Press releases from the MotoGP teams from Saturday at Qatar:
Stoner sets scorching pole position for the Qatar Grand Prix
Round 1: Qatar GP – Qualifying
Losail International Circuit, Saturday 19 March 2011
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium, Extra Hard. Rear: Medium, Hard
During the hour-long qualifying session at the Losail circuit this evening it was once again Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa who dominated the session, with the Australian finishing fastest with a stunning lap to secure pole position for tomorrow's season-opening grand prix.
The outright pole position record at Losail was set in 2008 by Jorge Lorenzo, with a time of 1m 53.927s. That was on qualifying tyres in an era before single tyre supply when extra-soft compounds were made for maximum grip over just a few qualifying laps. Stoner's pole time today was just over 0.2seconds slower but crucially was set on race tyres designed to perform over 22 laps of this circuit, giving an indication of his pace today. There are no qualifying tyres in the era of single tyre supply.
Pedrosa and Yamaha Factory Racing's Jorge Lorenzo complete tomorrow's front row of the grid, and like Stoner they too set their best times using Bridgestone's harder option front and softer option rear slick tyres.
The top four riders all dipped into the 1m 54second bracket and, impressively, the top five riders, including Marco Simoncelli and Ben Spies, all lapped faster than the existing lap record.
Towards the end of the session the laptimes started tumbling as riders opted for the softer option rear slicks. After a day of the warmest weather since the test started last weekend, the track was in good condition today and a lot cleaner which was a factor in the fast pace and more riders being able to get the softer rear tyre working well.
Hirohide Hamashima – Director, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development
"The pace we saw at the front today is very impressive so I must congratulate in particular Casey and the Repsol Honda Team. To be so close to the outright pole record using race tyres is very impressive, and I am very pleased with tyre performance today. We have seen this weekend that the extra hard front slick tyre will be the choice for almost every rider for the race, and also the hard rear tyre will be favoured for its extra durability. The circuit was cleaner today which helped tyre performance, particularly with the softer rear with which we experienced less graining today. If today's pace is anything to go by, I am confident of setting our first new lap record of 2011 tomorrow."
Lorenzo Steals the Front Row for Qatar
Yamaha Factory Racing rider Jorge Lorenzo reminded everyone why he's the reigning World Champion this evening in the first qualifying session of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship. The blisteringly quick session saw the fastest riders breaking further and further into the 1'54s as the clock counted down. With just a handful of minutes to go the Mallorcan put the hammer down, delivering a 1'54.947 on his 23rd lap to secure a front row start with third place on the grid.
Lorenzo's team mate Spies was also sending out a clear message on the time sheets. The Texan gradually worked his way down the 1.55s and was threatening to follow his team mate into the 1.54s until a small mistake costing a tenth of a second resulted in a best time of 1'55.095, just 0.148 of a second off the front row. As a result he will start mid second row in fifth for the opening race of the season under the floodlights tomorrow night.
Position : 3rd Time: 1'54.947 Laps: 26
There were some really impressive lap times out there tonight in the session. We are still quite far behind the front but our goal is to finish on the podium and that is in my mind for tomorrow. My race pace is pretty good; I think I can keep running 1'55.7s or maybe 1'55.8s. We will finalise our set up in warm up and try to achieve that tomorrow.
Position : 5th Time: 1'55.095 Laps: 26
It was actually better to be fifth than fourth for grid position although I'd have liked to be on the front row! It wasn't a perfect session, I didn't nail a perfect lap time but you rarely do. I don't think we were too far off the maximum, maybe there were two tenths left in the bike and that's it. It's not so bad though, we have a good package to battle for the podium tomorrow. I did the best I could so not a bad start to the year.
A very hot qualifying session, we're happy to be near the front with both riders. Jorge is top three but very close in the times with fourth, fifth and sixth so it will be a tough race tomorrow. He feels ok with the bike and lap times were good. We're going to focus on tomorrow now, it's going to be a long hard race!
We will start the race in good positions with both riders, the race pace of both of them was very good so we are ready to go out there. Ben is quite satisfied with his bike set up, he made a small mistake and lost at least one tenth on his fast lap but he said the bike was working well with a used tyre so we have confidence for tomorrow. We will confirm the last details in warm up to be as good as possible for the race.
