Frenetic, electric, high-octane, tense and down to the absolute wire: that was qualifying for the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley. And as the yellow haze clears, it’s Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) who’ll be starting from pole, the ‘Doctor’ putting in an electric 1:46.203 to take to the top and master the stunning Autodromo del Mugello once again. Sometimes, there really is no place like home.
Valentino Rossi – P1
“It gave a great emotion, especially facing the crowd the lap after the pole was fantastic. It‘s great, because it‘s also a surprise. This year in qualifying I always suffered, but today the lap was great and I thought it would be enough for the front row, but in the end it was pole position. It‘s been a long time since I was on pole, so it‘s important and it’s a great feeling. I think tomorrow will be more difficult, but for sure I‘m enjoying this moment.”
Starting alongside the number 46 is the other man with a comparable winning record at the track – Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team); also the rider whose 65 career poles Rossi equals, with the two now equal second of all time. And that stat was on a knife edge, with the number 99 only 0.035 off pole.
Lorenzo has also taken the holeshot in both Jerez and Le Mans, but it won’t just be Rossi he’s fighting into San Donato once the lights go out at Mugello – the Ducati rider splits the Yamahas, with Q1 graduate Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completing the front row after an impressive Q2.
Jorge Lorenzo – P2
“I’m very pleased with this second position, but above all with the positive feelings I’ve had ever since I arrived at Mugello. I just missed out on my first pole position with Ducati by a few thousandths, but in any case I’m satisfied with the work that we’ve done and I think the new fuel tank is helping me a lot to make the difference. For tomorrow the important thing will be the choice of front tyre, which at this circuit and in this heat, suffers a lot, and it’ll be a hard-fought race because there are many riders with a good pace. The most important thing however is that we can be there and fight for the win!”
Maverick Vinales – P3
“After yesterday, I was hoping for a better day, but it‘s not about how the day starts it‘s about how it ends. I think we did a good job in the box. We followed the wrong direction this morning and got a bit lost. It was difficult to keep my concentration and remain positive, but I kept on fighting and I will continue to keep pushing, as always, and we‘ll see. I think we can improve the bike for tomorrow in some areas. At the moment we‘re on a good level to make one fast lap, let‘s see if we can do the same throughout the race.”
The home hero who had led the way for much of the weekend so far was the man to just miss out on the front row, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) taking P4 and just shuffled out in the incredible hot lap shootout.
Andrea Iannone – P4
“For sure I have a really good chance for tomorrow, during the race we will be racing close together and I expect that I might lose out a bit on top speed, so it could be difficult. During qualifying I made a mistake in Turn 1 which cost me, and I was losing time there, I thought I could be on the front row but we can still be competitive tomorrow with strong pace. We will aim for a good start, good tyre management, and good conservation of energy so that we can push at the end and give all. The fans give me a lot of extra motivation and energy! The last five laps will be tough, but my feeling with the bike is really good and I hope I can take a good result away from my home GP.”
Iannone was just ahead of top Independent Team rider Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), a podium finisher at the venue last year, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) down in sixth.
Danilo Petrucci – P5
“The front row was maybe possible but I’m happy anyway. Our target was the first or second row so we managed to get the result. Tomorrow will not be easy because the competition is very fierce. However, we’re doing a great job and I’m sure we can play it”.
On one attempt, Marquez had been almost half a second up by halfway round the lap but it wasn’t to be. Losing time, the Championship leader wasn’t able to put it all together and push himself up the order – despite an impressive save around the final corner in classic self-named style. He’s in good company, however, with key rival and 2017 Mugello winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in seventh and less than a tenth off.
Marc Marquez – P6
“I’m happy with today, even if we’ll start sixth tomorrow, as I wasn’t able to put together the best lap. Actually, I was doing a very fast one during my second exit but then I made a mistake. Here, we have a tyre allocation that’s a bit too soft for us and that’s why we struggle a bit, especially in the afternoon, when the temperature is higher. In qualifying we ran out of the front spec option I prefer, and when I started pushing hard I overheated the front in the space of three corners. I had to be really smooth. We’ll see what conditions we’ll have tomorrow, but in any case we’ll have to adapt to them as well as possible and try and get some good points.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P7
“I’m satisfied with today: yesterday unfortunately we didn’t manage to work well and as a result this morning we started behind quite a lot. In the end however we were able to get inside the top 10 and go through directly into Q2, and this afternoon we confirmed we have a good pace with the soft used tyres. We’re all rather on the limit and tomorrow I expect a race in a group, but I know that we are very fast. Also in qualifying I did a good lap, and even though I’m only seventh on the grid, I believe I have a good pace and I can’t wait to do the race.”
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) make for two more riders looking for more on Sunday as they start eight and ninth.
Johann Zarco – P9
“It has been a quite difficult day, overall. We couldn’t find the improvement we were looking for before the Qualifying and I was not able to ride well on this tricky track. In the fourth Free Practice I had a crash, which didn’t help for this afternoon. I tried to be focused, but I feel we were missing a step to be really close to the top and that’s why I couldn’t get any extra. Anyway, the race is tomorrow and I hope to keep calm and find the pace during the race to make up positions step by step. When my pace is good enough, I would like to be back in the top 5, which would be fantastic.”
The top ten is completed by Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) as he competes at the venue for the first time in the premier class, having sat out the Italian GP due to injury in his rookie year. Rins also fell heavily today.
