MotoGP LeMans Final Qualifying

May 16, 2009
Ken Hutchison
Ken Hutchison
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The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa earned the first pole position of the 2009 season after a sneaking a last second flying lap at the end of the final session. Weather conditions were perfect for the GP riders after practicing in the rain on Friday. Pedrosa will be joined on the front row by Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Marlboro Ducati’s Casey Stoner. Championship points-leader and reigning Le Mans lap record holder Valentino Rossi qualified fourth.

After seeing Rossi crash  the Spaniard slowed down and dropped to 12th after seven laps  Pedrosa steadily got up to speed on his slicks and then started clawing his way back to the front.
Dani Pedrosa claimed his first pole of 2009 this afternoon in France.

Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda – Pole
“Obviously I’m really happy with pole today and it was a very close battle for the front row. Right at the end we were able to set the fastest lap and I’m really pleased for the team as well as for myself. Being on the front row is important, and it’s also lucky that we had good weather for this afternoon and for most of the morning session because this allowed us to test a few set-up options and learn more about the machine at this track. We still have work to do before the race though, so we’re not going to relax at all. It’s a long race tomorrow and there are some improvements I’d like to make to the machine settings to give us a good chance. And of course the weather can play a big part at this circuit as we’ve seen many times before. We have to prepare for many conditions, so we’re staying focused.”

Jorge Lorenzo – Fiat Yamaha – 2nd
“I was tiny bit unlucky on that last lap, and we were so very close so it’s a pity! Anyway the important thing is that we’re on the first row and now we can try to get the good start that we need. I felt strong on the bike today and I was able to make a lot of consistent laps this afternoon, so I am happy about the shape we’re in for the race. I really hope that the weather is the same tomorrow and I am looking forward to the race and to getting a good result, like last year here.”

Casey Stoner – Marlboro Ducati – 3rd
“This afternoon’s session was always going to be something of a gamble because of the weather conditions. It was a similar situation to the one we had in Jerez, with everybody struggling to get enough time to set up the bike. We really needed to use the qualifying session to try to get a bit better set up, but still in the back of your mind you tried to keep enough time in the end of the session to get a good qualifying position. We went out and the bike felt quite good but we didn’t get a really good time with the first softer tire. When I went out with the second one unfortunately I got stuck behind Chris Vermeulen for a couple of laps and pretty much used the best of the tire. I’m a bit disappointed because I think we could have been a little bit faster. Anyway, I’m reasonably happy with my race pace. We’ve had a few issues with the bike that we’ve worked on well and it’s important that we’re on the front row. It’s going to be a tough race tomorrow whatever the conditions, but I feel a little bit more confident here than in Jerez. I hope to able to stick at the front a little bit better! ”

Valentino Rossi qualified for 4th to cap-off the final row of the starting grid for Sundays race in Le Mans.
Rossi: I think it could be a very fun race; for the fans but I hope also for us!

Valentino Rossi – Fiat Yamaha – 4th
“Qualifying was a lot better for us! Yesterday and then again this morning we weren’t in such good shape, but we’ve done a good job to fix the bike and this afternoon I could ride how I wanted. It’s not perfect and we can still make it better, but we’re okay. We’re on the second row and a good start will be important because all the top riders are very, very close and there are many that I think can challenge for the race tomorrow. I do hope it’s dry, like this, but if it’s going to rain it would be better if it rained all day so we can try our wet setting in the warm-up, because finally here we’ve been more or less on a dry track for all three sessions.”

Andrea Dovizioso -Repsol Honda – 5th
“Starting from the second row is okay and I feel I could have gone quicker still if I’d managed to get the maximum from the soft tire. I’m happy though, because I had a good rhythm and was able to maintain a fast pace on both the soft and hard Bridgestone tire options during the practice sessions. We will have to take a lot of care with the tire selection because, with the changeable weather situation and temperature here, the choice of tires for the race will be crucial. It’s likely that we won’t know which ones to use until just before the race when we’ll have the best idea of the conditions. Tonight we’ll study a few more setting adjustments and aim to finalize things in the warm-up. I like this track and I’m looking forward to the race.”

Colin Edwards – Tech 3 Monster Yamaha – 6th
“I’m happy on one side because my race pace is really consistent and I’m as quick as the guys in front of me, so I expect to be challenging at the front in the race tomorrow. But part of me is a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t higher up the grid having been close to the top pretty much throughout. I had a couple of small issues and I feel there was more time out there. Basically I can only use the hard front tire. I can’t get the soft one to work, but we have to keep two of the four hard compound tires for the race. So by the end of the session the front I like is past its best with a lot of laps on it. When you put in the softer rear tire to make a lap time at the end of the session, the best grip on the hard front has gone and it starts moving because you’re pushing it too hard. Having said that, to be within three tenths of the fast guys I’m not complaining too much. And when we start the race tomorrow with the grip of the front and rear at the same level, we’re not going to have a problem. I got a podium last year for Tech 3 in its home race, so I’m definitely looking for a repeat of that.”