FOURTH AND FIFTH ROW FOR RANDY DE PUNIET AND LORIS CAPIROSSI IN THE GRAND PRIX OF QATAR
After the promising results of yesterday there is a bit of disappointment inside the box of the Pramac Racing Team. Randy De Puniet, who had finished in ninth place yesterday, had to settle for eleventh place, which earned him the fourth row in the Qatar Grand Prix scheduled for tomorrow evening at 10pm local time. The Frenchman, however, has reported a good race pace and remains confident. His teammate was not able to regain the confidence of yesterday fighting with gritted teeth and managed to locate in fifth row three positions behind the French rider.
Marco Rigamonti – Randy De Puniet Track Engineer
"We'll see how the track conditions will be tomorrow because even today, with the track temperature a few degrees higher, the bike had more grip and all the riders have improved significantly. The pace is certainly very good, too bad only in the last three rounds where Randy has had some complications with the front tire. However we remain very confident for tomorrow's race."
Randy De Puniet - Pramac Racing rider – 11th best lap time in 1'55.656
"I am a bit 'disappointed with qualifying today. We had a good strategy in mind having three sets of soft tires available, but at the end of the session when it was time to make the fast lap time something went wrong. During the session we have made some changes on the front to have more confidence in corners and this will allow me to be consistent in the race tomorrow. Unfortunately the last time out the front tire was not performing as in previous trials and I was limited. A minimum target point for me was the third row, but unfortunately we did not make it. Tomorrow will be very important to start well so we can stick to the leading group from the firsts laps."
Loris Capirossi – Pramac Racing rider – 14th best lap time in 1'56.323
"With today's higher temperatures we have lost the feeling found yesterday. We had some complications with the tires and the front of the bike. When I come out of the corners I can not open the throttle as I want because the bike slides a bit. We will work hard to improve. Tomorrow will be important to start in the clean side of the track because where we do not usually pass there is a little bit of sand and the bike slide a bit. Anyway as always I will give my best."
Stoner and Pedrosa complete Repsol Honda 1-2 in Qualifying
The first qualifying session of the 2011 Championship took place in Qatar this evening with Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa occupying the top two positions on the grid.
The Repsol Honda riders spent much of the early part of the session exchanging fastest laps and were the only two riders to break into the low 1'54s. Stoner's pole time of 1'54.137 was almost a second quicker than his own Pole Position set here in 2010. Pedrosa took second place with a time of 1'54.342 and Jorge Lorenzo completed the front row of the grid for tomorrow's race. Andrea Dovizioso qualified in 7th position after finding some traffic on track during his flying laps. However, he is confident he can fight for a podium in tomorrow night's race.
CASEY STONER – 1st - 1'54.137
"We can't ask for a much better weekend, everything has gone well and the team have made all the right steps and gradually improved the bike as the weekend progressed. Tonight I was able to achieve good, consistent lap times again on the hard tyre and this is important for the race tomorrow. As ever, we will keep our feet on the ground as we've had good starts to seasons in the past and then they haven't played out as expected, we just need to keep working and ensure that we continue to progress. We've done all our homework and the best job possible, now I just want to get the season started".
DANI PEDROSA – 2nd - 1'54.342
"The weekend has been very good for us so far, I've been running at the top in every session and I'm very happy to be on the front row in Losail for the first time; this is a big improvement for me. Nevertheless, we have to focus on the race, Casey is running very fast, also Lorenzo is improving very quickly, so we have to focus making no mistakes tomorrow. I don't know yet if the race will be a fight between Casey and myself. We've never run at 10:00 pm, so I hope the bike works well after 125 cc and Moto2 races. I want to prepare as best as possible for tomorrow and be ready to be consistent for 22 laps. The race will be fast, I guess, so we will need to maintain a high pace. I hope I will be able to do it and fight for the victory".
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 7th - 1'55.229
"I'm disappointed with the third row, I need to improve the use of the soft tyre for a better qualifying. The positive point is that we have a good pace to fight for a podium spot, this is our target tomorrow. We will work during the warm up to improve the set up to get more stability at the beginning of the braking and I hope to gain more confidence and find a good stability in the front. For the race it will be very important to have a good start and arrive at turn 1 close to the first riders. It is impossible to catch Casey, I will try to maintain contact with Dani, Lorenzo and Spies. It's important to start the season with a good result and I will give everything in the race".
Crutchlow dazzles in Qatar qualifying
MotoGP Rookie Cal Crutchlow lit up the Losail International Circuit in Qatar tonight with a stunning debut qualifying performance.
The British rider lapped faster than nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi and a host of more experienced riders to produce the performance of the night on board the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine.
Crutchlow built up his confidence and speed throughout tonight's session, the big progress he's made in mastering the braking technique in MotoGP evident with fast and consistent pace.
