2011-11-06 00:08
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) scored a brilliant pole position in tricky, drizzly conditions at Valencia this afternoon. It was the recently crowned World Champion’s 12th pole of the year, which equals the record established by Mick Doohan (Repsol Honda NSR500). Stoner’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) was second quickest to give the Repsol Honda team yet another one-two on the grid.

Conditions were cold, damp and grey, fitting the sombre mood of the MotoGP paddock following the tragic loss of Italian Marco Simoncelli at the Malaysian Grand Prix on October 23. Simoncelli is in everyone’s minds here and indeed the event seems more like a memorial to the much-loved former 250 World Champion than a normal Grand Prix. There are tributes throughout the paddock and pit lane, with riders carrying his number 58 on their bikes, leathers and helmets. Three-time World Champion Loris Capirossi (Ducati) – who retires from the sport after tomorrow’s season-ending race – has replaced his usual number 65 with Simoncelli’s 58 as a way of honouring his fallen compatriot.

Following tomorrow morning’s warm-up sessions all three classes will congregate together to ride a lap on their MotoGP, Moto2 and 125 machines led by former 500 World Champion Kevin Schwantz who will ride Simoncelli’s San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V. Schwantz was a childhood hero of Simoncelli’s and in recent years the pair had become great friends.

Despite the mournful mood, Stoner put on another bravura qualifying performance around this short, tight racetrack. Undeterred by the intermittent drizzle that fell throughout the qualifying session, the Australian was in glorious form, painting long black lines through turn 13, the fast, curving penultimate corner. Stoner didn’t even join the session until it was already ten minutes old – his mechanics had been adjusting his motorcycle to suit the conditions – and yet within five minutes he was already the fastest man on the track. He kept increasing his pace to end the hour 1.014s ahead of local hero Pedrosa.

The Spaniard maintained a fast and consistent pace during the session, which saw several riders falling due to the treacherous conditions. Tomorrow’s weather forecast suggests the race may also be run in the rain, but Pedrosa worked hard during the two wet and one dry free practice sessions to ensure that he is ready whatever the weather brings. He is joined on the front row by Ben Spies (Yamaha) who missed the previous two races through injury.

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) was doing everything he could to get to the front during his last qualifying session on a Honda – he will ride a Yamaha in 2012 – but his efforts were thwarted during the final moments when he lost the front at turn four and took a heavy tumble. The Italian had been as high as fourth fastest, but ended the day in eighth position and will start tomorrow’s race from the third row of the grid.

Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V) and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) will start their last race of 2011 from the fifth row of the grid. The Spaniard struggled in this morning’s session but made some useful improvements to his machine for qualifying and is hoping to have a good last race with LCR tomorrow. Aoyama meanwhile struggled to get a good feeling in the cool, unfriendly conditions. Chatter was the main concern and his crew will work to try and find a solution before tomorrow’s warm-up session.

Michele Pirro (Gresini Racing Moto2-Moriwaki) topped the rain-hit Moto2 qualifying session to score his first pole position in the class. The session had got underway on a dry track, but the rain soon came, effectively terminating the battle for the final Moto2 pole of the year. Pirro and team-mate Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing Moto2-Moriwaki) put on a remarkable performance in tricky conditions to secure a one-two for their grieving squad.

Their strategy was simple – with the threat of more rain on the horizon they bolted out of the pits and went as quickly as possible as soon as possible. Pirro’s pole lap was only his fourth lap and he pulled in after another lap as the rain hit home. Takahashi also set his fastest lap on his fourth time around, ending up just nine thousandths of a second behind his team-mate. This is his sixth front-row start of the year.

Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team-Suter) was delighted to be in the top three for the first time this year, in fact for the first time since his days in the 250 class. But no one was happier than Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing-Kalex), who was proclaimed 2011 Moto2 World Champion after his only title rival Marc Marquez (Team Catalunya Caixa Repsol-Suter) announced his withdrawal from the event before this morning’s final free practice session.

Marquez, who had led the points chase at the Japanese GP, but lost it again in Australia, is unable to ride here due to injuries sustained during an FP1 crash in Malaysia, where marshals had failed to flag a wet section of track. Marquez has suffered double vision since the accident and is still having vision problems, so he could not attempt to ride here.

