Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi was completely shocked to have taken second on the grid during Saturday’s qualifying.
Valentino Rossi could barely contain his delight after he claimed his first front row start since returning from the broken right leg injury that blighted his 2010 MotoGP campaign. The Fiat Yamaha rider, boosted by the improved horsepower and acceleration from a new factory YZR-M1 motor, narrowly missed a shocking pole position after a dramatic finale to qualifying for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix. Rossi logged a best time of 1.47.055 on his final flying lap, but was just 0.054s away from denying fellow Italian, Andrea Dovizioso, his first MotoGP pole position.
Rossi, who is nearing the end of his Yamaha career as he prepares to join Ducati in 2011, was ecstatic to be so competitive having never been in the previous six races since he came back from injury in Germany during July.
“You don’t know how much I’m happy to be so fast and so competitive,” said Rossi. “It feels like 10 years have passed since the last time I was on the front row. We started yesterday afternoon with a good pace and we continued with some good laps in practice. I expected to suffer more with my shoulder in this track but the reality is I can ride well. We also
did a good job on the bike and we have a good setting. At the end I lost the pole position by just a little bit, but it is so important to start on the front row for the race.”
Rossi had feared the hard braking points that dominate the 4.801km Twin Ring Motegi track would give him serious discomfort with his lingering right shoulder injury. But he has been pleasantly surprised at how well his shoulder has stood up to the physical demands, and added: “I lose a little bit in the hard braking because I don’t have 100 percent power to stop the bike. But at the same time we worked very well, so I’m fast in the fast corners and I’m able to stay in front. I don’t suffer a lot when I have to stop the bike in a straightline. I suffer more where I have to use the brake in the entry with some lean angle. For that reason I don’t have a lot of pain and I can ride close to the maximum. We’ll wait for tomorrow. I think the crucial point is the rear tire decision and the track temperature. It is a question mark to use hard or soft, but like everybody I hope for a dry race.”
Rossi believes for the first time since his injury comeback that he can mount a serious challenge for victory in tomorrow’s 24-lap race. He’s only scored a best of third since returning to action.
“When you lose pole position by such a small gap, you have to try to win,” said Rossi. “It depends, especially on (Jorge) Lorenzo, who looks like he has a better pace than us. But he starts fourth, so it is more difficult. I will be happy already with the podium, but we will try for the victory for sure.”
Dani Pedrosa will have surgery on his left collarbone, which he badly damaged during a fall in practice at Motegi.
Casey Stoner declared himself satisfied after he claimed his 10th front row start of the season at the Japanese Grand Prix. The 24-year-old steered his factory Ducati GP10 machine to a best time of 1.47.105 to finish just 0.104s behind fastest rider, Andrea Dovizioso. The Aussie was only 0.050s behind reigning world champion, Valentino Rossi, in second-place as he finally found a setting that helped him cope with the stop-and-go nature of the Twin Ring Motegi track. Stoner had found a new setting that he first tried when ending his long winless streak at the Motorland Aragon track in Spain last week. When he found a set-up to his liking, he was ominously fast again and looking strong to fight for the victory in tomorrow’s 24-lap race.
“We’ve been trying to improve the bike’s stability all weekend,” said Stoner. “The Aragon setting just wasn’t going to work. We were just a little bit too high. So we kept dropping the bike trying to make it a little more stable on the brakes and we just kept losing more and more grip and the lap times just seemed to keep disappearing. With these heavy braking and acceleration areas we were having a lot of trouble under brakes. We put more effort in and we were going slower and slower. So we went back in the opposite direction again and we immediately got the bike to grip a bit better and the lap times just started to tumble. The amount of grip we are now generating compared to what we were is a huge difference, so we were able to take big chunks off the times and I’m definitely a lot more comfortable with the bike.”
Stoner said he was confident going into round 14 of the championship but conceded he lacked the consistency of some of his rivals. But he also believes there’s plenty of room for improvement, and added: “I still haven’t seen what consistency I can do and, the way the bike felt, I still haven’t reached the limit. But I think we did a great job in qualifying but the race is a different story so we have to make some changes tomorrow morning if it is going to be dry and hopefully go in the right direction.”
After taking his first premier class pole position, Andrea Dovizioso will be looking to pull of his second MotoGP victory of his career.
Meanwhile, Dani Pedrosa will have surgery on the left collarbone he badly damaged in a heavy practice crash at the Twin Ring Motegi. The Spaniard has arrived back in Europe and been admitted to the A&E department of the USP Dexeus in Barcelona following a crash caused when the throttle on his factory Honda RC212V jammed open. The Head of the Hand Surgery Unit at USP Dexeus, Dr. Xavier Mir, examined the Repsol Honda rider and did a three-dimensional CAT scan that confirmed a fracture (4 fragments) of the left collarbone, which needs to be set with a locked titanium plate. It has also been confirmed that he has a grade two sprain to his left ankle, which needs to be immobilized.
