Valentino Rossi dampened the optimism of thousands of home fans in Italy today when he conceded it was unlikely he could fight for a third straight win in Misano. The Fiat Yamaha rider will start the 28-lap race from fourth on the grid having finished just 0.073s behind Casey Stoner’s factory Ducati GP10. Rossi was over 0.5s behind Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa in pole position and he was also unable to match the pace of Spanish teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
“I’m not so far behind but it depends very much on which tire the top guys will use and which temperature we will have on track at the time of the race,” Rossi said. “I am not far back and I have quite a good rhythm, but in the same conditions compared to Jorge he is a bit faster than me. I think the key of the race will be the rear tire. If Pedrosa is able to use the soft tire he will have a grip advantage at the beginning. I think Lorenzo and Pedrosa are in better shape than me, so it will be very difficult to try and beat them. For the third-place it looks like between me, (Casey) Stoner and (Ben) Spies. The front row would have been good for the race tomorrow but I just missed out today. I think I had the potential today but unfortunately with the last tire I found some traffic at the end.”
Rossi at least feels his physical condition has improved again after the punishing heat in Indianapolis.
He said his lingering right shoulder injury is causing him more discomfort than the broken right leg he suffered in Mugello in early June. Rossi damaged ligaments in his shoulder when motocross training in April, and said: “I feel good. It is a lot easier compared to Indy because the temperature is more human and I feel better with my leg. But this track is very demanding for the shoulder because there are three hard braking points on the right. I have some pain and I lose 01.s in every braking. I hope it remains constant and doesn’t get worse at the end of the race.”
Stoner shrugged off another front-end crash this afternoon after he qualified on the front row of the grid for the Misano MotoGP race. The Australian lost control of his factory Ducati GP10 machine with 20 minutes of qualifying completed after he opted to ditch the 2011 spec Ohlins front forks he’d used in practice. Stoner instead reverted back to the 2009 forks he’d used since Mugello before gambling on running next year’s front suspension after a test in Brno last month. Stoner crashed out of the top-six in Indianapolis while using the new forks, and after logging a best time of 1.34.397, he ended third-quickest. He was 0.449s behind Dani Pedrosa but just 0.141s slower than world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo, and the 24-year-old Aussie said: “We struggled a little bit with qualifying in Indianapolis but today I felt quite confident. We didn’t have the best set-up on Friday but today we definitely improved it and as the day went on we got better and better. This morning we went back to the old fork and immediately knocked a second off the lap time. I got a bit more feeling with the front-end and even though I crashed it is nothing to worry about. I was just seeing the time from the lap before and feeling a bit more confident and trying to go a bit quicker. But obviously it was too much and I lost the front. For the race I’m feeling more confident than I have been. I’ve said that a lot this year and I’m slowly getting closer without really cracking it. We’re feeling confident. The second bike I crashed on I felt a lot better and more confident on and we might be able to hang in there with Dani and Jorge.”
The 2007 world champion hasn’t won a race since the Malaysia clash in Sepang last Octoher and he said he wouldn’t go all out in Ducati’s home race to end his barren run.
Despite crashing in the first half of the hour-long qualifying session, Casey Stoner (#27) took third on the grid.
I’ve been desperate to win all year but I’m learning to deal with it,” Stoner said. “It’s been too long basically and I’m definitely not going to go crazy for a win. If I feel fast enough to go for it, I will, otherwise I’ll score as many points as I can. I’m still trying to fix some problems from this year and in some ways we are getting close to solving them. But we’ll keep fighting for these last races and see what happens.”
With such a massive lead in the MotoGP world championship going into the Misano clash, Jorge Lorenzo is desperate to avoid a melee at the tight first corner in tomorrow’s race. The Spaniard failed to claim pole position for the third successive race this afternoon as a best lap of 1.34.256 left him trailing in form to rival Dani Pedrosa by 0.308s. But the Fiat Yamaha rider was still satisfied to be on the front row, with the risk of an early incident in the 28-lap race at the back of everybody’s mind. The double world 250GP champion had a narrow escape 12 months ago when he was almost involved in a second corner pile-up instigated by Alex de Angelis that also took out American duo Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden.
“It is very important to be on the front row because the first two corners are a bit dangerous and I almost crashed there last year with de Angelis, Hayden and Colin,” Lorenzo said. “I am still not as fast as some of my rivals at the moment but I am still sure I can fight for the win. I improved quite a lot with the lap times so I’m confident. We have improved in every practice here and after the troubles of yesterday I’m happy about this session. I have a good pace now and I’m feeling confident about a good race. Unfortunately we couldn’t profit as much as we might have with the softer tire at the end of the session and our bike isn’t the fastest here, but we have good corner speed so I hope we will be able to stay with the leaders.”
Dani Pedrosa heads into Sunday’s race expecting a difficult battle after claiming his fourth pole position of the season.
