Andrea Iannone delights Italian fans as Marquez provides the drama
It was a day of contrasts at the Gran Premio D’Italia as Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone sent the Italian fans at the Autodromo del Mugello into rapture as he claimed his first career MotoGP pole position in near perfect conditions, setting the fastest ever top speed recorded by a MotoGP bike in the process (350.8kph).
Iannone, riding with a fractured humerus sustained during a testing crash at the Tuscany Circuit, took advantage of the softer option tyre available to Ducati to set a 1’46.489, which was almost seven-tenths quicker than Dani Pedrosa’s pole record from 2013.
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team #29) – 1’46.489 (1st) – “I am very pleased with how things went today! For sure in my condition this result was in no way expected, but in the end me and my team did a great job and we managed to improve. For me this pole position is really important because yesterday was a difficult day, one in which I was unable to understand if the bike was improving or not. Today on the other hand we improved a lot and now I am extremely satisfied. My team was perfect and the GP15 went really well, I set the new circuit record and the new top speed record. The only problem I have at the moment is my shoulder condition, because it needs more time to get back to 100%: tomorrow will be a tough race but I will not give in.”
Countering that was the dramatic action involving the reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez, as he failed to make it through to Q2 for the first time in his career and will start Sunday’s race from the head of the fifth row in thirteenth.
Marquez struggled throughout the day, getting caught out in FP3 and finishing down in eleventh on the combined timesheets. It was only the second time the Spaniard has failed to automatically qualify for Q2, the first being at Mugello in 2013.
A crash in FP4 only compounded matters and as Marquez attempted to make it through from Q1 he set a time good enough for second on the timesheets with 2 minutes to go in the session. Thinking that the job was complete, it was then that disaster struck for him and his team. Yonny Hernandez on the Octo Pramac Racing Ducati displaced him in the final seconds, securing the Columbians progress through to Q2 at Marquez’ expense. This means that Marquez will have to start Sunday’s race from the front of the fourth row in 13th his worst ever MotoGP Qualifying performance.
Marc Marquez – 13th 1’47.240 – “We can’t be happy about today, because this was the worst qualifying result that we have had in MotoGP. Starting in the morning, we didn’t use the new tyre and that took us into Q1 -in which we had a problem that prevented us from progressing to Q2. Nevertheless, I think we have a good pace for tomorrow, although it is clear that starting from so far back we will suffer a lot. We will try to make a good start and opening few laps to get into the leading group.”
Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo will be a force to be reckoned come Sunday’s race, as he demonstrated in incredibly persistent race pace throughout Free Practice. The double MotoGP World Champion was only 0.095s behind Dovizioso in Q2 and will start from second on the grid, a feat made all the more impressive as Lorenzo does not have the softer option tyre available to him.
Jorge Lorenzo – 2nd / 1’46.584 / 6 laps – “We must be proud of our performance, because we improved the bike, which has been our goal for today. We had to improve our pace by half a second and maybe we didn’t do that but we did shave off three-tenths. Today has been a great day. We couldn’t get the pole position, but second place is great. The setting of our bike is quite good. We may be losing a little bit in speed on the straight, but on the rest of the track we are ok.”
Andrea Dovizioso followed up Iannone’s incredible pole lap by securing third on the grid, making it two Ducati GP15’s on the front row, and the team will be pushing hard for their first win since Stoner’s victory in Australia in 2010.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 1’46.610 (3rd) – “It was a great qualifying session for our team, because there are two Ducati GP15 bikes on the front row. I am very pleased with my time because doing a 1m46.6s lap in qualifying over a one-lap run at Mugello is always difficult. I had a good feeling with the bike when I did my lap, and this is very important in view of the race because it means that we have the speed to be able to fight for the leading positions. Only in the race however will we manage to see if we have worked well enough to have a constant pace for 23 laps. I want to thank all of my team because we have worked really well, improving the bike step by step throughout the weekend.”
CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow won the battle of the Satellite riders, as he once again impressed during Q2 to finish fourth fastest as the fastest Honda on the grid.
