 qualifying effort prior to today was 12th in Le Mans-will translate into a solid finish.

Debon crashed on his fourth lap as he was attempting to go around the outside of the slower running Wilairot. The session was immediately red flagged, but only briefly. When it continued, minutes later, Debon was on his way to the Clinica Mobile. The initial diagnosis was a fractured left shoulder, though more information is expected in the near future.

Shoya Tomizawa (Technomag-CIP, Suter) qualified only .080s behind Debon as he tries to defend second in the championship. This was Tomizawa's first front row start since qualifying on the pole in Jerez and that one translated into a second place finish.

Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki), the rider Tomizawa trails in the championship, qualified sixth fastest and only .047s off the front row. Elias has had a pair of disappointing finishes, including tenth in the previous race at Silverstone, and believes he can change his momentum in Saturday's seventh race of the championship.

Rookie Marcel Schrotter (Interwetten Honda 125 Team) was disappointed to qualify 18th for the 125 Grand Prix. The young German found a lot of traffic on the track and he wasn't able to improve the feeling from his motorcycle.

The races in Assen are traditionally held on Saturday, a custom that is unique to the Dutch TT.


Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda RC212V: 2nd -- 1m 34.797s "Everything is going in the right direction for us and we completely deserved this second consecutive front row. I am still the Honda fastest rider and the top privateer rider in the classification, so this is not just luck! The guys made an excellent job on the bike and I felt more comfortable in this morning second session. Then in the afternoon we took another step forward working on suspension set-up and the bike was close to perfection. We have got the pace to run in top five on race tyres, but we need to confirm our mapping for the end of the race when the tyres will drop. Want to thank everybody in the team for their great job."

Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda RC212V: 6th -- 1m 35.015s "Tomorrow we will start from the second row which is OK, and with a good start I hope to get away with the leaders. The gap to the front of five-tenths of a second is not too much and we also have a good race pace, although actually I set this lap when I was following (Jorge) Lorenzo. We have some front end issues that we need to solve and this is what we want to sort out by tomorrow afternoon - otherwise it will be a difficult race. In fact, I'm losing time in T3 and T4, which are the fastest parts of the track, so front end feel is really important here. However, I'm feeling confident and I think that me and the team can come up with some ideas to improve things for tomorrow."

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda RC212V: 7th -- 1m 35.162s "This morning we started with some adjustments to the suspension and we went a little harder at the front end. My fastest lap time was OK this morning, but, to be honest, we didn't find the solutions we were looking for and we still have some work to do to find the right set-up. In T1, where we were losing a lot of time yesterday, things have improved a little bit, but clearly not enough - and we also have to improve the feeling when I brake, because at the moment I can't push to the maximum. It's a similar situation on the soft or the hard option Bridgestones, so that choice isn't made yet for us. We'll keep on working this evening and try to make some significant improvements for the race tomorrow."

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 8th -- 1m 35.283s "That's not bad. I'm happy because we had a few doubts about the bike today, but it worked well. We have found the right solution to establish a better feeling and I can ride with more ease. My times were good when I was lapping on my own and I managed to put a good rhythm together. Overall I am happy and confident I can have another good race tomorrow. If I can get a good start then there's no reason I can't be fighting for a top five finish."

Kousuke Akioshi (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V: 15th -- 1m 38.198s "I try to help the team as much as possible. For me it is difficult to set up all the different settings of the bike. But I have fun and this experience is very interesting. I improved by two seconds since yesterday, one second since this morning's practice. I will try to keep improving also during tomorrow's race and I look forward to this challenge."

Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: DNQ "Today was a day to forget. It started well, because the feeling with the bike was really good and I was able to put a fast time in on a tyre with a lot of laps on it, so I was happy. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be and now I have to look ahead to hopefully having a good race at Barcelona. I went wide coming into the turn at the back of the pits and tried to get onto the tarmac path back onto the track, but I couldn't get on it and as I headed back towards the track I was worried I might hit another rider, so I tried to change my line. Unfortunately, I lost the rear on the grass and when I got back onto the tarmac it gripped and threw me into the air. I knew straight away that my shoulder was out."


Andrea Iannone, Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up: Pole position -- 1m 39.092s "Yeah, I have been quick this weekend, but tomorrow's another day and tomorrow's a race day as well, so you never know what's going to happen. My rivals are going to work hard, make a few modifications, and try and challenge him. I also have a few problems I need to fix. But in general we are ready and tomorrow we will see if we can win. ."

Ratthapark Wilairot, Thai Honda PTT Singha SAG, Bimota: 2nd - 1m, 39.307s "Of course we need to make the front row, because the last race, many races go by that we are in the back all the time. And this time-actually, I like this track also-we have to improve by position and also the bike now is perfect."

Shoya Tomizawa, Technomag-CIP, Suter: 4th -- 1m 39.664s "Yes, I'm happy, but to be serious it's been a long time since I'm up here. I'm very happy. Yes, I have problems for the front moving and also this morning big moving and I crashed. Also this qualifying practice was not so perfect, but I could make good time and this also made me so happy. But I have also many problems for tomorrow I have to improve for race."


Marcel Schrotter, Interwetten Honda 125 Team: 18th - 1m 45.231s "The qualifying did not go well. I didn't get the right feeling. There was a lot of traffic on the track and many riders I could not overtake. I had a good lap time in the last lap, but that was too late."

-source: honda

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Randy de Puniet , Marco Melandri , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Marco Simoncelli , Toni Elias , Alex Debon , Kousuke Akiyoshi , Hiroshi Aoyama , Shoya Tomizawa , Dani Pedrosa , Andrea Iannone , Marcel Schrötter
Teams CIP