Qualifying Results – MotoGP 2011 – Round 15 – Motegi
Stoner takes 10th pole of season at Motegi
The top spot on the MotoGP grid will be occupied for the tenth time this season by Casey Stoner for Sunday’s race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit. The Repsol Honda rider set a time of 1’45.267, two-tenths quicker than pole position challenger Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) as the Australian took his Spanish rival’s circuit best lap record which had stood since 2008. In taking pole Stoner also secured the 2011 BMW M Award as Best Qualifier in the premier class.
Last year’s pole starter Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) qualified in third after setting a lap of 1’45.791, edging out team-mate Dani Pedrosa who himself had occupied the top spot before losing it to Lorenzo and finally Stoner.
A tenth of a second separated Pedrosa and Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies, who had bounced back after suffered a bout of illness that saw him finish the second practice session after just five laps on Friday. The Texan was followed by Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team), who despite going down in turn five at the halfway point of the outing, starts from the second row after posting his best lap upon his return to the track on his second bike.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) posted a time just over a second off Stoner to start from the head of the third row. Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) followed the Italian with a 1’46.586 with Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) ninth behind his compatriot to take the final spot on row three.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) was the final rider in the top ten, with Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) qualifying 11th at his home race. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who finished fifth here last year, ran off into the gravel and had a tumble within the first 15 minutes, but was able to rejoin the session to qualify 14th.
1 Casey Stoner 1’45.267 AUS HONDA Repsol Honda Team
2 Jorge Lorenzo 1’45.523 SPA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing Team
3 Andrea Dovizioso 1’45.791 ITA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
4 Dani Pedrosa 1’45.966 SPA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
5 Ben Spies 1’46.042 USA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing Team
6 Marco Simoncelli 1’46.211 ITA HONDA San Carlo Honda Gresini
7 Valentino Rossi 1’46.467 ITA DUCATI Ducati Marlboro Team
8 Alvaro Bautista 1’46.586 SPA SUZUKI Rizla Suzuki MotoGP
9 Hector Barbera 1’46.694 SPA DUCATI Paginas Amarillas Aspar
10 Nicky Hayden 1’46.763 USA DUCATI Ducati Marlboro Team
11 Hiroshi Aoyama 1’46.811 JPN HONDA San Carlo Honda Gresini
12 Cal Crutchlow 1’46.818 GBR YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
13 Randy De Puniet 1’46.917 FRA DUCATI Pramac Racing
14 Colin Edwards 1’47.165 USA YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
15 Karel Abraham 1’47.922 CZE DUCATI Cardion AB Motoracing
16 Toni Elias 1’48.169 SPA HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
17 Kousuke Akiyoshi 1’48.367 JPN HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
18 Damian Cudlin 1’48.962 AUS DUCATI Pramac Racing
19 Shinichi Ito 1’49.971 JPN HONDA Team HRC
The final three quarters of the Moto2 qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Japan saw a battle for pole ensue between Interwetten Paddock Moto2 rider Thomas Lüthi and Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez, with the Spanish rider stepping into the top spot by a margin of just under two-tenths of a second with a time of 1’52.067. The 18 year-old rookie nearly crashed during a fast lap but pulled off an impressive save to avoid going down.
Andrea Iannone is sure to be a contender in Sunday’s race, the 22 year-old Speed Master rider taking the third spot on the grid with a best lap three-tenths off the pole position time. Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing), who had a moment but controlled the near crash, was two-tenths off the Italian in fourth, with last year’s sixth place finisher Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) and Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project) joining the British rider on row two.
Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2), who finished fourth at Motegi last year, leads row three ahead of Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) and Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP). Mattia Pasini (Ioda Racing Project) completed the top ten, ahead of Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar) and Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing).
Pol Espargaró (HP Tuenti Speed Up) had an early crash coming onto the start-finish straight and was fortunate not to be hit by an alert Kenny Noyes. The Spaniard returned later in the session to qualify 21st. Sergio Gadea (Desguaces La Torre G22) and Randy Krummenacher (GP Team Switzerland Kiefer Racing) also both went down in separate incidents and did not finish the session.
Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) will start the 125cc race from pole position, the Frenchman’s third pole of the season thanks to a best lap of 1’57.888. The 21 year-old held off Bankia Aspar riders Héctor Faubel and Nico Terol, both of whom had seen the top spot in the qualifying session, by a margin of three and four-tenths respectively.
