Final Qualifying Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang, Malaysia

2007-10-20 09:44
PEDROSA TAKES POLE WITH MELANDRI ON FRONT ROW

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) once more put his stamp firmly on the MotoGP grid with his third consecutive pole here at Sepang. Casey Stoner (Ducati) qualified second fastest with Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda RC212V) completing the front row.

After yesterday's rain, the skies held clear for qualifying and a track that was 'green' and greasy with little grip began to 'rubber up' and provide better adhesion for riders today. With ambient temperature at 33 degrees, the track
heated up to 45 degrees by the start of this hour-long final qualifying session.

And even after extensive re-surfacing work not
all of Sepang's notorious bumps have been ironed
out, the turn five/six combination is still
rippled and a source of chatter for riders.
Nevertheless Dani's pole lap of 2m 01.877s is
still more than a second slower than the 2006 pole time.

Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) fell at turn one in
the first ten minutes without injury as Melandri
topped the table with a 2m 03.884s lap before
Dani replied with first a 2m 03.838s time and
then a 2m 03.109s lap as the Spanish ace settled into a race pace tempo.

With 34 minutes left on the clock riders began to
up the pace and it was Melandri who first dipped
into the 2m 02 bracket with a lap of 2m 02.775s
to go pole. The order on the front row was
Melandri, Pedrosa then Stoner and these men would
stay there, although not in that order and not
without temporary intervention from others during
the remaining half of the hour.

Typically it was the Kawasaki pairing of Anthony
West and Randy de Puniet who made the first
attacks on qualifying rubber. De Puniet at 2m
02.692s, then his Aussie team-mate at 2m 02.202s.
With twenty minutes of the session to go, West was on pole.

With ten minutes to go Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda
RC212V) hoisted himself to third and Valentino
Rossi (Yamaha) who was well down the order
managed to grapple his way to a provisional second fastest time.

Then newly crowned World Champion Casey Stoner
made his bid for pole with a 2m 02.144s time with
seven minutes left that looked good enough to
head the field. The front row with two minutes
left was an all Aussie affair: Stoner, West, Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki).

Then Nicky put himself back on the front row and
looked good for even more until Stoner shaved his
pole time by more than a second with a 2m 01.918s
lap that was the first time to go below the 2m 02s barrier.

But he had reckoned without the super-consistent
pole performances of Dani. Pedrosa dug deep to
speed round the 5.548km track at 2m 01.877s. It
was an unbeatable lap time here today although in
his efforts to beat it Melandri elevated himself to the front row.

Dani said: "It's great to have three pole
positions in a row and it gives us a good chance
for the start tomorrow, but of course the only
important thing is the race result because there
are no points for pole position. The qualifying
laps went quite well and I improved by 0.8s on my
second fast lap which was just enough to take
pole position This afternoon the conditions were
quite different to those we had yesterday and
this morning - it was much hotter which made the
surface a little bit more slippery. We've been
testing more tyre options today and we still have
to decide which ones we'll race with."

Melandri said: "I'm happy - we know I've got a
good race pace. A front row position on the grid
is a good start for tomorrow. The bike is
improving and I can get on the gas early and the
speed down the straights is much better. The bike
and tyres are working well together and this is a
circuit I have always enjoyed. This is probably
the first time we've had the right conditions to
get the most out of it and I felt comfortable
today. I had fun and now I feel confident about
the race. It will be tough and demanding on both
the tyres and our physical condition. It's really
hot here like going from full winter in Australia to full summer in Malaysia."

Nicky ended up sixth and said: "This morning in
the cooler temperatures I was able to go a lot
faster than this afternoon so we definitely need
to come up with some adjustments to improve our
speed in the hot conditions. Sixth on the grid is
OK, although it hasn't exactly been the best day
for us. My qualifying lap wasn't perfect and,
like at Phillip Island last week, in the last
sector of the lap the tyre went a little bit
soft. The surface was really hot and greasy, it
was quite difficult for me to find enough grip
and my rhythm was not so good. It's going to be
really important to get a good start tomorrow and latch onto the front guys."

Toni Elias (Gresini Honda RC212V) qualified
eighth fastest and said: "We've done a good job
today, together with the team. The bike setting
has improved and we were able to do some good
tyre tests. We have chosen our tyre for the race
after running it in both sessions. Unfortunately
I didn't get a better starting position because I
ran out of time on my second qualifying lap. It
will be important to get a good start tomorrow to
try and fight it out with the lead group."