Andrea Dovizioso is confident he can claim only his second career MotoGP victory in Japan having romped to his first premier class pole position at the Twin Ring Motegi today. A brilliant lap of 1.47.001 was enough to deny compatriot Valentino Rossi his first pole position since the French Grand Prix at Le Mans by just 0.054s. And Dovizioso, who won last year’s rain-hit British Grand Prix at Donington Park, said: “We started really well from the beginning and yesterday I felt we had margin to be faster. Today everybody went much faster but I’m surprised about the lap time because a low 47 is really fast. I’m really happy about the job of the team because we have a lot of power but it is not easy to manage it and we made a really good set-up with the electronics. That is so important and as a result we are really fast here.”
Dovizioso said the biggest threat could come from Fiat Yamaha rival, Jorge Lorenzo, even though the Spaniard failed to qualify on the front row for the first time in 2010.
“Sure we have the possibility to win but Lorenzo is more consistent than us,” said Dovizioso. “But our lap time is good, and normally if I’m fast in the practice I’m also fast in the race and maybe a little bit more, so I’m really confident. But sure the race in MotoGP is always different and difficult and
Despite falling off the front row for the first time this year, the MotoGP paddock remains weary of Lorenzo and his ability to ride consistently.
we need to see the weather tomorrow. But we have a good possibility to fight not just for the podium, but also the victory.”
Having lost his 100 percent podium record at the Motorland Aragon race a fortnight ago, Jorge Lorenzo saw another impressive run come to an end in Japan today. The Spaniard, who earlier in the day confirmed signing a new two-year deal with Yamaha’s factory team, could only qualify in fourth position at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit. That result cost Lorenzo his 100 percent front row starting record in 2010 as a best lap time of 1.47.206 was 0.101s behind 2007 world champion Casey Stoner in third-place.
Lorenzo, who had only qualified outside the top-two twice this year prior to this afternoon, said: “I am a little disappointed because this wasn’t the result we were expecting. I would have really liked to be on the front row here in Japan, Yamaha’s home, after signing with them for two more years this morning. However, it’s only qualifying and the most important thing is that we’re ready for the race, we have a good pace and we only have one or two more small things still to work on. This afternoon I tried the new engine for the first time and it felt good in the high gears. This is the first time for me this season on the second row, but I am still close to the front and I will try to make the best start I can.”
Lorenzo can take a giant stride towards his first premier class world title in tomorrow’s 24-lap race. With compatriot and closest rival, Dani Pedrosa, back in Europe for surgery on his badly injured left collarbone, Lorenzo could put himself in a position to wrap up the title in Sepang next weekend. Lorenzo needs to be leading the series by 75-points after the
In addition to maybe winning the championship at Sepang, Lorenzo has also signed a new contract with Yamaha for the next two years.
Malaysia race on October 10th to become the first Spaniard to lift the premier class crown since Alex Criville in 1999.
In addition Jorge Lorenzo has agreed a new two-year year deal with Yamaha’s factory MotoGP squad. Protracted negotiations have finally been resolved and the Spaniard has confirmed he will partner Texan Ben Spies on a factory YZR-M1 machine next season. The announcement, made earlier at the Twin Ring Motegi, comes as little surprise with Lorenzo having no alternative options at Honda or Ducati. He has spent his entire MotoGP career with Yamaha, having joined MotoGP as reigning 250GP in 2008. He’s won seven races in 2010 and is red-hot favorite to win his first MotoGP crown in 2010 as he holds a commanding 56-point lead over injured rival, Dani Pedrosa, with just five races remaining.
“My first choice was always to stay here with Yamaha and I am very glad that this will happen,” Lorenzo said. “I feel happy here; I have good people around me, a strong relationship with Yamaha and a great bike. I want to say thanks again to Lin Jarvis, who has always supported me. Now we are focused on winning the championship but I am already excited about next season. I know that Ben and I can do a great job for Yamaha and I want to thank them for their belief in me.”
Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing Lin Jarvis said: “We are extremely happy that we have reached an agreement with Jorge to remain a factory Yamaha rider for 2011 and 2012. Since he joined three years ago he has made great progress and has improved himself every year to go from fourth- place and ‘best rookie’ in 2008, to second-place in 2009, to challenging for the MotoGP championship title in 2010. I am particularly pleased to finally get the agreement in place here in Japan because it will now enable Jorge to focus all of his efforts and concentration in the coming weeks to try to secure his first MotoGP class rider’s title. Being only 23-years-old, I believe Jorge has a long career ahead of him and hopefully he can win many world titles with Yamaha. Jorge will be joined by Ben Spies in the Factory Team next year and with these two exceptionally talented hungry young riders we will start the 2011 season with the most exciting and competitive team in the paddock.”