Dani Pedrosa expects a tough fight in tomorrow’s Misano MotoGP race after he comfortably claimed his fourth pole position of the season. The Repsol Honda rider’s best time of 1.33.948 beat compatriot and title rival Jorge Lorenzo by 0.308s as Pedrosa seeks a second win in a week after his runaway success in Indianapolis last weekend. Pedrosa, who is looking to reduce Lorenzo’s healthy 68-point lead in the championship by winning back-to-back MotoGP races for the first time in his career, said: “If you look at the lap times then probably it will be a close race. But we have to focus because it is a very long race and it will be important to be quick and not make any mistakes. I’m happy to be on pole position because we were strong throughout practice and things have gone according to plan so far this weekend. We are doing a very good job at the moment, improving at every round and now we have the chance to have another good race. I’ve never won two MotoGP races in a row and this is a good challenge for me – I really want to go for it. Today went well especially because this was a very tight qualifying session and, as I said yesterday, it was crucial to be on the first row of the grid to have the best chance of getting through the first corners cleanly, because they are very tight. It’s a quite a tricky circuit and tomorrow it will be important not to make any mistakes – particularly on the brakes – in order to keep a high pace for the whole race distance. I think it will be very difficult to make a gap, but we’ll wait and see what the strategy is for the race.”
Ben Spies missed a third successive front row start in tomorrow’s Misano MotoGP race by just 0.075s in a closely fought qualifying session. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider, who qualified on pole position for the first time in
Yamaha’s Tech 3’s Ben Spies missed yet another front row start after Loris Capirossi baulked him on his hot lap.
Indianapolis a week ago, will start tomorrow’s 28-lap race from fifth place on the grid having posted a best time of 1.34.472. That left the rookie sensation just 0.002s behind reigning world champion Valentino Rossi and only 0.075s behind Aussie Casey Stoner in third-place. But Spies blamed Italian veteran Loris Capirossi for his failure to extend his brilliant qualifying performances. The 26-year-old felt the factory Suzuki rider baulked him and that incident probably cost him his chance to join Spanish duo Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo.
“I’m a little upset and I definitely should have been on the front row,” Spies said. “But I kind caught up with Loris who was on a Sunday cruise and that’s aggravating. The last few laps I put in I was making stupid mistakes that would have given me a better time but when you get somebody that messes your lap up just because they are being careless, it’s pretty damn annoying and that’s what happened because that was my best lap. I wasn’t too upset at the time because I didn’t think it would be a front row lap but if it hadn’t been for him I’m pretty sure I would be sitting on the outside of the front row.”
Spies, however, is confident he can mount a rostrum challenge in Round 12 tomorrow having made big progress with the set-up of his YZR-M1 machine.
The reigning World Superbike champion said: “We made some changes overnight that didn’t really help this morning and then made more changes before the session and made a lot of improvement. Everything went smooth and I got going a lot better and got my confidence going mid-corner and it was a good qualifying session. I’m a whole lot happier compared to where I was at this morning and we’ve got the bike working.”
The most significant improvement came with the front-end performance of his YZR-M1, which had been a niggling issue during practice.
Despite his fifth-place start on the grid, Spies believes he can mount a significant threat to the podium in Sunday’s race.
“We made some changes and I’m pretty happy because usually when you are reinventing the wheel you find something good and something horrible but we made it quite a bit better,” Spies said. “It made me ride a little better and I think there’s more to come, nothing mind blowing but to make it easier to ride towards the end of the race. To be in the middle of row two is a perfect starting position for this track.”
Hector Barbera has signed a new deal for the Aspar Ducati squad. The Spaniard, who is currently 12th in his rookie MotoGP world championship campaign, has signed a one-year deal to ride a Ducati GP11 machine next season. Heading into tomorrow’s 28-lap Misano MotoGP race in Italy, Barbera has scored a best result of eighth in Le Mans and scored points in ten of the eleven races for Jorge Martinez’s squad.
“I am really pleased that we will continue to take this project forward,” Barbera said. “I was calm and confident that I would stay for another year but once the contracts are signed and sealed that helps you to concentrate better and focus purely on racing. I want to thank Jorge again for his continued support and for the opportunity to race for him again. We are doing our job well, the team is helping me a lot and you know when you are part of a winning team. This is the most difficult project I have ever been involved with because MotoGP is the highest level but I am satisfied that we are working in the right direction. Now we head to some circuits where I went well last year so we’re looking to end the season on a high. I am also sure that Valentino’s move to Ducati will bring a lot of experience and improve the bike.”
Martinez said he was happy to have clinched a new deal with Barbera and added: “Even though this is a learning year Hector is doing a very good job in MotoGP, considering the quality of the field. With the pace he has set he would have been in the top-five two years ago and it is hard to find another rider with the same level of performance and potential. Ducati have supported us ever since we began this project and they agree that Hector is an excellent rider with a long career ahead. So after announcing that we will be continuing with the Italian factory next year we were keen to confirm that we’ll be sticking with Hector too. It is a subject that has been on the table practically since the start of the season but we decided to make it public here in Misano considering the good form he has shown in recent races.”