Following the front row qualifiers was a string of three more Spaniards. Maverick Viñales’ (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) time of 1’58.458 placed him at the head of row two by a margin of half-a-second over Alberto Moncayo (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica), who lines up next to the 16 year-old rookie. Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) will complete the second row after running his best lap of the weekend, a 1’59.002.
German riders Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) and Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) qualified side by side on row three, ahead of Bankia Aspar’s Adrián Martín.
Team Italia FMI team-mates Alessandro Tonucci and Luigi Morciano will start on row four, ahead of Luis Salom (RW Racing GP), who crashed out of the qualifying on his seventh lap after nearly colliding with Josep Rodríguez (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing).
– HRC Report
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner shattered the lap record for the Twin Ring Motegi circuit while scoring a new record of ten MotoGP poles in one season in qualifying for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix. The runaway world championship leader will start the 15th round of the MotoGP World Championship on the front row ahead of Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.
Row two has a similar makeup, with Honda riders on either end and a Yamaha rider in between. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) qualified fourth fastest in front of Ben Spies (Yamaha) and Marco Simoncelli, the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider who rebounded from a mid-session spill to steal the second row with his final lap of Honda’s home circuit.
From this weekend’s earliest laps of the 4801m circuit north of Tokyo, Stoner felt confident that lowering the existing qualifying record was achievable. The Honda RC212V was developed at Motegi and its braking stability and strong acceleration make it the perfect choice for the stop-and-go course. Lowering the record would take a sterling performance since the existing lap record of 1m, 45.543s was set by Lorenzo on qualifying tyres in 2008. To get there would mean knocking more than 1.5s off last year’s pole time of 1m, 47.001s set by Dovizioso.
With just under 13 minutes remaining in the one hour session, held under cloudy skies, Stoner dipped down into the 1m, 45s lap times. His next lap would approach the previous lap record, but the new record wouldn’t come on that tyre.
With just over five minutes to go in the session, Lorenzo would be the one to eclipse the old mark and temporarily hold custody of the pole. Two minutes from the end of the session Stoner shattered the mark by clocking a lap of 1m, 45.267s, a time that was 1.7s faster than last year’s pole mark.
The pole was Stoner’s tenth of the season, setting a new record for the MotoGP era and breaking a tie he’d held with Valentino Rossi. Rossi secured nine poles en route to winning the 2003 MotoGP World Championship for the Repsol Honda team. Stoner had nine poles in 2008 in defence of his 2007 MotoGP World Championship. It was also Stoner’s 14th front row start in 15 races this season; he qualified fourth in Portugal.
Dovizioso was hopeful of adding this year’s pole to his resume, but came up short. With just over a minute to go he fired in his best lap and moved to third, dropping team-mate Pedrosa to row two. Though he didn’t earn the pole, he was back on the front row for the first time since the French Grand Prix in mid-May.
Pedrosa spent most of the hour in the top three and would have been on the front row if not for Dovi’s late fast lap. Unlike some other riders, Pedrosa paradoxically found less grip in the softer option Bridgestone rear tyre, the softest tyre they’ve ever brought to Motegi. Believing it was a problem with the first tyre, Pedrosa tried a second one, but the results didn’t change. Though he wasn’t able to produce a single fast lap, his pace on the medium compound race tyres gave him confidence ahead of Sunday’s race.
Simoncelli was also steadily in the top five throughout qualifying. His bid to move up the order ended with crash in turn five when he lost the front near mid-session. After a brisk return to the pits to change leathers and motorcycles, Simoncelli went back out to improve his time.
Once he regained his confidence, he was able to consistently lap in the 1m, 46s range, finishing with a best of 1m, 46.211s on the last of his 18 full laps.
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) was hopeful of qualifying higher up the grid in his home grand prix. After qualifying 11th, the rider from Chiba was thankful for the support of his fellow MotoGP riders, all of whom showed up for the race. The Japanese fans echoed his sentiments, with signs thanking the MotoGP riders for their support.
Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP) continued his struggles at a track where his fellow Honda riders excelled. Elias also had trouble with the softer option Bridgestone rear tyre. Most riders used it to set their fastest laps, but Elias didn’t find confidence in the front end on the soft option, which compromised his grid position.
Honda test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi was 17th aboard the LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V in his second MotoGP ride of the season. He’d earlier ridden the San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V in place of Aoyama, when Aoyama rode the Repsol Honda RC212V of the injured Dani Pedrosa in the Dutch TT in Assen. Like Elias, Akiyoshi found adapting to the tyres-Bridgestone brought medium and soft options-to be challenging. By the end of the session he’d found some confidence and was looking forward to winning the battle of the Japanese riders.
