HONDA RIDERS SWEEP FRONT ROW IN SULTRY SEPANG

2011-10-22 09:27
Honda riders swept the top three spots in MotoGP qualifying for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, with Repsol Hondas going one-two-three on the sultry Sepang International Circuit. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) took his second pole of the season from teammate and recently crowned world champion Casey Stoner, with Andrea Dovizioso filling out the front row for Sunday’s penultimate round of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship.

The session was thoroughly dominated by Honda riders, who were at the top of the time charts for every minute of the one hour session, held in typically tropical weather at the circuit on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) leapt to the top of the order at the start, soon to get into a battle with the Repsol Honda team. Less than ten minutes into the session Dovi took over and for the final 50 minutes a Repsol Honda rider would reign supreme.

Still, there was drama. Pedrosa had a harmless get-off, from which he quickly recovered with no ill effects. The Spaniard was in control with 16 minutes to run when he was bested by team-mate Dovizioso, who fell victim to Stoner six minutes later before Pedrosa took the top spot with just over four minutes remaining.

Stoner made one final run at Pedrosa with his final soft tyre, only to lose out on his 12th pole position by .029s. Dovi was another .175s back in third.

The pole was the second for Pedrosa-his first came in the Czech Grand Prix-and the 15th in 17 races for Honda riders.

Two of those 15 poles went to Simoncelli, who was fifth fastest today and might have been further up the grid had he not run into a small electrical issue with his ‘A’ bike. “Super Sic” was using a soft tyre and aiming for the front row when the problem cropped up. Forced onto his second bike, Simoncelli wasn’t as comfortable and wasn’t able to finish on the front row for the eighth time this season.

Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) had been fifth at the end of Friday practice, when Honda riders filled the top five positions. Today Aoyama missed out on the second row by only .082s; he’ll start the race in seventh place. Qualifying taught him that he had the setup to race on the softer rear tyre, a choice that many others riders were uncertain of.

Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP) struggled in the intense heat and humidity. The rear grip was compromised, which put the Spaniard at a disadvantage on the corner exits onto the two long straightaways, where it’s crucial to get a good drive. He also had an issue with balance, which made it difficult to control the front end on corner entry.

The Moto2 World Championship may have been decided on Friday and not through any action of the contestants. Marshals didn’t alert riders to localised wet rain in one corner on at the beginning of Friday morning Moto2 practice. Race organisers were later fined 15,000 euros by the FIM, but that had little meaning for the championship contenders.

Three riders crashed on the wet track, suffering varying degrees of injury. Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing, Tech 3) broke his collarbone and was ruled out of the race. Jules Cluzel (NGM Forward Racing – Suter) was unhurt. But it was Marc Marquez (Team CaixaCatalunya Repsol, Suter) who suffered the most. Marquez took a serious blow to his head and sat out Friday afternoon practice as well as practice on Saturday morning. In qualifying he completed only one lap at speed in, finishing a season worst 36th. The team was going to make a race day decision on whether Marquez would take part in the race.

Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2, Suter) took his first pole of the intermediate class. Luthi lapped the circuit in 2m, 7.512s to take the pole by .212s. But it was the second fastest rider that everyone had their eyes on. Stefan Bradl (Interwetten Paddock Moto2, Kalex) qualified second fastest in what is now his most important race of the year. With Marquez at less than full strength, and possibly sitting the race out, Bradl has his first chance to clinch the Moto2 World Championship. If Bradl wins the race, Marquez has to finish 12th or better to carry the battle to the final round in Valencia in two weeks’ time. No one would be surprised if that happened. Marquez finished a dramatic second last week in Australia after starting on the back row of the grid. The difference, of course, was his health and only he knows whether he’ll be able to challenge on Sunday.

Michele Pirro (Gresini Racing Moto2 – Moriwaki) overcame two crashes to earn his first front row starting position of the season by qualifying third. The Italian was in the mix for the pole position to the end. He also showed that the latest updates to the Moriwaki MD600 are proving advantageous as the season comes to an end.