He made major steps in improving front-end feel in the fast sections of the 5.38km Doha circuit and finished less than 0.5s away from the top si x, despite still riding in constant pain from the nasty left finger injury he suffered in a testing crash on Monday night. He was a massive 2.2s faster than his best pace at the two-night test earlier this week and he's confident he can fight for a top ten finish in his MotoGP debut tomorrow night.
Colin Edwards will kick off his ninth premier class campaign from 10th position, the experienced American finishing just over 0.060s behind Crutchlow.
Edwards was happy with his performance on the hard compound Bridgestone rear tyre he will use in the 22-lap race tomorrow night. But he was unable to significantly improve his pace on the soft tyre on his way to clocking a best time of 1.55.647
Cal Crutchlow 8th 1.55.578 – 23 laps:
"It feels great to have qualified eighth when you look at the ca libre and record of some of the guys behind me, but I'm not going to be getting ahead of myself. It is just a shame it is not the four-rider per row formation because that would be a second row! But to be on the third row, I'm happy enough with that. A qualifying session like that is not like Superpole in World Superbikes at all. I'm normally used to the intense pressure and being hyped up for one lap, so to have an hour where you build up pace a bit slower felt a bit strange. But I'm really happy and my fastest lap wasn't a perfect one. I made a couple of mistakes but I think that's because I'm having a small issue with the front-end in the fast corners. But I still managed a 55.5 and I never would have imagined doing that pace a few days ago at the test when I was doing high 57s. I'm not going to make a prediction for the race. I'd be happy to get a few points and have a strong race. It will be tough to finish where I've qualified but with the help of my Monster Yamaha Tec h 3 crew, it has been a really positive weekend so far."
Colin Edwards 10th 1.55.647 – 24 laps:
"I definitely feel like I'm riding a lot better than tenth position, but that shows how competitive MotoGP is this year. As good as I'm riding, I feel like I should have been on the second row because all week I've been around sixth and seventh position. I just wasn't able to lap as fast as I needed to be on the soft tyre. It looks a bit like last year in that when the Honda has a soft tyre in they can drop the lap time by a big chunk. We improve but not by a big margin and that's something we need to work on in the future. But I'm really confident with the hard rear tyre and we've got the bike working great in race trim. I'm fast and consistent but I couldn't do anything more, I'm definitely getting the most of the bike."
ELIAS STILL SEARCHING FOR RIGHT FEELING AT LOSAIL TRACK
Losail, 19 March: the qualifying session at the opening round of 2011 season concluded at 20:55 local time with Stoner the quickest MotoGP rider under the floodlights of Losail International circuit. The 16 premier class riders (Bautista suffered a broken leg femur yesterday), who will line up on the grid tomorrow at 22:00 local time for the first 22-lap round of the season, have experienced good grip conditions in the 60-minute night session with air temperature of 20 degrees.
LCR Honda MotoGP rider Toni Elias could not find the right pace on soft tyres at the 5.380km track posting the 16th lap time of the day (1'57.992) on lap 20 of 23. Despite many changes on his RC212V the Spaniard is not capable to lap as he would like facing big issues on corner exit and braking.
Elias: "Basically we have tried different chassis geometries and different suspension but whatever we tried we get stocked on the same lap time and this is very frustrating for me. We are struggling a lot... more than I was expecting but we still have 20 minutes tomorrow to adjust the bike. I want to thank the Team for their good job and I will continue to my best".
SIMONCELLI JUST 0.041 SECONDS OFF THE FRONT ROW
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli missed out on a front row start in tomorrow's season-opening Grand Prix by just 0.041 seconds tonight, qualifying fourth fastest at Losail. However, Super Sic was delighted to have made significant improvements to his performance yesterday and is confident for the race, even though he still has some issues with fuel consumption due to his size and weight. His team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama qualified twelfth fastest but his race pace has been fast and consistent and he is also confident of a good showing tomorrow.
Marco Simoncelli (4th 1' 54" 988) "Today went well and I am happy because after the two sessions yesterday I didn't think fourth place would be possible. We made a few small modifications this evening and found a better race setting, then on my qualifying lap I pushed really hard and only missed out on the front row by 0.041 seconds. It's a shame. I am still concerned about fuel consumption but we have some more changes to make before the race. Still, starting so close the the front is an advantage and the other bikes will be burning fuel too! The front two are really strong and it's a closed shop between them but the rest of us have a battle on for a top position."