Shinichi Ito rode the Team HRC RC212V to the 19th qualifying spot in a race that means a lot to him. Ito lives in Miyagi Prefecture, an area which was heavily damaged during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The 44-year-old, who began his premier class career riding a Honda
NSR500 in the 1988 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, is having something of a victory lap, having won his fourth Suzuka 8-Hours earlier this year for Honda. This race will be his final appearance on an 800cc MotoGP machine, with the 1000cc RC213V set to replace the RC212V in 2012 and Ito headed back into retirement. The 44-year-old crashed his lone RC212V in the morning, robbing him of valuable setup time for the more important afternoon qualifying session.
Marc Marquez (Team CaixaCatalunya-Suter) continued his Moto2 dominance by taking his sixth pole of the season. The 18-year-old from Cervera, Spain rider has been on an amazing roll, winning six of the past seven races, including the last three, to come within six points of the championship lead currently held by Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing-Kalex). Bradl qualified eighth, and .722s from Marquez, and will have his work cut out for him if he’s to retain the championship lead he’s held since the Portuguese Grand Prix back in May.
Marquez put a comfortable .193s on second fastest Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2-Suter) with his 13th full lap of the Twin Ring Motegi circuit. The lap of 1m, 52.067s was a new qualifying record for the Moto2 class, bettering the 1m, 52.008s lap run by Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team-Suter) last year. The second fastest qualifying effort was a return to form for Luthi, who was on the front row in the first four races, but not since the French Grand Prix in mid-May. Luthi had .163s on Andrea Iannone (Speed Master-Suter), the third fastest qualifier. Iannone, on the front row for only the second time this season, currently sits third in the championship, 83 points behind Marquez.
Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda RC212V: Pole position – 1m 45.267s “Everything has gone very well so far this weekend. We’ve been fastest in all but one session, so it’s been fantastic. We tried a few different settings this afternoon and didn’t really improve, so we’ll probably go back to this morning’s setting for tomorrow. We’ll have to watch the weather as this will affect the setup; there’s also a chance of rain so it could get complicated. Jorge (Lorenzo) has been riding fantastic, as has Dovi and Dani (Pedrosa), but there is no doubt that the Honda suits this track. I’ve been looking forward to riding it here for a while now and I’m not disappointed!
Tomorrow will be a tough race, but the team is working hard and we’ll do our best.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda RC212V: 3rd – 1m, 45.791s “I’m very happy to be on the front row here in Motegi. This afternoon we improved again from this morning and I feel very confident, especially under braking. We still haven’t decided on the tyre for tomorrow, as we are good on both compounds, but I feel positive for the race and for the fight for the podium tomorrow. I’m really happy with the work of the team and the Honda is working really well at this track, I think tomorrow we will have a great race.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda RC212V: 4th – 1m. 45.966s “The qualifying practice started quite well for us; we were doing lap times with a consistent pace preparing for the race and everything seemed to be going well. But at the end, when I switched to soft tyres, I couldn’t get them working, I had much less grip. I thought it could be a problem with the first tyre and so I came back to the garage to change it but again I had the same issue. I am disappointed not to be on the front row, but the good feeling with the race tyres is good news. We will need to see how the weather is tomorrow. If the temperature drops a lot maybe some riders will use the soft, but considering my feeling, I will probably choose the hard one. The race will be very tough with (Casey) Stoner, (Andrea) Dovizioso and maybe Lorenzo, but we want to fight until the end.”
Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 6th – 1m, 46.211s “I was going quite well up to the crash, but unfortunately I made a little mistake in turn five, hit a bump and crashed, which compromised the second half of the session. I struggled a little for confidence when I went back out and only got to use one soft tyre. Without that I could have maybe been fighting for the front row, but in any case I am happy because I have good race pace and hopefully tomorrow I can be fighting for the podium.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 11th – 1m, 46.811s “The final position is not particularly pleasing, but my feeling with the bike is good and so is my race pace so I am confident for tomorrow. I will try to start as well as possible and make up as many positions as I can. The weather could change tomorrow and the track temperature will definitely be lower so we might have to change the set-up but we have a clear idea which direction to take. I want to have a good race in my home grand prix and give my fans a positive result.”
Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V: 16th – 1m, 48.169s “After yesterday’s good adjustments I felt more confident ahead today’s qualifying, but at the end I could not lap into the 1’47 range. This morning on harder tyre it seemed we could improve our lap time but later on Q-tyres I started to lose the front again. I went wide a couple of times, but I could not go faster in these conditions. We have already chosen our race tyre and tomorrow we will work through a number of various set-up changes to move into the 1’47 range.”