Bradl enjoyed a low-key celebration in his pit at the end of qualifying, which he completed in fourth position. No doubt the young German will be aiming to finish his season with a win tomorrow, to underline his strength in the Honda-powered series. Bradl will be joined on the front row by Phillip Island winner Alex De Angelis (JIR Moto2-Motobi) and Sepang Moto2 winner Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2-Suter).

The Valencia Moto2 third row includes Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP-Suter), Xavier Simeon (Tech 3 B-Tech 3) and Mike Di Meglio (Tech 3 Racing-Tech 3).

MotoGP rider quotes

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 31.861s
“Of course I’m really happy with pole position today. I’m still hungry to win and get pole positions, after all this is why I line up to go racing. Winning the Championship is the bonus at the end of the season, but I still try my best in every session and every race. I took less risks yesterday in the wet as I didn’t feel we were making any progress in the conditions. Today was also difficult, there was a little rain in all the sessions, this morning there were some wet patches on the track and it was hard to know where to push, then the same this afternoon with some rain on the track, you’re never 100% sure how far you can push. We felt comfortable though and the feeling in the bike was pretty good, with a similar setup to the test we had here last year and we put in a good lap. Now we’ll have to see what the weather does tomorrow and take it from there, but we remain confident.”

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda RC212V: 2nd – 1m 32.875s
“It was tricky out there because we had a little rain by the middle of the session, we were lucky because the track stayed dry and we were able to do one more practice on slick tyres. Casey was very fast and consistent. I’m happy with second position on the grid, it’s a good place to start, but I’m not totally satisfied with the setup of the bike yet. We need to improve the front tonight with the mechanics. I want to have a good race tomorrow, it’s the last one and in front on my fans, so I’ll do my best to finish the season in the best way.”

Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 8th – 1m 33.824s
“It was a strange session, complicated by the wind and the difficult track conditions. Towards the end of the session the conditions improved and I was fourth and not pushing because I didn’t want to take too many risks, but then when the other riders began to improve their lap times I saw that I needed to push. Unfortunately at turn four I lost the front and crashed. It was my mistake as the tyre was cold and turn four is the first right turn. Thankfully I haven’t broken anything, I dislocated my thumb and have heavy bruising, it is quite painful but I will have some treatment to reduce the pain. I didn’t have the perfect qualifying for the race. We are fighting for third position in the championship and starting from the third row is not ideal, but I will rest tonight and tomorrow start over and super-determined. The weather is uncertain but we will be prepared for every condition.”

Toni Elias, LCR Honda MotoGP: 13th – 1m 34.680s
“This morning was tough but we have improved a lot in the afternoon session. These mixed conditions with damp surface are not my favourite, but this morning we made some adjustments on the weight balance and I felt more confident. So I kept on working on that bike even in the afternoon. The riders up in the front are too fast but I think I can take another good start and make my race in the top ten. This is going to be my last race aboard this bike with this Team so I want to make the most of this Sunday.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 14th – 1m 34.838s
“Qualifying today did not go well, we had a chatter problem and I couldn’t get confident with the bike or push it as I wanted. I hope to find a solution tomorrow to improve the situation and recover positions

Moto2 rider quotes

Michele Pirro, Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki: pole position – 1m 37.067s
“I’m very happy to get my first pole position in Moto2. The conditions were not easy, it was very tricky out there with rain here and there. I think maybe Marco [Simoncelli] was pushing me and the bike. I’d like to dedicate this pole position to Marco and his family. Thanks very much to my team because I know this is a very hard weekend for everyone in the team. Tomorrow I will push very hard to do my best for the team – a good result here would be so important.”

Yuki Takahashi, Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki: 2nd – 1m 37.076s
“The conditions were very difficult in qualifying. We went out and tried to go as fast as possible as soon as possible because we knew that rain could come, and we were right. I’m very surprised to see that me and Michele are first and second. I think maybe Marco [Simoncelli] gave us some power today. The team is working very well, so my thanks to them.”

Mika Kallio, Marc VDS Racing Team, Suter: 3rd – 1m 37.477s
"It’s been a long time since I have been up here on the front row, so it’s great to be back, a good feeling. The bike was more or less okay in the dry and the wet sessions, so I think we should be okay in the race. We can be really happy with this front row. Tomorrow I will do the best I can – get a good start and then go from there.”

Source: Honda Pro Image

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