STONER STARTS TITLE DEFENCE FROM FRONT ROW2012-04-08 10:23
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V) will begin the defence of his 2011 MotoGP World Championship from the middle of the front row after a hectic end to the one hour night qualifying session at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
Stoner was one of only two riders to head the 21-rider MotoGP qualifying field for the first race of the 2012 championship, and by far the most dominant. But when the one-hour session ended, he was a narrow second to Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo.
The 26-year-old Australian, whose clockwork precision led to ten victories last season, had a frustrating session. Every time he and the team made a change, the expected improvement in time was elusive. By the end of qualifying he had gone full circle without significantly improving his time, nor his motorcycle. Nor was he able to take full advantage of the softer rear tyre most riders used to set their fast qualifying times.
That said, Stoner has an enviable record in Qatar-he has victories in four of the past five races, and poles in the last three races-and he can be expected to be in the mix for Sunday evening�s 10:00 p.m. opening race of the year.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa will start from the row three pole position after setting the seventh fastest time. Pedrosa had electrical issues on Friday and today he had further problems that forced him onto his backup bike. He said he was not comfortable on his second bike and lost concentration in the session, which resulted in a qualifying effort that was well below his standard. But the Spaniard was resolute that the worst of his problems are behind him and if he makes one of his trademark lightning starts he can quickly be part of the lead pack.
Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) will start his first ever MotoGP race from the third row. The 2011 Moto2 World Champion made steady progress throughout his first weekend aboard the Honda RC213V, putting it all together early on. Bradl shot to the upper part of the time sheets early on, on the first of his four soft tyres, then concentrated on his race set-up. The young German might have bettered his time had he not been balked by a slower rider on his final lap.
Spaniard Alvaro Bautista starts from row four in his MotoGP debut aboard the San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V. Bautista concentrated on improving front end feel, never reaching the point of confidence. He was looking forward to tomorrow night�s warm-up session to test one last solution before heading into his first race as a Honda rider.
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Michele Pirro (FTR-Honda) was the fifth fastest of the new CRT set aboard his Honda CBR1000RR-powered FTR machine. Having had very little pre-season testing, Pirro and his team have a myriad of development issues to tackle this weekend. Figuring out the proper electronics package is a particularly daunting issue with so little track time, which is what held the young Italian back in tonight�s qualifying session.
Swiss rider Thomas Luthi (Interwetten-Paddock, Suter) qualified on the Moto2 pole in Qatar. The former 125cc World Champion put in a very fast time on his second flying lap of the course, then spent the remainder of the session working on race set-up. The strategy turned out to be the right one, though there were some anxious moments at the end. Marc Marquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol, Suter) came within .072s of Luthi, with Speed Master rider Andrea Iannone (Speed Up) completing the front row only .037s behind Marquez.
It was Marquez who nearly stole the pole position in his first qualifying session since last October�s Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. Marquez was injured in practice for the following race in Malaysia, suffering vision problems that only recently cleared up. With less 2012 track time than most of his peers, Marquez made a remarkable return to nearly earn his first pole position of the year. Instead he will sit second on the grid to Luthi.
Iannone gathered speed throughout the 45-minute session to clock his best time on his second to last flying lap. The Italian took one last run at the pole with his final run, though he was noto able to improve his time. Still, Iannone was encouraged by his race pace and the work that the team had done to get him ready for tomorrow night�s curtain-raiser. And also that he was able to put the Speed Up machine on the front row in its first race.
Maverick Vinales will start the first ever Moto3 race from a tightly bunched front row aboard his Blusens Avintia FTR-Honda. The young Spaniard battled for pole throughout before finishing a shadow second; he was .016s off pole-sitter Sandro Cortese aboard his Honda 250cc four-stroke powered FTR. Despite that, he was confident that his race pace would make him a contender and was looking forward to the end of the race when he could put his talent to use on worn tyres.
Louis Rossi (Racing Team Germany, FTR-Honda) will start next to Vinales at the end of the front row. The Frenchman was only .099s behind Vinales, with .115s covering the top three.
Italian youngster Romano Fenati (Team Italia FMI, FTR-Honda) qualified on row two in his grand prix debut.