Kousuke Akiyoshi, LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V: 17th – 1m, 48.367s “Today I have started to understand better the tyres features and with a few changes of the suspension setting I made the bike feeling better compared to yesterday. I have improved my pace gradually and with further adjustments on the front fork and rear link I am well prepared for the race. I will do my best as a delegate of the Japanese riders group to bring some courage to my population.”
Shinichi Ito, Team HRC RC212V: 19th – 1m, 49.971s “After this morning’s crash, I lost some confidence and was unable to find the pace I needed for qualifying. I worked hard to find a good setting, but I wasn’t able to get the best possible. Tonight, I will speak together with my technician and we will try to find a solution tomorrow morning in warm-up. Apart from this, the atmosphere here in the paddock is very nice, I like it very much and I’m so happy to be here as a GP rider. We will do our best tomorrow to have a good race.”
– Ducati Report
The refining of the GP11.1’s setup for the Motegi circuit continued positively on the second day of practice at the Japanese Grand Prix. During the four sessions run thus far, Valentino Rossi and his team have focused mainly on the Desmosedici’s weight distribution. The Italian was seventh at the end of qualifying, and was satisfied with the manner in which they had worked.
As for Nicky Hayden, the American improved his performance session by session, and in qualifying, he barely missed the third row. His time isn’t far from that of his teammate.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) 7th (1:46.467) – “We’re pretty satisfied, although we can’t celebrate seventh place. Still, I was able to ride the bike a bit better. We improved the setting again this morning, and I was faster in the afternoon. We’ve changed the weight distribution for Motegi, and now I can ride more naturally, though still not as I would like. Our goal was to manage to lap at 1:46.5, and as we were able to do that, I’d say we worked well. Also, our pace with the hard tyre isn’t bad. We’re not far from Spies and Simoncelli. We hope to get a good start, and then we’ll see. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain, as I’d like a dry race.”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) 10th (1:46.763) – “We weren’t able to continue from the good start we had yesterday, even though our times aren’t too far from the second group. With the cooler track, I didn’t have the same grip, and I was spinning quite a lot on the edge of the tyre. This afternoon, we also picked up some chatter that I hadn’t experienced all weekend, which made it really difficult to go fast. We improved compared to yesterday, but not as much as we should have. We haven’t made a lot of changes to the bike, as we tried to keep it pretty simple and just chip away. We can’t be happy with tenth, and it’s going to be tough tomorrow, but hopefully we can get a good start and have a decent race.”
– Yamaha Report
Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo delivered a stunning performance this afternoon in qualifying to take second on the grid for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Japan at Motegi. After struggling in the previous sessions for braking stability and maximum lean grip, Lorenzo’s crew made key set up changes which transformed the Mallorcan’s YZR-M1 for the final session. The final minutes of the session saw him smash the pole record of the Motegi circuit with 1’45.523, only to have first snatched back in the last seconds by rival Casey Stoner.
Fellow Yamaha Factory Racing rider Ben Spies experienced another exhausting day of riding as he battles to recover from a serious bout of food poisoning caught before travelling to Japan. Despite his reduced fitness and stamina level the American put in a huge effort in both morning practice and qualifying to take fifth on the grid and a second row start for the race.
Jorge Lorenzo / Position 2nd – Time 1.45.523 – Laps 25
“We tried something different this afternoon and our lap times were unbelievable, we almost got pole! The most important thing is the first row because there are riders like Casey who find it easy to escape so I want to be right there. We have improved today but Motegi is still a tough track for Yamaha riders. If the other riders do a perfect race it is almost impossible to win, but anything can happen. Now I can say I am ready for the battle and we will put on a good show for all the Japanese fans who have come to see us race!”
Ben Spies / Position 5th – Time 1.46.042 – Laps 25
“I’ve had a lot of support from the guys at Clinica to get me back towards 100% fitness. I’m just glad now to be on the bike, a couple of days ago I didn’t think I was going to be able to ride. I’m really happy to have got into the middle of the second row today and I hope things get even better for tomorrow, we’ll see how it goes. Yesterday I was pretty weak on the bike, this morning I felt a bit stronger and this afternoon I felt ok with energy levels, I was just fighting a lot of stomach cramps. I’m doing the best I can for my crew and the paddock and all the fans who are here to watch us.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“We made big steps from the first three practices, Jorge is able to stop the bike properly now so that’s a big improvement. Maximum lean angle grip has also improved so he can now stop the bike and turn and accelerate. We are quite happy; I think we have something to fight with tomorrow which is important. I have to thank the team who worked really hard to make the step forward with the bike.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“This afternoon we saw some excellent qualifying laps from Jorge, his race pace is also quite fast and consistent. For sure it is going to be a tough race but we are up there. Ben fortunately is feeling better and better, he was able to complete both sessions today. Starting from fifth on the grid is good under the circumstances; we know he did his best. Hopefully tomorrow he’ll feel even better and will put up a good fight. 24 laps will be quite intensive so he needs to be as fit as possible for it.”