Shinya Nakano (Konica Minolta Honda RC212V)
managed 14tgh and said: "No rain today but we and
everyone else are still struggling with this new
track surface. In the afternoon we improved a
little with suspension settings, but we're still
looking for quicker turning into the corners and
overall a better feeling from the front of the
bike. At the moment I cannot keep my corner speed
up, or keep a decent speed when entering the
corner. Tomorrow morning we will try and find a
better setting in warm-up. We will keep hoping
for the best and never give-up as the race is
long and the conditions still could be changeable."

Carlos Checa (LCR Honda RC212V) qualified 16th.
He said: "It is not normal that I'm almost two
seconds slower than my times from pre-season
testing here, especially as we now have the
updated chassis and engine parts from Honda.
Nothing we tried seemed to work and on the
qualifying tyres I had a big problem with chatter
and the front-end jumping around - the bike would
not turn. But we will not give up and we'll
continue to try 100%. I will work with my crew
chief, Ramon Forcada, examine the data, and see
what we can try in the warm-up to improve the performance."

Kurtis Roberts (Roberts KR212V) will start from
20th on the grid and said: "I'm struggling for
grip. I keep losing the front. The first
qualifier didn't last the lap, and anyway we went
the same speed as on the race tyres... so none of
the tyres are working very good right now. It
could all be me. I don't know. We'll find out
tomorrow. The bumps are alright. I'm just losing
the front a lot. Could be me, could be tyres. I don't know."

The 250cc grid is headed by Hiro Aoyama with his
KTM team-mate Mika Kallio alongside him.
Crucially in terms of the World Championship
Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia) lines up third with his
World Championship rival Andrea Dovizioso (Scot
Honda RS250RW) just behind him in fourth.

Julian Simon (Repsol Honda RS250RW) qualified
eighth fastest, Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda
RS250RW) 12th, while Ratthapark Wilairot (Stop
And Go Racing Honda RS250RW) managed to
out-qualify Shuhei Aoyama (Repsol Honda RS250RW) in 15th with Aoyama 16th.

Dovi said: "This morning we were able to improve
a lot, in particular on the front. In the
afternoon, despite these hot temperatures, we had
a good pace with a smooth drive that satisfied
me. Tomorrow the race will be hard with these
temperatures but I'm relaxed. I'm conscious that
for the Championship I can't do a lot, just win
this race. I have a good feeling with the circuit
and with the bike, so I'm very confident."

Simon said: "Qualifying was so - so I had a small
problem with the front end - it kept trying to
turn in on me. The track was a little dirty on
the race line after the MotoGP qualifying session
and maybe that was part of the problem. The tyre
compound is OK so I think it is the construction,
it needs to be stronger - the suspension is good. "


Wilairot said: "Staying on the fourth row wasn't
easy because the weather was really hot today,
but in the end I was able to improve on
yesterday's lap times. In the morning, we worked
on stiffening the suspension as the grip
improved, but it wasn't enough. We did a good job
anyway, finding a good set-up for the race."

World Championship contender Hector Faubel took
pole in the 125cc class by just 0.116 seconds
from his team-mate and title rival Gabor
Talmacsi. Sandro Cortese and Pol Espargaro line
up third and fourth on the grid for tomorrow's 19-lap race (all Aprilia).

Alex Masbou (FFM Racing Honda RS125R) was best
Honda qualifier in 12th, with Bradley Smith
(Repsol Honda RS125R) lining up in 15th. Esteve
Rabat (Repsol Honda RS125R) managed 17th and Mike
di Meglio (Scot Honda RS125R) 18th.

Masbou said: "We did a lot of work on the
Australian Grand Prix data and changed the
chassis settings to improve our performance
entering the long corners. It handles more easily
and I'm faster. Now I'm having a few problems in
the tighter corners but the overall feeling of
the bike is good. It all augurs well for the race
because with the slipstreaming I can maybe gain
another few tenths and stay with a good group."

Smith said: "I don't know what's going on, we
just can't set up the front-end well enough for
the fast downhill corners. ' OK running into the
corners but when I close the gas a little I have
a lot of front-end chatter and that puts me off
line and onto the dirty part of the track so I
can't get back on the gas as fast as I need to.
We have changed the centre of gravity to try and
help but it's not much better. We have had this
problem before but it was OK at Catalunya so we
have to find a solution. The engine is as good as
all the Honda's except Mike di Meglio's."


Honda rider quotes GP Malaysia, qualifying October 20, 2007.

MotoGP.

