Sete Gibernau raised the hopes of a home victory for over 100,000 fans at the Gran Premi Gauloises de Catalunya with a new pole record at the Montmeló circuit on Saturday. With a record crowd expected to descend on the circuit tomorrow, Gibernau provided the perfect appetiser with a dominant end to this afternoon's qualifying session, setting a string of fast laps including a best time of 1'42.337 to remain just out of reach of his hungry team-mate Marco Melandri, who lapped just 0.053 seconds slower than the Spaniard.
"I'm still not totally happy even though I'm on pole position because we're still not as competitive as I would like to be," explained Gibernau, who also started from pole position here last season. "Basically the bike doesn't seem to work as well when the temperatures rise and it is a problem we also found at Mugello. In any case it is obviously nice to be on pole position for my home race and I want to thank all my team and Michelin for their help. Tomorrow will be a long race but I'm ready."
Valentino Rossi completed the front row of the grid in third place after encountering tyre problems midway through the session and then later admitting that he "didn't ride at 100%" on his decisive qualifying lap. Rossi's Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards also encountered problems as he ran into a group of slower riders during his own assault on the grid positions, dropping from a potential front row start all the way down to seventh place in a typically unpredictable finale.
Max Biaggi ran out of time as he rushed to make a final tyre change at the end of the session, returning to the track as the chequered flag was being prepared and then running into the gravel as he pushed to make it to the line in time for a final flying lap. However, the Italian will be satisfied to have dropped no lower than fourth place on the grid as he continues his resurgent form following a disappointing start to the season.
Biaggi's Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden and Ducati rider Loris Capirossi, who took the factory's only MotoGP win at this circuit two years ago, also made the second row as they took advantage of Edwards' misfortune to move up to fifth and sixth place respectively. Carlos Checa and Alex Barros join Edwards on the third row in eighth and ninth, with the fourth row consisting of the hard-charging trio of Makoto Tamada, John Hopkins and Shinya Nakano. David Checa, who today stepped in for injured Yamaha rider Toni Elías, qualified 18th fastest.
Dani Pedrosa knocked over 1.5 seconds off his provisional qualifying time to snatch pole position for his home event, stopping the clock at 1'46.238 to dislodge Jorge Lorenzo from the top of the time sheets. Lorenzo will be confident of his chances in the race, however, after lapping 0.018 seconds quicker than his compatriot's pole time in the morning free practice. The teenager starts from second on the grid and is joined on the front row by Aprilia team-mates Sebastián Porto and Randy de Puniet. Andrea Dovizioso, who lies second in the championship, did not ride this afternoon after suffering minor injuries in a high-speed crash this morning. The Italian is hopeful of being declared fit for tomorrow's race, however, with his provisional time from yesterday enough for ninth place on the starting grid.
Mika Kallio returned to the top of the pile in the 125cc class with his fourth pole position of the season just six days after losing the World Championship lead to Thomas Lüthi. Kallio clocked a best lap of 1'51.451 to hold off the challenge of Mattia Pasini by just 0.064 seconds, with Lorenzo Zanetti also making the front row for the first time in his career behind Marco Simoncelli. Lüthi, who holds an eight-point advantage over Kallio, qualified tenth fastest.
Source: DORNA COMMUNICATIONS
Photo: Honda Pro Image