Cal Crutchlow fought off a heavy cold to finish just over 0.1s away from claiming a starting position on the third row of the grid for tomorrow’s Japanese MotoGP race at the end of a closely contested qualifying session at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
The British rider will start the 15th round of the 2011 World Championship from 12th on the grid after yet another encouraging performance on board the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine.
Crutchlow’s best time of 1.46.818 was almost 0.3s quicker than the 2010 pole position time and his pace was less than 0.4s away from Valentino Rossi in seventh position. Today’s result was reward for Crutchlow’s determination after he was struck by a nasty he ad cold overnight, which left the 25-year-old with a severe sore throat.
Crutchlow is hoping a good night’s rest will help him return to 100 per cent as he looks to continue his fine recent run of form in tomorrow’s 24-lap race. He is seeking a third successive top 10 finish to strengthen his bid for the coveted Rookie of the Year title.
Today’s qualifying session, which took place in much cooler conditions compared to practice yesterday, didn’t go according to plan for experienced team-mate Colin Edwards.
The 37-year-old had high hopes of a strong performance after claiming a season best fifth place at the Twin Ring Motegi last year. Edwards qualified fifth in 2010 but despite lapping 0.3s faster this afternoon, his best time of 1.47.165 could only secure him 14th on the grid for Yamaha’s all-important home race.
Edwards suffered an early setback w hen he crashed with only a quarter of the 60-minute session completed. Edwards ran off the track at Turn 3 while pushing hard to improve his pace on his eighth lap. He ran into the gravel at high speed and despite his best efforts he was unable to keep his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team machine upright.
He quickly adjusted to a different front-end geometry setting on his spare YZR-M1 machine to finish just over 0.3s behind Crutchlow.
Cal Crutchlow / Position 12th – Time 1.46.818 – Laps 25
“I’m a bit disappointed to be back in 12th when you look how close I am to the third row. But I can’t be too upset because I feel well below my physical best today. All last night I was coughing and sneezing and I’ve been drinking about eight litres of water today and I still feel dehydrated. My throat feels like I’ve swallowed gravel but I still managed to go out there and lap faster than last year’s pole time. I can’t really ask for much more than that on a circuit I’ve never even seen before in my life. I might have been a bit further up the grid but on my last soft tyre I nearly high-sided coming out of the first corner. It was a big moment because I struggled to get heat into the tyre out of the pits. I still got in one more lap on that final tyre and managed to set my best time, so now I’m looking forward to the race and hoping I can have another good battle like I did at the Motorland Aragon. That was a lot of fun but also helped me learn a lot, so I’ll be looking to be in a fight for the top 10.”
Colin Edwards / Position 14th – Time 1.47.165 – Laps 22
“I had high hopes coming to Japan because last year I got my best grid position and my best result of the Championship at the Twin Ring Motegi. But it just hasn’t worked out at all so far this weekend and I’m just not quick enough. I’m faster than I qualified last year but still nine places further back down the grid, so that shows how much the competition has stepped up this season. The early crash didn’t help the session run smoothly and I haven’t made a mistake as bad as that in a long time. I just completely missed my braking marker and that was all because I was pushing too hard to get more out of the bike. Looking at the lap times it is obvious that our bike doesn’t turn or accelerate as good as the rest and that means you have to ride on the ragged edge a lot. The strange part is that the bike feels fine. It is not doing anything crazy but I can’t get it to go round the track any faster. The target will be to fight for the top 10 tomorrow, but a repeat of fifth like last year unfortunately doesn’t look like it’s a realistic aim.”
– Suzuki Report
Álvaro Bautista will start Suzuki’s home Grand Prix at Motegi from the middle of the third row after a consistent and strong qualifying session saw him equal his best MotoGP grid position.