Cal Crutchlow #35, 4th – 1’46.657 – “The feeling with the bike was good today, we did a lot of laps on old used tyres and I was happy with the pace. It’s a strange situation here because it looks like the soft tyre is benefitting some riders quite a lot when it’s new, so lap times are a bit crazy, as are the positions of some riders. Overall I was happy, because I tried a hard front tyre and I was happy with that, so much so I even qualified with it. I just missed out on the front row again, but I made a small mistake which was my own fault. Actually, I expected the lap time to be even slower considering the mistake I made, so that’s positive. We just need to get away with the front guys tomorrow, and then we can look forward to a good race because the CWM LCR Honda Team have had a good weekend, and we’re working well with our package.”
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro was another rider who had to grit his teeth as he was suffering from the injury to his right thumb sustained during his Free Practice crash at Le Mans. The Spaniard sought medical advice before the day’s action, and it clearly paid off, as he will start the race from the middle of the front row.
Aleix Espargarò – “I can’t be anything else than very happy. Only a few days ago I didn’t even know if I could ride and now I’m on the second row. It’s the first time in many years that I didn’t feel like pushing at my best in qualifying, because I was worried to crash again and hurt my hand further, thus preventing us to make a positive weekend. For sure the race will be tough because it’s hard for me because I feel pain when I do more than three or four laps, but my pace is pretty good, our main objective is to get into points and to take the best out of this difficult condition.”
To top off an almost perfect day for Ducati, their test rider Michele Pirro managed to set a time good enough for sixth in Q2, and will complete the second row for Sunday’s race, the best qualifying performance from a wild card rider since Ben Spies in 2008 at Indianapolis.
Dani Pedrosa on the second Factory Repsol Honda RC213V showed he is recovering from his arm pump surgery by setting the seventh fastest time. The Spaniard will start from the head of the third row, ahead of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi.
Dani Pedrosa – 7th 1’46.875 – “Today went a little better. We were able to improve our pace, go faster and place a little higher up in the standings. We have taken a step forward with our lap time. However, the timesheet was very tight and we didn’t get a very good position on the grid so tomorrow we will need to get a good start.”
Rossi once again could not perform as he wanted during qualifying, although he wont be too disappointed to start the race from eighth on the grid, as his last two victories have both been achieved when he started from that position.
Valentino Rossi – 8th / 1’46.923 / 8 laps – “Just like previous races this season, here in Mugello the level, the speed and the lap times are a lot faster than last year. Marquez rode the lap time of the pole position last time and he’s just in thirteenth place, so it’s a big step forward. I improved a lot and my lap time was not so bad, but it wasn’t enough. It looks like the extra soft tyre worked very well, so our competitors who could use this option where very strong. All the top riders were able to improve their pace a lot, so apart from my starting position on the third row, which is not fantastic, I’m quite happy about today. We worked well on the bike and I improved my feeling and my pace. It will be a hard race, but we will see tomorrow.”
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Maverick Viñales will start the race from ninth on the grid, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro & Bradley Smith in tenth and eleventh respectively.
Maverick Viñales – “Going directly into Q2 is a good sensation for me. It’s very important for us to have found an effective set up that allowed me to constantly improve my lap times, finally getting on the third row. I feel confident with that, in the last races I’ve had to struggle to overtake riders in the middle of the pack, so maybe this time it will be easier for me to make my own pace. Of course the race will be very hard, we suffer a little on the straight, but I’m excited by how the GSX-RR behaves in the middle sectors; it is so easy in direction changes and also the braking performance is very positive. I’m very satisfied for qualifying, now I’m eager to race and see how it goes.”
Pol Espargaro – 10th / 1’47.050 / 7 laps – “After a qualifying session like today, it’s quite difficult to be positive. However, we know that we gave our maximum and we have to be satisfied with the time as well as the performance of the bike. We did the best we can, but all of the times are really tight and there are many riders in front of us who have soft tyres or other advantages, who shouldn’t be our rivals in the race. We were able to improve the issues that I had to face yesterday and the team did a great job in helping me. Our rhythm is quite promising and we are all set for tomorrow’s race. However, to start from the fourth row is not ideal because in MotoGP, it’s very important to begin the race as close to the front as possible. Nevertheless, I made the best lap that I could so I am satisfied that I gave it everything I had, yet it’s frustrating to end up in 10th. We need to do a little bit of work now as we have found something else that we must amend, yet I am confident we can solve this for tomorrow. I am ready to do my best at Mugello and I know that I need a good start and then I have to make up the places that we lost today in qualifying.”
