Dani Pedrosa

2009 Mugello MotoGP Qualifying Report

Qualifying for the MotoGP class at Mugello took place under a hot Tuscan sun, the weekend continuing as it started yesterday. And just like yesterday afternoon, it was Valentino Rossi taking an early lead, cracking under the race lap record and into the 1'49s on just his 3rd lap. Rossi had been goaded into action after the morning session in which Casey Stoner once again did what he does best, which is to start fast and never let up, the Australian setting an astonishing 1'49.323 in the second session of free practice. So by laying down the law early in qualifying, Valentino Rossi set out his stall, making it clear to all what it would take to beat him.

For the first half of qualifying, the only man capable of getting close to Rossi was his team mate Jorge Lorenzo. Both Fiat Yamaha men spent the first 30 minutes doing long runs and race simulations, the pair of them putting in terrifyingly consistent runs in the mid to high 1'49s, setting the pace that will be needed for victory at Mugello on Sunday. Only Colin Edwards looked capable of approaching the pace of the Fiat Yamahas, the Texan demonstrating that the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha is very close to the factory bikes in performance.

The halfway point of the session came and went, and the wait began for the first real challenge to Rossi's dominance. The expectation was that it would come from Casey Stoner, as Stoner's time from the morning session was still nearly half a second quicker than Rossi's provisional pole session, but the Australian was having problems with the Ducati, spending time diving in and out of the pits to adjust the bike, and get the machine to turn.

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2009 Le Mans MotoGP Qualifying Report

After rain had cut short both of the first sessions of free practice, now restored to a full hour for the first time this season, the qualifying practice session for MotoGP looked set to run without any interruptions from the weather. The track had just about dried out after the morning rain, the 125cc bikes having cleared most of the water from the track.

As the riders hit the track to work on both their setup and their grid position, one man was missing: Sete Gibernau, who had had a big highside in the morning session of free practice, was on a plane home to Barcelona for treatment on the fractured collarbone he had suffered in the incident. Gibernau was examined and found to have a single fracture, rather than the double fracture that was feared, and the Spaniard is due to have a titanium plate fitted to stabilize the bone, just 6 months after having the previous one removed.

Of the remaining 17 riders to try their luck, it was Andrea Dovizioso who set the first serious time, breaking into the 1'35s with less than 10 minutes of the session gone. Dovi's time was quickly bettered by Casey Stoner, then Mika Kallio and Valentino Rossi taking turns at chipping away at the time, before Stoner took to the track once more and sliced over half a second off the best time so far with a lap of 1'35.183.

Le Mans is a Yamaha track, though, and a couple of minutes later, with well over half the session left, Colin Edwards set about demonstrating this point quite forcefully, setting a string of fast laps to take the provisional pole time down to 1'34.636, rapidly approaching the lap record set with race tires. The Tech 3 Yamaha rider's times made him the only man to break the 1'35 barrier, and giving him a clear lead for some time to come, while Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and Chris Vermeulen all tried, but came up short.

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Repsol "Not Currently Investigating" Lorenzo As Successor To Repsol

For months now, rumors have swirled around the MotoGP paddock about Dani Pedrosa's future at Repsol Honda. According to the gossips, Pedrosa had been issued with an ultimatum: win the championship this season, or look elsewhere for a ride. With both Pedrosa's contract with Honda and Repsol's contract to sponsor the factory HRC team up at the end of the season, the rumors looked fairly credible.

To investigate just how much truth there was to such talk, Manuel Pecino of the respected Spanish magazine Solo Moto spoke to Repsol's new corporate director of sponsorship, Begona Elices at Jerez. Elices was very clear about Repsol's goals and expectations, and the reason they spend so much money on MotoGP. "Our priority is to be world champion," Elices told Solo Moto.

Repsol are also behind Dani Pedrosa, but Elices' support for the Spaniard was not quite wholehearted. "Dani has done what could be expected of him. In this respect, we are happy with him, but we have to keep moving forward. Our demand is that we have to keep giving the maximum." Elices also made it clear where Repsol thought the problems lie, telling Solo Moto "Our focus is on improving the competitiveness of the bike. We have to listen to Pedrosa, he's an experienced rider who we believe is capable of providing the information necessary to develop a winning machine. Our primary objective is to be fighting for victory."

As for the rumors about Repsol getting Jorge Lorenzo in to replace Pedrosa, Elices dismissed them, but once again, left room for interpretation: "That is not a scenario were are currently examining."