MOTOGP RIDER QUOTES

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda RC212V: Pole Position – 2m, 1.462s
“It was a very difficult session, extremely hot; I couldn't breathe inside the helmet. We had a small crash in the front that I didn't expect, but was able to go back and go faster and take my second pole of the season. I thought I would be able to improve a little more at the end and get closer to the time I did yesterday, but I found some traffic on my final run. Anyway, it's good to be on pole and I hope our race pace can be even better. We have to work on the setup and make a good rear tyre choice because our rivals are also very strong. It's going to be very physically demanding for everybody. To have three Repsol Honda riders on the front row is very good, but we cannot forget the other rivals and we must keep focused to finish the weekend in the best way.”

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda RC212V: 2nd – 2m, 1.491s
“I tried to steal pole, but it wasn't really our day today. We tried a few different things in setup, but we haven't really gone the right direction at all this weekend. In qualifying we tried to find another path to go, but we just haven't been able to get grip along with turning. We can find one or the other, but at best they are both average so we have some improvement to make for tomorrow. Our race pace isn't too bad; we’ve looked worse than everyone else because we've been running on the harder tyre all weekend, but once we put the soft tyres on the bike worked a little better.”

Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda RC212V: 3rd – 2m, 1.666s
“I’m really happy with this front row and even more satisfied with my race pace. We have improved a lot, reducing the gap to two-tenths after being 1.4 seconds behind in FP2 and 0.8 behind in FP3. We were consistent and fast both with soft and hard tyre, meaning that it’s possible to race with both of them. This afternoon the conditions were really demanding. It was very hot and there was no grip, but we were able to be consistently fast so we go into the race very strong. With such conditions here it’s impossible to push 100% for 20 laps so it will be very important to make a strategy for the race and to manage the tyres. I really like this track and tomorrow it would be fantastic to repeat a Repsol Honda 1, 2, 3 on the Podium, but… in the reverse order!”

Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 3rd – 2m, 2.105s
“I was satisfied with our pace in the first half of the session when we were working on our race setting, but not so much with the 'time attack,' because just when we switched tyres I had a problem with a sensor and had to switch to my second bike which had a different setting that I wasn't as comfortable with. I was struggling a bit and instead of staying out there I decided to come back in and try to make a small change, but it didn't work out. Anyway, I am looking forward to tomorrow and feeling confident I can fight with the three guys on the front row. We just need to decide which tyre to use for the race.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V: 7th - 2m, 2.254s
”I am satisfied with today, even though we missed out on the second row by hundredths of a second. I have got a good feeling with the bike and I think we will run the soft tyres tomorrow. I like this track and if we can refine the setting a little in the warm-up tomorrow I am sure we can be fighting near the front in the Malaysian Grand Prix.”

Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V: 15th – 2m, 3.646s.
“This morning it seemed we had found a better balance on front and rear suspension, but with more heat and higher asphalt higher temperature we missed rear grip and the balance of the bike was not the same. The rear was pushing into the front and automatically I was losing the front in the corners. We must check the data to understand what we need to do because the setting of this morning on a 39 degrees track temperature was not working properly in this afternoon 50 degrees temperature.”


MOTO2 RIDER QUOTES

Thomas Luthi, Interwetten Paddock Moto2 - Suter: Pole position – 2m, 7.512s
“It’s a wild (weekend) for sure. First of all I’m very happy with that pole position. It’s a long time to come, sitting here in this press conference. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I mean it’s going to be tough, as the MotoGP guys said already. The conditions are hot, especially for body, and also for tyres. So it’s going to be a battle between the tyres. And I hope to stay with the leading group and the performance all over the week and I’m really looking forward to it. The start is the most important and then you need to try to do a gap already in the beginning. I mean it’s going to be tough. You don’t have time to breathe. Always if you try to relax a little bit, some other guys try to catch up again, so you really need to push all over the race and try to stay in front.”

Stefan Bradl, Viessmann Kiefer Racing - Kalex: 2nd – 2m, 7.724s
“I'm with the second position, very happy, because it is very important to start on the front row. In the hot conditions here, it's how fit one is can determine how to make the most of the race. Because both tyres work amazingly well, we have not yet decided what mix we will use. Generally I feel the setup here works very well. I will concentrate in the race, as usual, on myself and give my best. I think it is a very important race tomorrow. ”

Michele Pirro, Gresini Racing Moto2 - Moriwaki: 3rd, 2m, 8.004s
“I am delighted. It is a shame about the two crashes because I could have done even better without them, but I am satisfied anyway with my race pace and with a good start tomorrow I should be able to fight at the front. I really want to finish the season on a high and could not be more motivated for tomorrow.”

Source: Honda Pro Image

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