Bradley Smith – 11th / 1’47.090 / 8 laps – “I am certain that I can score a good result in the race tomorrow, despite making things a bit difficult for myself by qualifying in 11th. With the times being so close, it was tough and I didn’t have a perfect lap around the circuit in QP2. We changed the bike quite a lot in FP4 in order to gain a good setup for the race. Yet, when you make big changes, it’s a bit of a gamble, especially for qualifying so it was difficult to extract the best that I could in such a small amount of time, which is why I am back in 11th. However, I still feel confident for the race as the setup we have now is very consistent. Usually my starts are good so tomorrow, I need to have a strong launch and then fight onwards. There’s a lot of open bikes in front of me but at the end of the day, the race is long so I simply need to try and overtake as many riders as I can throughout the race, be smart at the beginning and we will see where we can go from there.”
Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera was the leading Open class rider in fifteenth, with the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda of Scott Redding down in 17th.
Scott Redding: 17th – 1’48.120 – “I don’t know what to say because I went faster with the old tyre than I did on the new tyre and I don’t know why. There was quite a lot of traffic with everyone waiting and that’s really frustrating. Because we don’t have the soft tyre we have to push for the whole lap. The tyre didn’t work as well as I was expecting but even on my last lap, when I was on for a personal best in the first two sectors, Hernandez pulled off the track at the last corner when I was outside him and I nearly hit the back of him. It’s frustrating to be where we are because I was faster on old tyres earlier. You feel like you make steps forward and then you get pushed back again. The race will be different because it’s longer and our race pace isn’t bad but our one lap pace is still a weakness for us at the moment.”
Forward Yamaha riders Stefan Bradl and Loris Baz ended the Mugello qualifying in 16th and 18th position respectively.
A good performance by the German rider saw him clock a time of 1’48.047, just 0,069s from Barbera, the leader of the Open category. Bradl will start tomorrow from the sixth row. He has improved his time by over six tenths compared to yesterday and is confident he can fight for victory in his class.
Loris Baz, his teammate, is also satisfied. He was the best Open rider this morning in FP3 and he qualified in 18th position with a time of 1’48.133. The Frenchman has found a good feeling riding the Yamaha Forward and he is aiming at the points-zone for tomorrow.
Stefan Bradl – 16th / 1’48.047 / 7 laps – “I am satisfied with the work done so far. I have improved a lot compared to yesterday and we were able to be consistent and quick in qualifying. We lost pole by inches but I’m sure we will be able to fight for the top Open in the race. I’m happy, we changed a lot of settings of the bike and the feeling has really improved. I cannot wait to get on track tomorrow, it will be a good fight with the Ducatis here at Mugello.”
Loris Baz – 18th / 1’48.133 / 6 laps – “A good weekend is unfolding for us at Mugello. The track is really nice and we were able to find a good set up to be competitive tomorrow. We made a good step forward with the electronics and, as of today, I found more grip at the rear. I can do better cornering and we have been consistent in qualifying. Tomorrow it will be a long race, I will have to fight with the Ducatis that have proven to be very quick on the long straight”.
Jack Miller will start from the ninth row of the grid after a tough day at the office for the Australian rider. A crash in the morning practice session meant Jack was unable to regain confidence in the front feel of his bike. Nonetheless, Miller has shown on several occasions already this year that he is able to pick up positions come race-day, so he will be keen to show more of the same in the 23 lap Italian event.
Jack Miller #43 – 23rd, 1’48.572 – “I’m not happy at all with today’s qualifying result. In the morning free practice session I wasn’t feeling very comfortable, and although the lap time wasn’t too bad, but pushing on the lap after I did my best time I crashed. After that I never really recovered my confidence back in the front tyre, and despite matching my best time during qualifying, 23rd is really not where we want to be. Tomorrow is the race though, and we will try some things in warm-up to work it out and make it a bit better for the race itself. I really need some more confidence in the front, so we will see what happens.”
Nicky Hayden was today able to solve electronic problems that befell him on the opening day. The Aspar rider improved his times as well, putting in his best laps in qualifying. However, despite setting quite a strong pace, he lacked a quick lap in qualifying to move him higher up the grid. The American will take off from nineteenth, but could still believes he is capable of great result tomorrow –as he did at Le Mans.
