2010-04-11 00:21
The first qualifying session of the 2010 MotoGP World Championship got underway under the floodlights on a warm, but calm evening at the Losail International Circuit.

Casey Stoner (Ducati) took the first pole position of the new season, followed closely by Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner, the 2007 World Champion, moved to the top of the leaderboard with a series of fast laps near the midpoint of the one hour session, which ended in the desert just minutes before midnight. A number of riders took aim in the second half hour by fitting the softer of the two Bridgestone rear tyres, but none could bump the Australian from his perch.

Stoner finished the hour with a time of 1:55.007m, .355s faster than Rossi and over half a second up on Lorenzo.

The Honda rider who came closest to joining the front row was Randy de Puniet. Riding the LCR Honda, the Frenchman was on the front row almost to the very end before he was bumped to the second row pole by Lorenzo. Team owner Lucio Cecchinello was ecstatic to be the first satellite machine amid a host of works bikes and pleased to start the season in such impressive fashion.

Veteran Suzuki rider Loris Capirossi will start his 300th grand prix in the middle of row two, just in front of Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso. Dovi was in fourth when he clocked the fastest first segment time of any rider late in the session, with the promise of a pole position. But he wasn't able to maintain his momentum and instead will start from the end of row two.

Dani Pedrosa showed promising early speed on the Repsol Honda. The Spaniard held the top during the first 15 minutes, before losing it to Stoner. Pedrosa continued to test various parts and both Bridgestone tires wile dropping his time. His final tour of the 5.38ks track netted him a best lap of 1:55.990, just .027s behind Dovizioso.

Hiroshi Aoyama, the last ever 250cc World Champion, made his MotoGP debut by qualifying as the top rookie on the Interwetten Honda MotoGP machine. The Japanese rider was more than happy to qualify just off the third row and was looking forward to mixing it up with the world's best in Sunday's curtain-raiser.

The San Carlo Honda Gresini riders had a tough evening in the desert. Former 250cc World Champion Marco Simoncelli was relegated to one machine after crashing early in the hour. He finished 15th. Teammate Marco Melandri was two spots behind in 17th.

Gresini Racing Moto2's Toni Elias needed medical help from the Clinica Mobile before taking the first ever Moto2 pole position. The Spaniard broke bones in his left hand and right foot during a testing crash at Jerez 10 days ago and is far from full fitness. Still, he was the best of a close field of Moto2 riders, all of whom were riding with control Honda engines and on control Dunlop tyres. Julian Simon, Mapfre Aspar Team, starts from second place on the grid with Helmut Bradl third for Viessmann Kiefer Racing.

The top 13 were covered by one second, with the first five riders all on different chassis.

MotoGP Rider Quotes:

Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: 4th — 1 m, 55.831 s. "Two months ago we had some issues with the new bike at Sepang test but we remained concentrated on our job and I was confident that my crew could give me a better bike. We have improved slowly and my feeling has increased a lot. Since the beginning of this week end we have worked in the right way making some long run on race tyres with an excellent pace. In the qualifying session we have tested our race map and at the end I have lapped on soft tyres gaining the second row. Honestly I was not expecting such a brilliant result but I am very happy and want to thank my crew. Tomorrow's start is really important if I want to close the gap to the front riders."

Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 6th — 1m, 55.963s. "Tomorrow we will start from the second row on the grid, and this is positive because on this track it's not easy to recover positions - it's very important to start well. We had a good qualifying session after having some issues during the first free practice today and our pace is not too bad. I could have gone a little quicker in qualifying, but overall I'm reasonably satisfied. There are two or three riders with similar pace so tomorrow our target is to fight for the podium. Casey and Valentino have an incredible pace, but I'm confident I can compete for third position - provided I make a good start. Now we will analyze the data from today and think about some machine adjustments that we will test in the warm-up. Specifically, I was losing a lot of time in T3 and I also need to improve my starts so that's where we'll be focusing. All in all I'm optimistic about tomorrow and I'm looking forward to this race."

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 7th — 1m, 55.990s. "We improved the set-up again today - a little bit in the morning and then a bigger step in the afternoon - and the lap time is coming down which means our position is better than where we have been recently. In the warm-up we will try to optimise the set-up a little more to help us with the race distance and then it's down to the race where I'll be looking for a good start of course. In qualifying I felt more comfortable on the hard option Bridgestone tyre which is why I was pushing hard at the start of the session. I wasn't able to improve with the soft tyre so it looks like we'll be going with the hard tyre for the race. It was actually a shame this evening because on my last lap I made a mistake and lost some time, and if I hadn't done that I could have been 4th on the grid. Stoner and Rossi look very strong for the race, but there should be a big group fighting for the final place on the podium and I hope to be in amongst it."

Hiroshi Aoyama, Interwetten Honda MotoGP: 10th, 1 m, 56.227s. "In free practice I was not satisfied, but I had a better feeling than yesterday, because of the changes we made with the set up. The way we are on is defiantly good and that I could qualify for 10th place today is more than I expected after the last two practice sessions. I don't know what the race will be like, because I never rode a MotoGP race before, but I am happy I finished my first MotoGP Qualifying as the best rookie and in the top 10."
Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 15th, 1m, 56.957s. "Unfortunately the session didn't start well with the crash, which meant I needed a few laps to regain my confidence and set back the whole programme. It is a shame because we really needed to get through a full session. I just went into the corner too hard - trying to avoid Aoyama I braked too late and lost the front when I tipped it in. I'm disappointed because I had a good feeling in free practice. Now we have the warm up to try and sort a few things out, then it's a case of giving my best in the race. "

Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 17th, 1m, 57.325s. "I am really disappointed. I just can't get a feeling for the chassis or the engine and everything we try seems to be in vain. We put the soft tyre in and went slower and at this moment in time I am completely out of ideas as to what we can do. Maybe we need a magic wand that we can wave at the bike and everything slots into place. We'll see what the race is like but I don't expect it to be a good one for us!"

Moto2 Rider Quotes.

Gresini Racing Moto2 Toni Elias: 1st, 2m, 1.904 s. ""I'm happy and surprised because I didn't expect to go so fast after this evening's free practice, which didn't go well — partly due to my physical condition but also partly due to the set-up. The team worked hard to give me an easier bike to ride and then I was lucky to get behind Simon, who I was able to follow. I gave it everything and ended up with a magnificent lap time. Honestly speaking when I was back at home starting my rehabilitation I was thinking it would be hard to even make it out to Qatar and when I eventually made it out here I was struggling. Psychologically I have had to be really strong and I've adapted to the situation. I'm really happy. "

Julian Simon, Mapfre Aspar: 2nd. 2m 02.032s. "I am really happy because we have improved in every session this weekend. We haven't completely solved the chattering problem but the feeling is definitely better and so are the lap times. It is going to be exciting to be part of the first ever Moto2 race. With so many riders out there and the top guys so close together the start is going to be crazy - it will be really important to stay focused on not giving up positions. I'm so pleased to be on the front row because it shows the mentality from last season remains the same and I've carried my good form into this season. The team is also responsible for that. Hopefully we can finish the weekend off in the right way with a good points haul and maybe even a victory!"

Source: Honda Pro Image

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