Hiroshi Aoyama (12th 1' 55" 724) "The grid position isn't fantastic but in race trim I feel ready.I would have obviously liked to start closer to the front but I am still pretty confident about tomorrow night. Unfortunately there was a lot of traffic out there at the end of the session and I couldn't improve but I am looking forward to a good race and a good result."
Fausto Gresini "I have to say I didn't expect these lap times, everybody has gone very fast tonight and all we can do is go even harder! I am really happy for Marco and pleased with his excellent performance. A second row start is very important for him. It hasn't been an easy weekend but compared to yesterday he made a lot of progress, thanks to the focus of the team. Looking at the lap time Aoyama seems to be in trouble but that is not the case – his race pace is good and I am confident of his chances tomorrow in the race too."
Alberto Vitaloni (PRESIDENTE SAN CARLO GROUP) "It is a wonderful evening – one we have been waiting for a long time and I am really happy. Qualifying on the second row is a fantastic feeling and I am extremely excited about it."
THIRD ROW FOR ROSSI IN QATAR, HAYDEN THIRTEENTH
Valentino Rossi will start on the third row of the grid tomorrow in the Grand Prix of Qatar, while his teammate, Nicky Hayden, will have to try and work his way forward from the fifth row, with an error in the final split of what would have been his best lap preventing him from improving his time.
Nonetheless, the Italian rider said he is satisfied with the progress made with the setup of his GP11, and he hopes that his still-healing shoulder will permit him to maintain a good pace until the end of tomorrow's 22-lap race, a distance that he still hasn't completed in one run since his operation in November.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) 9th, 1:55.637
"I think that without my shoulder problem, which is causing us to lose five or six tenths, we could have been on the second row today, because we were able to improve the setup by making changes that will also be important in the foreseeable future. Today I was able to ride the GP11 better, but by the time we used the soft tyre at the end of the session, my strength was gone. When I tried to do my lap time, there were some parts of the track where I just couldn't push. Anyway, we got an okay time and we still have some things we can try in the warm-up. As for the race I think that as long as my shoulder lasts, we'll be able to have a pace that's relatively competitive, apart from the two Hondas. We'll see how it goes from a physical point of view in the second half of the race, after eleven or twelve laps in a row riding on the limit."
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team) 13th, 1:55.881
"It was pretty much the same way that it has been all weekend. I just clearly wasn't fast enough. We tried something toward the start of the session that was very similar to last year's setup, but it didn't work. I got back on my other bike and had one decent lap going, but I made a mistake in the last corner. Most of the weekend I've been able to go just as fast on used hard tyres, but that wasn't the case tonight, even though the temperature is warmer. I thought my best lap might get me out of trouble a little bit, because it was the first time since we got rid of qualifying tyres that I got into the 55s around here, but it wasn't nearly good enough this year. We've known since the tests in Malaysia that everybody has made a big step. It's been a frustrating weekend, and it won't be easy tomorrow starting from way back, but we're not ready to go home yet."
BARBERÁ SIXTH FASTEST AND HIGHEST PLACED DUCATI ON THE GRID
MAPFRE Aspar rider for strong start to season after taking a second off best time from yesterday
The MotoGP class had just one practice session to contend this evening but it was the most important one ahead of the race, as grid positions were decided and the first pole of the season was contested. The absence of Alvaro Bautista, injured yesterday, was felt keenly amongst his colleagues. An open battle for provisional pole took place at the start of the session but the weekend's standout riders Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa confirmed their form at the end, the Australian sealing the front spot on the grid ahead of his team-mate.
MAPFRE Aspar rider Héctor Barberá continued on an upward curve and he is keen to confirm his excellent start to the new campaign in tomorrow's race. Héctor was matching his best times from yesterday just fifteen minutes into this evening's session, making only minor changes to his bike. With four minutes left an effort of 1'55.223 improved his best lap from yesterday by a second and sealed a second row start for the opening race of the 2011 campaign. As he has been every day so far at this Grand Prix the Spaniard was the fastest Ducati rider on track and heading the top speed chart (329.8km/h).
6th Héctor Barberá 1.55.223 (25 laps): "I am really happy because at the first round of the season I have already equalled my best grid from the whole of last year. We are pretty close to third place and after a long and hard winter, wth all the sacrifices we have to make, it has all been worthwhile. We have done well in each session so far but the only one that counts is tomorrow. Our race pace is in the low 1'56s and all being well tomorrow that should see us inside the top eight, which would be a good result. I think I have a great bike and we are ready. The only doubt is over tyre choice but we'll probably go for the harder option. I guess there'll be a group from fourth place down to ninth and I hope to be in it. We will need to make a strong start and push hard for the first few laps to stay in there."