Eugene Laverty will start from twenty-fourth position, and the Northern Irishman also managed to improve his times from yesterday. Unfortunately, he still requires a big comeback if he is to claim points at the Italian GP.
19th Nicky Hayden 1:48.298: “Fortunately today things went much better for us than yesterday afternoon. In the final practice session we were constantly in the 1.49s, but didn’t get down to 1.48. In qualifying we managed that, but it would have been desirable to have had more pace before that. I thought that with my last tyre I could have got a better time; I was confident, but when I went out there I noticed a different level of grip. At the start of my flying lap I had a big slide on the first corner, which cost me some time and a chance to get closer to the frontrunners. The bike is working properly, but something is missing and I also need to do a bit more in order to go faster. We know how high the level is in this class -as an example, today Marquez was unable to get past Q1. The race will be long and hard. Despite not having achieved a better time today, I am convinced that we can perform at a high level on raceday. We have a couple of ideas in order to become faster. The important thing is that the team have done a great job and the bike works better. Tomorrow we will have to fight hard to get a good result.”
24th Eugene Laverty 1:48.638: “After a difficult weekend, today we progressed considerably with our times. We got into the mid-1.48s means, but of course twenty-fourth position is not where we want to be. In the qualifying session, after changing the front tyres, we managed to get a slipstream from another rider; with the second tyre that was not possible and I had to ride alone. I couldn’t continue to bring down the times, and we know how important the slipstream is here. There are several blind corners and riding behind someone helps you to have references. After yesterday’s crash, it is proving more difficult to be confident enough to push the front when entering corners. I am braking hard, but we have to improve the setup of the forks to turn in better and push the tyre when cornering. Tomorrow will be a tough race, but, like in France, we have to push hard and try to gain all the positions that we can.”
On a weekend characterised by the many changes that the Aprilia racing division provided for the RS-GP bikes, and then by the hard work done in the garage, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini finished the qualifiers taking spots respectively on the seventh row with Alvaro Bautista (21st best time at 1’48,477) and the ninth row with Marco Melandri (26th best time at 1’51,391).
In fact, aerodynamic and ergonomic changes as well as – above all – the arrival of the seamless gearbox for both riders marked the Italian GP weekend. During the free practice sessions prior to the qualifiers Bautista improved his performance compared to Friday, a trend which was then confirmed in the session that decides the starting grid order. Marco, on the other hand, lagged a bit farther back, distracted as he tried to get comfortable with the bike setups.
Alvaro Bautista – “The changes we tested this morning helped us to increase our pace. In the qualifiers I had some problems with the first set of tyres and I took my good lap with the second set. For the race I think we’ll go back to what we tried in FP3 because the changes we made in FP4 didn’t work out the way we had hoped. We brought a lot of changes with us here: the seamless gearbox helps me because it makes the bike less twitchy and the new position is also more comfortable for me which is very important for the race.”
Marco Melandri – “I’m working hard as always, but unfortunately I just can’t seem to find that feeling with the bike that I need so this is the best I can do. I hope some changes to the chassis arrive that will be able to meet my needs.”
Lowes leaves rivals trailing in his wake to take pole at Mugello
Before the weekend the Mugello track record for Moto2 stood at 1’52.369 from Pol Espargaro in 2012, this record would not last long however. Already in FP3 Tito Rabat dropped in the 1’51s to set a new best lap around Mugello. All of the top four riders on the grid would set laps in the 1’51s come Qualifying.
The Qualifying session got off to a difficult start for Britain’s Sam Lowes as he suffered a crash with half an hour left in the session. Luckily, neither he nor the bike sustained any major damage and after brief repairs by his Speed Up Racing team Lowes was back on track. The Austin race winner then set a stunning 1’51.514, a new pole position record and the fastest ever Moto2™ lap around the Mugello circuit. Mugello is also where Lowes took his first Moto2™ front row in 2014.
It was a welcome return to the front row for Dominique Aegerter who has struggled to score points in the opening five rounds. The Swiss rider was a front-runner on the Suter frame last year, but has swapped over to the Kalex chassis, and limited dry testing has made the transition difficult for him and the team. A breakthrough in rear grip gave Aegerter a large confidence boost and a helpful slipstream from teammate Luthi has Aegerter starting from the front row for the first time since Indianapolis last year.