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 1st"It's great to
have three pole positions in a row and gives us a
good chance for the start tomorrow, but of course
the only important thing is the race result
because there are no points for pole position.
The qualifying laps went quite well and I
improved by 0.8s on my second fast lap which was
just enough to take pole position This afternoon
the conditions were quite different to those we
had yesterday and this morning - it was much
hotter which made the surface a little bit more
slippery. We've been testing more tyre options
today and we still have to decide which ones
we'll race with. It depends on the weather and
especially the temperature we expect for tomorrow
afternoon. We also need to do some more work on
the set-up based on the data from today's two sessions."

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda: 6th "This morning in
the cooler temperatures I was able to go a lot
faster than this afternoon so we definitely need
to come up with some adjustments to improve our
speed in the hot conditions. Sixth on the grid is
ok, although it hasn't exactly been the best day
for us. My qualifying lap wasn't perfect and,
like at Phillip Island last week, in the last
sector of the lap the tyre went a little bit
soft. Nonetheless, I was able to move up the
field on qualifiers and getting on the second row
here is ok. The main thing we have to decide is
which race tyre to run with because the track
changed so much this afternoon when the
temperature came up. The surface was really hot
and greasy, it was quite difficult for me to find
enough grip and my rhythm was not so good. We got
a decent qualifying position to give ourselves a
chance - now we've got to improve the settings in
race trim. It's going to be really important to
get a good start tomorrow and latch onto the front guys."

Marco Melandri, Gresini Honda: 3rd "I'm happy -
we know that I have got a good race pace. A front
row position on the grid is a good start for
tomorrow. The bike is improving - I can get on
the gas early and the speed down the straights is
much better. The bike and tyres are working well
together and this is a circuit I have always
enjoyed. This is probably the first time we've
had the right conditions to get the most out of
it and I felt comfortable today. I had fun and
now I feel confident about the race. It will be
tough and demanding on both the tyres and our
physical condition. It's really hot here - like
going from full winter in Australia to full summer in Malaysia!"

Toni Elias, Gresini Honda: 8th "We've done a good
job today, together with the team. The bike
setting has improved and we were able to do some
good tyre tests. We have chosen our tyre for the
race after running it in both sessions.
Unfortunately I didn't get a better starting
position because I ran out of time on my second
qualifying lap. It will be important to get a
good start tomorrow to try and stick it out with the lead group."

Shinya Nakano, Konica Minolta Honda: 14th "No
rain today but we and everyone else are still
struggling with this new track surface. In the
afternoon we improved a little with suspension
settings, but we're still looking for quicker
turning into the corners and overall a better
feeling from the front of the bike. At the moment
I cannot keep my corner speed up, or keep a
decent speed when entering the corner. Tomorrow
morning we will try and find a better setting in
warm-up. We will keep hoping for the best and
never give-up as the race is long and the
conditions still could be changeable."

Carlos Checa, LCR Honda: 16th It is not normal
that I am almost two seconds slower than my
times from pre-season testing here, especially as
we now have the updated chassis and engine parts
from Honda. Nothing we tried seemed to work and
on the qualifying tyres I had a big problem with
chatter and the front-end jumping around, the
bike would not turn. But we will not give up and
continue to try 100%. I will work with Ramon,
examine the data, and see what we can try in the
warm-up to improve the performance."

Kurtis Roberts, KR212V: 20th I'm struggling for
grip. I keep losing the front. The first
qualifier didn't last the lap, and anyway we went
the same speed as on the race tyres ... so none of
the tyres are working very good right now. It
could all be me. I don't know. We'll find out
tomorrow. The bumps are alright. I'm just losing
the front a lot. Could be me, could be tyres. I don't know.

Chuck Aksland - Team Manager Team Roberts As
Kurtis said, we're struggling for grip. Our rear
grip is kind of bad on race tyres, and we're
probably even worse off with the front right now.
When we went to qualifiers, the first qualifier
didn't last a full lap, and on the second the
front went away. Kurtis is doing okay for not
having been here for a long time. Every time he
goes out he gets more acquainted with the race
track, but it's a tough struggle here, and it'll
be a long race tomorrow. If it does rain it'll
better our chance a little bit. If it doesn't,
we'll do the best we can, like we always do.


250cc:

Andrea Dovizioso, Kopron Scot Honda: 4th "I'm
quite happy because we really improved the front
end of the bike this morning and I can hold my
line in the corners without pushing the front.
Today I quickly found a smooth fast rhythm in the
fast corners. The track temperature was very high
and this helped us a lot with finding a good
overall machine set up. If the race is held in
the same conditions I will be very happy. I am
mentally very relaxed as I have a good bike and I
like racing at Sepang and I feel very. As for the
championship I have to win the race, nothing else will count."