Alex Rins – P10
“It was a fast crash and I hurt my right shoulder, so I lost a bit of strength in my shoulder during qualifying, and I need to go to the Clinica Mobile to have some checks before tomorrow. But apart from that, everything is going well. The crash was strange because I just left the pits with the new asymmetric tyre and I entered the last chicane like always but I lost the front completely. We tried the new chassis in FP2 and I feel more stability with it, I think the chassis helps me to give more. Unfortunately I crashed with this new chassis so I had to do qualifying without it. I need to find a bit more confidence on corner entry, but I hope to have a good race tomorrow.”
Second Q1 graduate Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) will be gunning for his ninth consecutive top ten result from P11 on the grid, with top rookie Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in P12 after his first automatic graduation to Q2 at his home race.
Jack Miller – P11
“If I’m honest I’m a bit disappointed with this qualifying. Unfortunately the crash of the FP3 compromised our work but I’m still happy that I didn’t hurt myself. I wasn’t able to get the most out of my tyres in qualifying and we will have to work on that. Tomorrow I want to have a good race”.
In contrasting fortunes, it’s been a tough weekend so far for former Mugello winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), who’s not yet back to fully fit and will be starting the Italian GP in P20.
Dani Pedrosa – P20
“So far we’ve had a very difficult weekend here at Mugello, constantly struggling with the lack of grip. I was never able to be fast on track. Besides that, after a crash in FP4, I couldn’t use the bike in the following Q1, and the second one had a different setup. We didn’t have time to modify it, and I wasn’t able to do a good lap. The only thing to do now is remain focused on the race and do our best tomorrow.”
MotoGP Qualifying Results
Valentino Rossi (ITA) YAMAHA 1’46.208
Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) DUCATI +0.035
Maverick Viñales (SPA) YAMAHA +0.096
2017 winner Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) carried his Saturday morning form into qualifying as the Italian shot to pole position for his home race at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, heading Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) by just 0.030. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) rounds out the front row of the grid in third, just 0.067 back from pole in an incredibly close battle at the top.
Schrötter led in the early stages, setting his fastest time on only his fourth flying lap to set the benchmark. Last year’s race winner Pasini then went quicker on his ninth lap to move the goal posts further – a time that wouldn’t be beaten, securing him pole to stake an early claim on the win. The close margins, however, bode well for Sunday, with last season having been a supreme spectacle and 2018 shaping up the same with 19 riders within eight-and-a-half tenths.
Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) had a quiet session, sitting in the garage for some time, but he’ll launch from P4 as he aims to grab a home victory. He leads fellow Italian Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2), who starts from P5 on his 250th Grand Prix start – a fantastic milestone for Corsi, who’ll be aiming for a podium finish tomorrow.
Fastest of the rookies was Romano Fenati (Marinelli Snipers Team) in front of his home crowd and the Italian was in and around the top ten throughout the session on board his Kalex machine, eventually finishing sixth quickest. Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) sealed his best qualifying of the year at his home Grand Prix in seventh, with Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40) continuing the Italian domination in the top ten – the Jerez winner recovered to eighth on his final run, despite an early fall in the session when he tucked the front at Turn 10 – rider ok.
Friday’s fastest man Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was ninth quickest, with compatriot Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) in P10 for his third top ten qualifying finish of the season. Championship contender Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had a more quiet session in P11, the first of the KTM chassis’ in qualifying and looking for more on race pace, with Le Mans comeback king Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP) in 12th.
Tetsuta Nagashima (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was a prolific figure in the top ten throughout, P13 was his best qualifying position of the season. Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) – second fastest man on Friday – had to settle for P14, while Danny Kent (MB Conveyors – Speed Up Racing) was 0.001 behind his fellow Brit in 15th.
Moto2 Qualifying Results
Mattia Pasini (ITA) KALEX 1’51.575
Marcel Schrötter (GER) KALEX +0.030
Álex Márquez (SPA) KALEX +0.067
Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) kept his awesome record in qualifying at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, taking provisional pole and then bettering that on his final run to end the session 0.190 ahead of the field. That field was headed by two equally impressive performers: Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing), who locked out the front row for Japan.
It’s the first front row start for both and with no Italians on the front row, Suzuki flies the flag for the home nation with the SIC58 Squadra Corse outfit. And, after getting tangled in a crash earlier in the day, Sasaki’s ride through the pain barrier – despite still suffering with an injury to his leg sustained in Le Mans – made for an incredible performance for the former Asia Talent Cup and Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion.
Aron Canet (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was also in close company, just 0.014 further back heading up the second row – with first Italian, Championship leader Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PrüstelGP) – 0.017 in arrears to complete the top five. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) and Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) took P6 and P7 respectively on home turf as the gaps remained incredibly tight, ahead of Adam Norrodin (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Marcos Ramirez (Bester Capital Dubai). From second to ninth is covered by just over two tenths – an incredible preview of what’s to come on race day at the venue that saw 21 riders fight for the win last season.
Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) took tenth as the third former Asia Talent Cup rider in the top ten – and he’s just ahead of compatriot and top rookie Kazuki Masaki (RBA BOE Skull Rider), the reigning Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion…and another former Asia Talent Cup competitor in an impressive day for the graduates of the Road to MotoGP™ program.
The stage is set for a showdown at Mugello, with the times incredibly tight and some big names looking to slice through from further back – including Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) in P14 and last year’s winner Andrea Migno (Angel Nieto Team) in P15.
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