Bautista (P8, 1’46.586, 28 laps) showed great determination to push his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R further up the grid and with just minutes left in the session occupied a second row spot, but he just couldn’t hold on to that position as time ran out and he wasn’t able to better his previous best lap. Bautista worked tirelessly with his crew on a thorough test programme in both the final practice session and this afternoon’s qualifying. He is now convinced he has a good package for tomorrow’s race and believes he will be able to compete with the group of riders that qualified just in front of him today.
Today’s sessions were held under overcast skies with temperatures lower than yesterday. Casey Stoner again led the field to become the first rider in the four-stroke MotoGP era to record 10 pole positions in a season, current champion Jorge Lorenzo was second.
Tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix is the 15th round of the season and the 24–lap race will get underway at 15.00hrs local time (06.00hrs GMT) in front of what promises to be a colourful and excited crowd determined to show its support for their countrymen who suffered in the tragedy that hit Japan early in the year and caused the postponement of the original Grand Prix date.
Álvaro Bautista: “With the time I did in qualifying – one-and-a-half-seconds quicker than last year – I would have been in pole position in 2010! This year the level is amazing and the lap-times are very fast, but our performance is also due to the hard work the guys in the Factory have put in, it has made a big difference. This morning we tested different settings in the two bikes, one of which was set a little bit lower to help me in the hard braking parts of this track, but I tried it too late in the free practice so I didn’t have a clear idea which setting was better. This afternoon we started with the lower bike and harder compound tyres, but the feeling was not what I wanted, so I changed to the other bike and it was better. I improved my lap-time at the end, but I got into some traffic on my last laps so couldn’t improve it anymore. Eighth is not too bad and I want to produce a good race for all the Suzuki company and factory guys that are here this weekend supporting us. I will try to get a good start and fight from the beginning, I think the first three or four will be difficult to catch, but after that I think we can be in the battle for the next few positions. We will see what the weather brings and the condition of the track, but I am looking forward to a good race.”
Paul Denning –Team Manager: “We needed a strong qualifying performance today and Álvaro delivered that. We just didn’t get the timing right on the last run, in terms of track position and traffic, but only half-of-a-second off fourth place on Honda’s home track is a decent result. The first couple of laps will be critical tomorrow and I believe if Álvaro is in the tow with the fastest riders there is a possibility of a very strong result.”
– Bridgestone Report
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium, Hard. Rear (asymmetric): Soft, Medium
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner secured his fourth consecutive pole position at Motegi today with a stunning penultimate lap to set a new outright circuit record, beating the previous best of 1m 45.543s by almost 0.3seconds.
The new tarmac around part of the circuit continues to get faster this weekend and the soft compound rear slicks, brought to Japan for the first time this year, also contributed to the pole time being 1.8seconds faster than last year.
Jorge Lorenzo will start tomorrow’s race from second on the grid after he took the provisional pole for a time, also beating his own pole record set back in 2008 when sticky qualifying tyres that provided huge amounts of grip for just a handful of laps were used. Completing the front row is last year’s pole-sitter Andrea Dovizioso ahead of Dani Pedrosa, Ben Spies and Marco Simoncelli on the second row.
Of the 18 races on the MotoGP calendar this season, new outright qualifying records have now been set on the control Bridgestone race tyres at nine of them since the cessation of qualifying tyres at the start of 2009.
The preferred tyre choice this afternoon was the harder option front tyre, the same as was used here at Motegi last year, and the soft compound rear which is a new option for the Japanese GP this year. The soft compound slick uses Bridgestone’s extra soft compound in the lesser-used left shoulder and was chosen this weekend primarily to provide better warm-up performance and safety in the opening laps, but is clearly demonstrating a high level of grip too. Conditions today were markedly cooler than yesterday and are forecast to be cooler still tomorrow, meaning that this soft compound is also a viable option for race-distance.
Hirohide Hamashima – Assistant to Director, Motorsport Tyre Development Division
“I am very satisfied with the laptimes at the front today – we expected the pace to be faster this year but I didn’t think we would see the pole time 1.8seconds faster than last year. This is very impressive, and I think is due mostly to the new surface here at Motegi, but also in part to machine development over the last 12 months and the fact we have our soft compound rear slicks here this year, as they provide better warm-up performance, initial grip and rider confidence than the medium compound rears everyone qualified on in 2010. Today was cooler than yesterday which helped performance of the soft slicks, and as the conditions forecast for tomorrow are cooler again I think we will see many riders using this tyre for the race. This soft compound rear is a new tyre that we developed towards the end of last season and I think the performance today, both in terms of outright grip and warm-up performance, shows we are headed in a good direction with our MotoGP tyre development.”