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Lorenzo: "The First Idea Is To Stay With Yamaha"

Jorge Lorenzo is a wanted man. The Spaniard made a devastating entry into the MotoGP class in 2008, and his 2009 season is looking even stronger. Lorenzo leads the championship - though with only two races gone - and is on pole for his home Grand Prix. Alongside his indisputable talent, his showmanship and maturity also make him very popular with sponsors. Jorge Lorenzo certainly offers an outstanding return on investment.

So it is no surprise that Lorenzo is being pursued by a number of parties. First and foremost of those is his current team, the factory Fiat Yamaha outfit led by Lin Jarvis. Lorenzo today admitted to reporters that he has had talks this weekend about extending his contract, and that his first priority is to remain with the team. Lorenzo told reporters that both the bike and the atmosphere in the team were excellent, and offered him a chance to be competitive.

But Lorenzo also hinted that Yamaha was not his only option. "When you are fast, all the people want you," he said, seeming to substantiate rumors he has been approached by other teams. Rumors have emerged that Repsol is keen to sign Lorenzo with the factory Honda squad, as the Spanish oil giant is determined to find another Spanish World Champion to follow Alex Criville, who won the title in 1999. They are reported to be losing patience with current Repsol Honda front man Dani Pedrosa, after Pedrosa has failed to provide them with a title in the three seasons he has had with the factory team.

Pedrosa has declined to comment on his own future, though according to Autosport.com, he did let slip that "There may be other makes," should he ever leave Honda. Previously, Pedrosa has refused to speculate on a future outside Honda, and so these comments could possibly be regarded as the first tacit acknowledgement that his place at the Repsol team is no longer safe.

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2009 Jerez MotoGP Qualifying Report

Going into Saturday afternoon's MotoGP qualifying session at Jerez, it was unusually hard to say who was likely to take pole. At Qatar, Casey Stoner had destroyed all-comers, and had also dominated the IRTA test here a month ago. But after two sessions of free practice, any of five men looked possible candidates for pole position. Valentino Rossi had utterly dominated Friday's free practice session, with Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner some way behind, but Saturday morning was a different kettle of fish. In FP2, it was local heroes Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo who blasted the opposition, with Casey Stoner once again forced to settle for 3rd.

And as the green lights went and the riders rolled out of pit lane and onto the track, it was the two Spaniards who quickly made the early running. Lorenzo took the first shot at pole, but Dani Pedrosa soon took it away from the Mallorcan with a much more serious attempt in the low 1'40 bracket. With times in free practice regularly hitting the mid 1'39s, it was clear that there was plenty left to go.

With so much of practice already scrapped as part of the cost savings measures, the first half of qualifying was set further refining race setup, the teams looking for settings that will work with the hard tires they expect to use in the race. But as the clock ticked down past the 20 minutes to go mark, riders started to sling on the softer of the two compounds available and chase grid positions for the race on Sunday.

As a reminder of what we lost when we lost the special qualifying tires, Randy de Puniet made some of the early running, quickly getting up into 2nd, and then losing out in the final section after registering blazing times through the first three parts of the track. But it wasn't until the 15 minutes to go mark had passed that qualifying began in earnest.

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A Change Of Heart At Honda - It's Honda's Fault If Pedrosa Doesn't Win

Pity poor Honda. The company has formed the backbone of the MotoGP class - and the 500cc two strokes before that - since the mid-1990s. Without the 6 bikes that HRC puts on the grid year on year, MotoGP would be in a very difficult place. And yet still the company continues to be the target of a barrage of abuse and vituperation on message boards and fan sites around the world. How could this be?

Ask any MotoGP fan and they will tell you that it is Honda which has driven the decisions which - from a fan's perspective - have ruined MotoGP. It was Honda that killed the 990s and demanded the switch to 800cc, a move which took a lot of the spectacle out of the racing, and it was Honda that killed off the two-strokes in the 250 class, and demanded their replacement with the Moto2 series. Whether there is any truth in these assertions is irrelevant, that is the way that the fans see it, and that image is hard to shake off.

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Lorenzo Linked To Repsol Honda For 2010

Rumors that this is Dani Pedrosa's make-or-break year at Repsol Honda have haunted the MotoGP paddock since Pedrosa not only failed to win the championship last year, but even finished a placer lower at the end of the 2008 season than he had in 2007. It is said that Repsol, the Spanish petroleum giant that funds a large part of the factory team's budget, is growing impatient at the lack of a Spanish world champion which they can use to sell to their home market, and if Pedrosa doesn't deliver this season, Repsol could look elsewhere.