The umbrella girls deemed the weather to confusing to umbrella  and soon gave up. Strangely  no one was upset by their lack of effort. The End.
The Rizla twins qualified 7th and 8th…

Chris Vermeulen – Rizla Suzuki – 7th
“Things went quite well all day today and this morning we took quite a big step forward with the bike. We tried to get everything working right as quickly as possible, but we had a sprinkle of rain this morning – so that was a bit of a pain – and we didn’t quite get all the things done that we wanted to. This afternoon though was completely dry and the sun even popped its head out – which was nice! We got through everything we wanted to test on the bike and we got a bit more feeling which led to more confidence in the machine, then it was just down to doing fast lap-times. For me the soft rear tire was the best for doing that and it felt quite consistent so it was the best tire for qualifying – it might even be the race tire. I am a bit disappointed to be back on the third row, but I’ve been getting good starts recently, so I need one of those tomorrow!”

Loris Capirossi– Rizla Suzuki – 8th
“We had a bit more luck today with the weather and that certainly helped us to get the settings for the bike sorted. We did a lot of good work on the bike and tried a couple of different settings to see which worked the best for here. In the end I pushed a bit harder and the lap-time improved, but I still have a problem in the last section – especially in the final couple of corners – and I am losing a bit of time there. We will analyze the data this evening to try to make the improvements I need for tomorrow and I know it is not so easy for me in the last part, but I am sure I can make it up. The team has done a great job this weekend and now it is up to me!”

Randy de Puniet – LCR Honda – 10th
“I am not satisfied about my qualifying because I made a mistake at the beginning of the session and lost some track time. I probably braked on the white line and the surface was still damp. We have been doing a good job and the machine was on a good technical level. After the crash I rode my number two bike, but I could not do a perfect lap time especially on my last run because of the traffic. However, we have got the right race set-up and I must take a good start tomorrow so I can ride at the front. The first six riders are very fast and I have to do my best to finish just behind them.”

Toni Elias – San Carlo Honda Gresini – 11th
“I’m really suffering here because I have no strength at all in my right arm and no matter how much I try I simply can’t push the bike any harder. I’ve been trying to get behind other riders for a tow and it helps but it’s so hard. This morning was particularly bad but we were at least able to improve the bike in the afternoon and the lap times came down significantly. I was able to hold my position from yesterday and I’m pleased with that. I’m doing everything I can, so are the team, and tomorrow we’ll just try to get through the race and pick up as many points as we can.”

James Toseland – Tech 3 Monster Yamaha – 12th
“I felt much happier today and the team gave me a great bike. I’m sorry to my guys really for not being a bit further up the grid, but we’re so close to being on the edge of the top six and I feel I’m making the progress I’ve been looking for. This morning it was too cold for the hard front tire, so we didn’t really run it, but with ten degrees more temperature this afternoon, it was much stronger and I felt much more comfortable and that helped me a lot. With the softer rear tire, which I’m sure will be the race choice that should be a good combination. Sadly the final position is not great again and that is something that has hampered me this season. I’m not far off the group in front at all but starting further down makes it tough to pick them off when we’re all doing similar lap times. I really feel though that I’m getting close and today I started to enjoy riding and not thinking about always struggling. That was a good feeling and I know how important this race is for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team and I’ll be giving it 100 per cent as always.”

Overall its not a great result but it has been a weekend where me and Juan have been able to work a lot together for the first time  weve tried to build an understanding and hopefully we can go forward from here.
The struggle continues for Nicky Hayden.

Nicky Hayden – Marlboro Ducati 13th
“We’ve found different conditions and a different situation here at Le Mans but we’re still at the back of the grid so it’s frustrating. We started over with some of the settings this weekend but like everybody the lack of track time at the moment is hurting us. We have made steady progress over the course of the weekend but at the moment I still don’t have the rear grip and predictability going into the corners that I need – the rear feels like it wants to come around on me a lot of the time. We’ve made little steps in some areas that we need to build on but at the end of the day the time sheets don’t lie and we’re too far from the front of the grid. The priority tomorrow is to get a good start and go fast early in the race. It would be nice to have some fun and finish with a good result. I’m not exactly banking on it at the moment but we’ll see!”

Final Qualifying Results:
1. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda 1’33.974
2. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’33.979
3. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’34.049
4. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’34.106
5. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda 1’34.300
6. Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’34.330
7. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’34.676
8. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’34.839
9. Marco Melandri (ITA) Hayate Racing Team 1’35.008
10. Randy De Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP 1’35.399
11. Toni Elias (SPA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’35.431
12. James Toseland (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’35.524
13. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’35.682
14. Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Racing 1’35.741
15. Yuki Takahashi (JPN) Scot Racing Team 1’35.774
16. Alex De Angelis (RSM) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’35.785
17. Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Pramac Racing 1’36.136

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