Luthi himself was able to manage fourth on the grid. A private test before Le Mans has drastically improved Luthi’s understanding of the Kalex package. Throughout the weekend, Luthi has shown a steady pace and will no doubt be a rider in contention for the podium, if not the win come race day. The 2012 season saw Luthi finish third in the Moto2™ race at Mugello, having also had podiums here in the 250cc and 125cc class.
Completing the front row is Tito Rabat who continues to improve his season after a somewhat difficult start. Rabat was 0.360s off pole, but has been able to lap in the mid to low 1.57s throughout the weekend as he and the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS team once again focus primarily on race pace. Traffic during the session hindered several of Rabat’s laps, but the front row start puts him in a strong position to battle for the win on Sunday. Rabat’s last win came at Misano last year.
Championship leader Johann Zarco had a quiet Qualifying session, never posing a real threat to the front row. The Frenchman will start from sixth on the grid for the Italian GP; he heads into the race with a 21-point lead over Thomas Luthi.
Aside from Lowes, there were crashes for Axel Pons, Robin Mulhauser and Sandro Cortese. All riders were unhurt.
Interestingly, Lowes’ 1’51.514 is just 0.123s slower than Marco Melandri’s Qualifying time in the MotoGP class.
Kent juggernaut rolls on at Mugello MotoGP
The Gran Premio d’Italia TIM has so far seen almost ideal track and ambient conditions, resulting in lap records being broken in all three classes. Before this weekend the Moto3™ lap record stood at 1’57.633, however this would not last. Already in FP3 Fabio Quartararo and Miguel Oliveira went under the record and a close fight for pole looked certain.
With the long straight at Mugello the slipstream out of the final corner is vital, as Fenati demonstrated last year when he used it to go from third to take victory in the Moto3™ race. The slipstream offers an advantage to many, but for the top riders it can be a hindrance as other riders lap slowly in an attempt to follow and improve their grid position.
Danny Kent did not require the aid of a slipstream to set his stunning lap of 1’56.615, the fastest ever Moto3™ lap around Mugello and the first sub 1’57 time. When he initially set this lap it put him 0.7s clear of Fenati, a large gap in any class but especially in Moto3™ where machines and riders are so closely matched. The Brit last claimed pole in Austin where he went on to take one of the most dominant Moto3™ victories to date, appearing untouchable for much of the race.
Despite the difference in time, Romano Fenati will no doubt be a threat come race day. The SKY Racing Team VR46 rider starts from the front row for just the second time in his career. Fenati, like many other Italian riders such as Enea Bastianini and Valentino Rossi, has proven himself capable of fighting through the field, starting third should give Fenati the boost he needs to stick with and battle Kent, providing the home fans with an exciting race.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Qualifying was Kent’s teammate Hiroki Ono who qualified second, the only other rider into the 1’56s. Ono used the slipstream to perfection to claim his career first front row start, his previous best grid position being eighth which he achieved in Argentina earlier this year. Efren Vazquez, the third Leopard Racing rider, starts from 15th.
The Red Bull KTM Ajo team flew around the track in formation to try to maximise the benefit of the slipstream and it was Karel Hanika who benefitted the most from this. The Czech rider starts from fourth on tomorrow’s grid, his best ever Qualifying in Moto3™ and a drastic change in fortunes after having to start from pit lane in Le Mans. Teammates Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder start in 11th and 12th respectively. Oliveira suffered from having his best lap time cancelled due to exceeding the track limits.
Enea Bastianini will be another to watch ahead of tomorrow’s race as the Italian starts from seventh on the grid. Last year saw him fighting for the podium before being caught up in an incident with Alex Marquez and Jack Miller that resulted in the trio crashing out.
2014’s Italian GP saw the top three in Moto3™ split by just 0.011 seconds, the closest grand prix podium of all time. Fans and riders can expect another close battle come Sunday at the fast and flowing Italian track.
Fabio Quartararo crashed while on his fastest lap and prematurely ended his Qualifying session, starting 13th tomorrow. The French rookie has been able to learn Mugello quickly and could be a podium threat if he can latch on to the leading group.
Remy Gardner (26th – 1’58.594): “I’m satisfied but no really happy because I know that my best lap time can be three o four tenths faster but I found a lot of traffic at the end and it’s been impossible complete a clean lap without other riders in front of me. Physically speaking I feel a little better than yesterday and hope to be in better condition for tomorrow’s race”.