So far, much of the speculation surrounding Pedrosa's potential replacement has centered on Alvaro Bautista, the genial 250cc title candidate regarded as both highly talented and very media friendly. Bautista is helped by the fact that he seems to have a smile permanently fixed to his face, a much more attractive prospect for sponsors to use than the stern countenance Dani Pedrosa usually shows to the world.

There are two serious impediments to this possibility however. One is proposed "rookie rule" which would prevent riders new to the MotoGP class from going straight to a factory team. The rule, designed to help satellite teams secure talent and sponsors, would prevent riders such as Bautista, Marco Simoncelli and Ben Spies joining a factory team without first spending an apprenticeship year at a satellite or junior team, and would rule out Bautista joining the Repsol Honda squad if he moved to MotoGP in 2010.

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Qatar MotoGP Race Rescheduled To Monday 9pm Local, But Riders Displeased

As news, rumor and speculation seep out from Qatar, with news stories contradicting each other appearing almost every minute or so, there is only one thing that we know for sure about the 2009 MotoGP Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail: That it wasn't run at its scheduled time. The latest state of affairs is that the race is to be run on Monday, at 9pm local time - though by the time you read this, that may have changed.

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Danny Webb Pre-Race Interview

MotoGPMatters.com spoke to De Graaf Grand Prix rider Danny Webb a few minutes before he went out for the last 125cc practice session. Webb has a factory-spec Aprilia RSA bike to race this year, but the team have struggled with set up at the front end so far. 

Danny Webb, Qatar, 125cc De Graaf Grand Prix

MGPM: So we have thunder and lightning in the distance and there’s no telling what the next few hours will bring. How are you feeling about tonight? 

Webb: Yeah, it’s not looking too good at the moment, is it? Sounds like they’re going to cancel it if the weather’s not good enough. But at the moment it’s not raining, so that’s the main thing. I’m still not sure about the thunder and lightning… (Laughs)

MGPM: How did qualifying go for you yesterday? 

Webb: We had an okay qualifying but we’re having big problem with the bike’s chassis. Hopefully we’re going to be up in the top five, battling for podiums. But at the moment with the chassis as it is, that’s not really possible.  

MGPM: The rest of the bike is good? 

Webb: Yeah, yeah, the engine’s perfect. We’ve got one of the quickest engines out there, but the problem is just getting it round the corners. So we’re having big, big problems with the chassis, and we have something to try to fix that, but we’re not going to try it until Japan. Obviously we don’t have any time to do it before the race tonight. So we’ll try to fix the chassis in Japan, and if it works, great, and if not, we’ll be pretty stuck.  

MGPM: So tonight you’ll just do the best with what you have? 

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2009 Qatar MotoGP Qualifying Report - The Grid Is The Race

Changing the way that Qualifying works is apparently the latest fashion in motorcycle racing. The World Superbike series did it by dropping the old single-lap Superpole format, and adopting a series of three knockout sessions, shameless copied from Formula One. MotoGP would protest that it has changed its qualifying format - though cost-cutting measures have reduced the length of qualifying from an hour to just 45 minutes - but the adoption of the single tire rule and the disappearance of full-on one-lap qualifying tires left MotoGP followers wondering just how this would affect the way the teams and riders approached Qualifying.

As the session started, at least one thing remained unchanged. Within a few minutes of the green lights, and on his first couple of laps out of the pits, Casey Stoner was laying down a blistering pace. The 2007 World Champion had cracked into the 1'56 bracket, and by his fourth lap, came within 0.009 of equaling the fastest time of the weekend, set by none other than Casey Stoner. The Marlboro Ducati rider was setting the bar for the rest of the field.

Though no one could directly challenge Stoner, he did not enjoy his huge (over a second) advantage for long. Within a few minutes, Valentino Rossi had jumped up to second fastest, just over 3/10ths of a second behind the Australian. Stoner did not wait long to respond: Six minutes later, the Australian was back out on track and cracking another barrier, into the 1'55s, extending his lead to over a second again with a lap of 1'55.504.

Behind Rossi, the fight for third was hotting up, with first Loris Capirossi taking the last front row spot, then Colin Edwards, before Andrea Dovizioso also got involved. Dovi held the spot for five more minutes, before Jorge Lorenzo confirmed his strong form at Qatar by blitzing a lap just short of Rossi's second place time.

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