April 9, 2005
Valentino Rossi will start the defence of his MotoGP World Championship title from pole position when the 2005 season gets underway at Jerez on Sunday after a stunning new lap record in today's qualifying session. Rossi clocked a time of 1'39.419 to overcome the challenge of local hero Sete Gibernau and knock almost one and a half seconds off his previous record, set last season.
"My fast lap was incredible!" smiled Rossi at the end of the single qualifying practice, which this year replaces the previous format of two sessions over the two days previous to the race for the MotoGP class only. "Michelin made a great job with the qualifying tyres - my first one was good but the second was even better. There is a big question mark over the tyre choice for the race tomorrow because after a few laps they start to slide a lot, but it's the same situation for everyone. Now we're just looking for good weather tomorrow and hopefully it will be a beautiful race."
Rossi is not the only person in Jerez keeping their fingers crossed for good weather, with crowd figures expected to top the 125,000 who turned out here in torrential rain last season. Huge local support was on hand today to back Gibernau's challenge for pole, which fell some 0.496 seconds short of Rossi's stunning lap time.
Gibernau will attack Rossi from second place on tomorrow's grid and he will be joined on the front row by Marco Melandri, who will start his first MotoGP race for Honda from third spot. Melandri's late effort knocked factory colleague and fellow youngster Nicky Hayden back to the second row, where he is joined by Kawasaki rider Shinya Nakano and Ducati's Loris Capirossi, who rode with a chipped bone in his ankle after crashing in this morning's free practice.
Makoto Tamada made a late charge to seventh place ahead of Honda colleagues Alex Barros and Troy Bayliss, denying Alex Hofmann a third row start as the German dropped to tenth place on the Kawasaki. John Hopkins battled through a bout of the flu and the effects of a crash this morning to qualify eleventh on the Suzuki whilst Ducati rival Carlos Checa, who is struggling with a shoulder injury, was twelfth.
The surprise of the session came from Spanish rookie Toni Elías, who will make his MotoGP debut on the Yamaha tomorrow ahead of vastly more experienced rivals such as Kenny Roberts, Colin Edwards and Max Biaggi.
Dani Pedrosa was the only rider capable of beating his provisional pole time in the 250cc class, with Sebastián Porto failing to improve his best effort from yesterday but hanging on to second place. Casey Stoner came within 0.017 seconds of the Argentinean as he consolidated his place on the front row in third but was unable to challenge Pedrosa for pole as the Spaniard raised the bar with a new record of 1'42.868. Randy de Puniet completes the front row in fourth place, whilst Alex de Angelis, Hiroshi Aoyama, Hector Barberá and Roberto Locatelli will look to challenge from row two.
Marco Simoncelli held on to pole position for the 125cc race despite crashing just minutes into the session and failing to improve his provisional time. Fortunately for Simoncelli, the only rider to mount a serious threat was Fabrizio Lai, who closed to within 0.877 seconds of the Italian with the fastest time of the afternoon and moved up to the front row of the grid in fourth place behind Mattia Pasini and Thomas Luthi. Lai's effort knocked Mika Kallio back to the front of the second row in fifth place ahead of Gabor Talmacsi, Hector Faubel and Rafael de Rosa, making just his second Grand Prix appearance from eighth on the grid.
Source: Dorna Communications
Photo: Yamaha Factory Racing