Julian Simon, Repsol Honda: 8th "Qualifying was
so - so I had a small problem with the front end
- it kept trying to turn in on me. The track was
a little dirty on the race line after the MotoGP
qualifying session and maybe that was part of the
problem. The tyre compound is OK so I think it is
the construction, it needs to be stronger - the suspension is good. "

Yukio Takahashi, Kopron Scot Honda: 12th "This
morning I had a good feeling with the bike but it
needed a little work on rear end. W changed the
suspension and the rear tyre but it was worse so
we changed back but ran out of time. I could not
understand why. When we checked the computer I
could see that I had been riding with my foot on
the rear brake. I thought my injured foot was
better but didn't have any feeling in it."

Ratthapark Wilairot, Thai Honda PTT-SAG: 15th
"Remaining on the fourth row wasn't easy because
the weather was really hot today, but in the end
I was able to improve on yesterday's lap times.
In the morning, we worked on stiffening the
suspensions as the grip improved, but it wasn't
enough. We did a good job anyway, finding a good set-up for the race."

Shuhei Aoyama, Repsol Honda: 16th "I didn't
really have any big problems with my machine but
I didn't have a good feeling. I don't know the
track and the new surface was very slippery in
qualifying. There as only on really good line to
use to set a good time but I could not get the
best out of the bike today. Tomorrow I don't
think I can get with the top group from 16th on
the grid but I hope to be fighting in the second group."

Eugene Laverty, LCR Honda: 20th "Considering I
lost about 30 minutes this morning with the crash
I'm very happy with my progress, I'm only 0.4s
away from 13th on the grid. We have made a big
improvement to front grip and braking stability."


125cc.

Alexis Masbou, FFM Honda: 12th "With Tiziano, my
chief mechanic, we did a lot of work on the
Australian Grand Prix data and changed the
Honda's chassis settings to improve our
performance entering the long corners. It handles
more easily and I'm faster entering the long
corners. Now I'm having a few problems in the
smaller corners but the overall feeling of the
bike is good. We will further fine tune these
settings for tomorrow┬╣s race. I achieved my
fastest lap time alone, which augurs well for the
race because with the slipstreaming I can maybe
gain another few tenths and stay with a good group.

Bradley Smith, Repsol Honda: 15th "I don't know
what is going on we just cant set up the front
end good enough for the fast downhill corners.
Its OK running into the corners but when I close
the gas a little I have a lot of front end
chatter and that puts me off line and onto the
dirty part of the track so I cant get back on the
gas as fast as I need to. We have changed the
centre of gravity to try and help but its not
much better. We have had this problem before but
it was OK at Catalunya so we have to find a
solution. The engine is as good as all the Honda's except Mike di Meglio's."

Tito Rabat, Repsol Honda: 17th "Tat was a very
difficult session for me I had problems with my
engine it was slow this afternoon it just would
not pick up, no pull at all. The chassis is not
so bad but the tyres are sliding a lot in the
fast turns if I push too hard the front wants to
turn in. We can fix the front end OK and I hope
the engine will be good in the warm up. I need a
good start to try and get with the top group but
I am on the fifth row of the grid."

Mike Di Meglio, Kopron Scot Honda: 18th "I don't
understand the qualifying session at all. I went
out with the same set up as in the practice this
morning, when I was 11th fastest, but in
qualifying I was not fast. My engine was
overheating but not much and second gear a little
too long but that was not the problem. Normally I
can make a fast lap alone but I had to wait for a
fast rider to help with the slipstream but I
didn't find one and had to do it alone."

Danny Webb, Molenaar Honda: 25th "I ran my
fastest lap behind Masbou but it could have been
better but I hit a bump and almost lost the
front. I lost the tow from Masbou but I'm still
happy with my time. I don't have enough grip on
the front end and the rear is sliding but that's
the same for everybody. The engine is fast but
struggles against the Aprilia's. To be honest the
only real problem I have to fix is my second
gear, its too long but I'm fast off most of the
corners and can hold my own with most when I'm braking."

Joey Litjens, Molenaar Honda: 27th "This morning
everything was super good but this afternoon it
went wrong for me on very first lap of
qualifying. For some reason the rear brake locked
on then freed itself. I went into the pit and the
team took only five minutes to fix it but when I
went back onto the rack I could not find my
rhythm or a good group to run fast times with.
Just before the end of qualifying I got in behind
Danny (Webb) and managed to set 27th time. I will
need one of my super fast starts tomorrow if I am going to get a good finish.

Source: Honda Pro Image

Click here to visit our forums to discuss this story

Headlines