MotoGP 2008 – Round 14 – Indianapolis (USA) – Day 2 – Dorna Report
The thousands of racefans getting their first taste of MotoGP action in Indianapolis will be treated to a star studded front row on Sunday, with World Championship leader Valentino Rossi lining up alongside reigning titlist Casey Stoner.
Rossi ended Stoner´s attempts at an eighth consecutive pole position with a stunning 1´40.776 lap of the IMS circuit, less than a tenth of a second faster than his title rival. It is the Fiat Yamaha man´s second top spot of the season, and a perfect placing from which to try and extend his own streak – that of three successive race victories.
All eyes will be on the MotoGP World Championship´s top two as they do battle from the front row for the seventh time this year, although there is not much separating the duo from the rest of the field at the newest circuit on the calendar. Rossi´s teammate Jorge Lorenzo qualified on the first line with his own late lap.
As a result of Lorenzo´s last minute heroics, local hero Nicky Hayden was relegated to fourth place on the grid, at the head of the second row and in a position to put himself in the fight for a homecoming victory. The Repsol Honda rider is accompanied by fellow American and Rizla Suzuki wildcard Ben Spies, with the newly crowned three-time AMA Superbike champion making his presence felt at his home track with some speedy qualifying laps.
Randy de Puniet rounds off row two, the highest placing Honda satellite rider onboard the LCR RC212V. Both the Frenchman and JiR Team Scot´s Andrea Dovizioso took their customer bikes round in times only slightly faster than factory rider Dani Pedrosa, in the Spaniard´s first extensive encounter with Bridgestone qualifying tyres.
Despite a crash on his own Bridgestone qualifying rubber, Toni Elias was still able to place at the tail end of row three, whilst there was a lowside tumble for Rizla Suzuki´s Chris Vermeulen at turn six midway through the session. Weather at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was sunny and the track dry, in sharp contrast to Friday but perhaps not exactly what the riders will experience when they hear the famous command of `Gentlemen, start your engines.´
Marco Simoncelli further built on his sterling record of front row starts in the 250cc class with pole position at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his fourth top spot of the 2008 season. The Italian was made to fight for the place during a dry quarter-litre qualifying session, waiting until the final moments to put in his unmatched 1´46.168.
The man with whom Simoncelli has had his fair share of on-track duels, Team Toth´s Hector Barbera, will be alongside the Metis Gilera rider on the front row for Sunday´s race. The Spaniard headed a practically inseparable remainder of the front line, with the split between himself, Mika Kallio and Alex Debon covered by less than a tenth of a second.
The first two rows feature some of the big names of the 250cc class, with Red Bull KTM´s Hiroshi Aoyama, Misano racewinner Alvaro Bautista and rookie stars Mattia Pasini & Hector Faubel set to feature in the battle for the holeshot from just behind the front four. Bautista and Pasini both suffered light crashes when trying to better their times.
Bigger falls were suffered by Emmi-Caffe Latte´s Thomas Luthi and Blusens Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty on Saturday, with both ruled out of the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. Former 125cc World Champion Luthi suffered a concussion and thumb injury in a cringe-inducing morning crash, whilst Laverty picked up fractures to a small bones on either foot in his own hit.
Pol Espargaro will be the rider leading off the first ever World Championship race held in Indianapolis, after taking pole position in the 125cc class on Saturday afternoon.
As the American track became completely dry, the lower cylinder category riders were effectively starting from scratch in the session, and Espargaro brought his A-Game to the table to move up a massive sixteen places. The Spaniard took his Belson Derbi machine round in a time of 1´50.475, the quickest lap to date with a 125cc machine at The Brickyard. With MotoGP riders having had streets changed in their honour earlier this week, Espargaro will be attempting to make the IMS track `Indiana-Pol-is´ with a first 125cc victory on Sunday.
Series leader Mike di Meglio consolidated a spot on the front row of the grid with a time just over three-tenths of a second slower than Espargaro´s marker and, having gone well in the wet on Friday, should go well whatever the weather on raceday.
Stefan Bradl equalled his best ever qualifying place with third on the grid, and put in a late contender for `save of the season´ with a miraculous avoidance of the Indiana asphalt. Having placed his hand on the ground, the Grizzly Gas Kiefer Racing man somehow escaped with only a ride along the grass to show for the scare.
Danny Webb also matched his previous best, and completes the front row onboard the DeGraaf Grand Prix Aprilia.
Andrea Iannone, Nicolas Terol, Simone Corsi and Dominique Aegerter make up the second line, all under eight-tenths of a second off Espargaro´s marker.
Riding with a fractured scaphoid in his left arm, Gabor Talmacsi was finding things difficult in the qualifying session. He could only qualify fourteenth, and suffered a last lap breakdown to add to his woes.