Rossi earned his pole position from his fast practice lap on Friday after severe weather cancelled Satruday’s qualifying.
MotoGP brings the rain, twice to arid Qatar in 2009, and now the GP paddock gets wet in Japan, cancelling Saturday’s qualifying session at Motegi. Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards actually led a rainy Saturday morning practice session before the conditions worsened in the afternoon. The morning times were slower than Friday’s dry practice times, however, thus making yesterday’s timesheet the starting grid for Sunday and giving Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi the pole position. To help compensate for the loss of track time, the Sunday warm-up will be extended to 40 minutes.
“We’ve been very unlucky in these two races and last year as well, because we’ve just had so much rain! This year has been worse though because first we had to delay the race in Qatar and now we’ve had to cancel qualifying here,” said Rossi. “I don’t think it was such a good idea to come to Motegi in April! So now we’re going into a race after just 45 minutes in the dry and 45 minutes in the wet, and I think maybe it will be one of the most uncertain races ever!”
Joining Rossi on the front row is championship point leader Casey Stoner aboard the Marlboro Ducati Desmosedici. The 2008 and 2007 champs are expected to continue their duel for the front on Sunday. Rossi’s factory Yamaha teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, will also get a prime front row starting position as third-fastest.
Chris Vermeulen gets his best starting position of the young season and if the weather is wet on Sunday, the Aussie could get another chance to prove his rain skills.
Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen, a very talented wet weather rider, leads Row 2, the Aussie followed by the aforementioned Edwards. As for the Texas Tornado, Edwards will look for a much better start than at Qatar. Multiple Motegi winner Loris Capirossi will try to recapture his Ducati success on Sunday from sixth on the grid aboard his Suzuki GSV-R.
Repsol Honda’s best hope at the home Motegi round appear to be in the hands of sophomore MotoGP rider Andrea Dovisoso, who starts seventh. At Dovi’s side is lone Kawasaki rider Marco Melandri and Gresini Honda’s Toni Elias.
Former World Superbike champ James Toseland will attempt to correct his flagging GP fortunes from 10th on the grid. Meanwhile former Repsol teammates, Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden, fill up the remaining Row 4 spots. The history between those two could make for an interesting opening lap.
Row 5 is made up of satellite Honda riders Yuki Takahashi (13th) and Alex de Angelis (15th), with Sete Gibernau 14th on his Ducati. Meanwhile LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet heads up the final row, with the Pramac Ducati riders, Mika Kallio and Niccolo Canepa having their work cut out for them back in 17th and 18th.
MotoGP Motegi Starting Grid:
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) – 1’48.545
2. Casey Stoner (Ducati) – 1’48.601
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) – 1’48.965
4. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) – 1’49.382
5. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) – 1’49.697
6. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) – 1’49.980
7. Andrea Dovizoso (Honda) – 1’50.030
8. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) -1’50.123
9. Toni Elias (Honda) – 1’50.209
10. James Toseland (Yamaha) – 1’50.342
11. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) – 1’50.391
12. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) – 1’50.393
13. Yuki Takahashi (Honda) – 1’50.404
14. Sete Gibernau (Ducati) – 1’50.538
15. Alex de Angelis (Honda) – 1’50.601
16. Randy de Puniet (Honda) – 1’50.669
17. Mika Kallio (Ducati) – 1’51.643
18. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) – 1’51.929