MotoGP rider quotes Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: 2nd � 1m 54.855s
�I'm not really happy with how qualifying went for us. It should have been a lot better, especially on the soft tyre which we hadn't used all weekend. Last night we were happy with what we had improved and with the set-up in general. Then tonight we tried to improve that set-up and we just made it worse and worse. In the end we did a full circle and came back to what we had on Thursday night and we have huge chattering problems again. Now we have a lot of work to do to understand what's gone wrong and where the problem is before tomorrow. If we can make a big step forward in warm-up then we can challenge for a podium and maybe fight for the win, but if the bike remains as it is at the moment, then we are going to be in for a long hard race.�
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 7th � 1m, 55.905s
�We solved a little the issues we had yesterday with the electronics, but we had other problems today. I stopped in the garage to change the bike and it didn't start, twice. I lost a lot of time there and I had to take the other bike which I didn't feel comfortable with either. It's a shame. The team couldn't do any better and nor me; from this point I lost the concentration a little and we couldn't get a better position. Seventh on the grid is not a good place to start the race, but I hope that we don't have any issues tomorrow and I can have a good race.�
Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 9th � 1m, 56.063s
�Actually this is a good qualifying for us as our target was the third row. And when I looked at the time I realised we are close to P6 and this is good for the race. We lapped on many soft tyres, probably more than the others, but for me it was not easy to use every single tyre. Initially you feel you can push more and more, but you must focus on the right acceleration. We also improved the overall package and I am looking forward to race with the top riders and my target is to follow them and learn as much as possible.�
Alvaro Bautista, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 11th � 1m, 56.521s
�We have changed a lot of things without improving the bike and I still don't have confidence in the front. We are a long way back on the grid which is never good, but we have the warm-up tomorrow to try to find a solution. Hopefully we can do that otherwise we are going to be on the back foot for the race, trying to finish it in the best shape possible. It is a shame and it's strange because we were happy with preseason testing but here I just don't have the feel. We'll keep our heads up and keep fighting.�
Michel Pirro, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 17th - 1m, 59.085s
�There is not much to say tonight � I went out on a hard tyre and did a 1�59, but I came in to change the electronics and we had problems from that point on. Unfortunately we still have a long way to go and the electronics are going to take a lot of work. Tomorrow in the warm-up we will try to work out what is slowing us down and I am sure we can have a good race.�
Moto2 rider quotes
Thomas Luthi, Interwetten Paddock-Suter: Pole position � 2m, 0.187s
�The weekend was great so far. We had quite a good practice. I mean the last IRTA test already went very well in Jerez. We had a good pacing of the bike and actually we could improve even one more step here in Qatar. And, yeah, we look forward to the race. All the other guys are close to me and I think it will be, yeah, like we are used to Moto2 races. But the base is good, I feel confident and just push as hard as I can.�
Marc Marquez, Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol-Suter: 2nd � 2m, 0.259s
�To tell the truth, this session went better than we were expecting. We have been looking for the best setting and getting more kilometres under our belts throughout the weekend and we found an improvement. We have been working with the race in mind, although in the warm-up we will be trying out a couple more things. I think that we've done a great job, because I wasn't expecting to be on the front row. We will be going out to enjoy the race tomorrow, because even though I don't have the pace that the others do, we will still be giving 100% and trying to take as many points as possible."
Andrea Iannone, Speed Master-Speed Up: 3rd � 2m, 0.296s
�I can say that this was a positive day. I�m happy because we got the Speed Up machine to the first row on its debut. We did an overall good job, we were fast and this is a positive result. I hope there�s a chance to improve even more, to be some tenths faster so we can be more competitive. This is going to be a tough race, especially with Tom Luthi and Marc Marquez as rivals, we need to stay calm and do our best. Thanks to the team for the awesome work they�ve done.�
Moto3 Rider Quotes
Maverick Vinales, Blusens Avintia, FTR Honda: 2nd - 2m, 8.188s
"This session was really good for us. We will try a few different things with the engine in warm-up in order to be up there with the KTMs. The race is shaping up well for me. We have a good pace and have been working with worn tyres. A front row start can be considered a good result, because that will help me to avoid a jam on the first corner and to break away. The goal for tomorrow is to find a quick pace. As the laps go by we will see if a win is possible or not."
Source: Honda Pro Image
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