Starting on pole, or at least on the front row, is important at every race track, but at the Sachsenring, it is doubly so. There are very few passing opportunities at the German circuit: Turn 1, though it is not easy. Turn 12, after the run down the hill. And if you are smart, Turn 13, the final corner, but that is usually only possible if you have just been passed on the way into Turn 12, and the rider who passed you is now off line.
So a strong qualifying is crucial. Normally, that means the fastest riders make their way to the front of the grid. But not on Saturday. At the Sachsenring, a series of crashes meant that the grid had a strangely unfamiliar look. Three satellite riders on the two front rows, and two riders universally acknowledged to have the strongest pace well down the field.
At least they weren't crashing in Turn 11. With the sun out, the asphalt significantly warmer, and with riders having learned the hard way that they need to get the line right through that viciously fast corner, riders were instead finding different ways to crash. Andrea Iannone went down unexpectedly at Turn 1. Jorge Lorenzo hit the deck at Turn 8, then again at Turn 1, bringing his crash total for the weekend to three.
John Laverty is a former professional motorcycle racer, who raced three seasons in BSB. He is currently manager and rider coach to his brother Eugene Laverty, racing for the Aspar Ducati team in MotoGP. John acts as a track spotter for Eugene, checking what he sees on track from Eugene and other riders, and providing feedback to help the Aspar Ducati rider go faster. John will be contributing his insights into the things he sees at each track on a regular basis.
The Sachsenring circuit presents unique challenges for riders. For Eugene Laverty, it was the final sector, and the section between the two final corners. That was where John Laverty took me to start our brief tour of the German circuit, to see where he could help Eugene to improve and go faster.
John was looking at the body position of the riders, and in particular, the gap between the rider's backside and the back of the seat. "If you look at Rossi, he's right forward," John said. "And this is what I'm telling Eugene, he's sitting much further back. I know he's doing the right thing to try to keep rear contact, but I feel he is doing a lot on track to try to correct faults in the engine braking and chassis set up, which need to be sorted off track by the crew. They can adjust the bike settings to cure the problems."
He produced a handheld video camera, to film Eugene and other riders from the side, to show to Eugene later. This is something a lot of rider coaches do, though they use it only sparingly, often using the official footage.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Sachsenring:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class at Sachsenring:
The riders used the last practice session to chase a potentially useless dry set-up but also to practice some bike swaps in case of a flag-to-flag challenge in tomorrow’s race. The Ducati of Andrea Iannone took its rightful place at the top of the standings as Marc Marquez literally wiggled his way into second with Dani Pedrosa in third, a thousand of a second off his teammate’s time. Maverick Viñales kept close in fourth, in front of a more determined Andrea Dovizioso.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at Sachsenring:
Moto2 times were much quicker to fall than their MotoGP counterparts but the timesheets didn’t spring any major surprises. Thomas Luthi climbed to the top early on, with Takaaki Nakagami keeping close. As close as 0.012. They were undisturbed for the rest of the session, although Simone Corsi had a late attempt to overturn the hierarchy, eventually settling for third.
Forward’s Lorenzo Baldassarri was a major improver in fourth, upping his Friday time by over a second and a half and consistently threatening the top three. Jonas Folger ended up fifth while birthday boy Johann Zarco in sixth will be hoping for a better present during the qualifying session.