Honda’s Marco Simoncelli grabbed the first MotoGP pole position of his career at Catalunya in the final 30 seconds.
San Carlo Honda’s Marco Simoncelli finally snagged the first pole position of his MotoGP career on Saturday at the Catalunya circuit. The Italian secured his fastest lap in the final 30 seconds of qualifying, beating Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner by just 0.016 seconds at the end of the hour-long session.
“It went well and I am much happier now than I have been for the past two weeks leading up to the Grand Prix,” said Simoncelli. “I was strong even though we had a few problems at the start of the session when I couldn’t push as hard as I would have liked. By the end we had solved the problems and I was able to ride really fast, although I never thought I would be able to set pole because Casey had been so fast in every session. I took a bit of a risk on the last lap trying to go faster and managed to save it, so finally my long legs have been good for something!”
“I’m disappointed with qualifying, we had good pace and should have been able to go a lot faster on new tires,” said Stoner. “In my first run of the session the bike wasn’t working so well, the tires weren’t warming up as expected with that set up and I had a lot less grip on the soft tire, which we couldn’t understand why. Front row is obviously where we want to be but I’m annoyed as we spent the whole session working on the tyres and not improving the bike set up.”
Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo placed third in the timesheets 0.315 seconds off the pace with his teammate, Ben Spies, just missing a front row start for Sunday’s race.
“It was a good session although we were missing a little bit of time out there,” Spies said. “Looking at the ideal split times it would have put us on the front row. We’re in a good position in fourth all the way to the left of the grid so hopefully we can have a good start and have a good first couple of corners.”
Spies held second in the charts with less than three minutes remaining, but will have to settle with a second-row start after coming just 0.014 seconds behind Lorenzo. Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso was fifth in the qualifying order with a best lap of 1’42.749. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow posted the sixth-fastest time and is his team’s only hope at Catalunya after teammate Colin Edwards fell during practice and broke his collarbone.
The Ducati duo of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden placed seventh and eighth, respectively, with Rossi placing ahead of his teammate in qualifying for the first time this season.
“This afternoon went a little better, although I can’t be happy with the third row,” Rossi said. “Crutchlow took the second row from us in the end, but it was my fault because if I had ridden better on my final lap, I could have cut a couple of tenths from my time, which would have put me in sixth. Anyway, we improved the bike’s settings. The three free-practice sessions were very difficult, and I even had a fall this morning, but fortunately I didn’t hurt myself. We found the key to the problem in qualifying though, and we made some setup changes that helped us to get a little closer to the front.”
Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista seized ninth in the charts and has a solid history at the Montmelo circuit after placing fifth in last year’s contest and winning a 250 race in 2009. Mapfre Aspar’s Hector Barbera rounded out the top-10 times during qualifying and was more than 1.2 seconds adrift of Simoncelli.
Both Edwards and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa will not be participating in the upcoming round due to injury.
American Ben Spies missed a front row start after finishing fourth in qualifying behind teammate, Jorge Lorenzo.
Catalunya MotoGP Qualifying Results 2011:
1. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1’42.413
2. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1’42.429
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’42.728
4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’42.742
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1’42.749
6. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’43.202
7. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’43.223
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’43.228
9. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1’43.447
10. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’43.656
11. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1’43.734
12. Randy de Puniet (Ducati) 1’43.764
13. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1’44.068
14. Toni Elias (Honda) 1’44.510
15. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’45.661
As weather threatened the skies overhead at Catalunya, the Moto2 field took to the track with Viessmann Kiefer Racing’s Stefan Bradl setting the fastest lap in qualifying for the fifth consecutive time this season. The German rider outpaced Pons HP 40’s Aleix Espargaro by 0.114 seconds and will start from the front row yet again. Gresini Racing’s Yuki Takahashi will round out the front row on Sunday after placing third during the session.
“The time gap is very close so we can expect many riders fighting at the front tomorrow, so I will have to be clever,” Bradl said. “Yesterday and this morning we had a strange problem in the corner exits which we had never had before. We improved this step by step in qualifying and I was able to use the tires quite well. I made a good lap but for sure I was at the maximum. My goal is to win, of course, but there will be a lot of riders, so I will just try to finish in the best position.”
For the first time this season Interwetten Paddock’s Thomas Luthi will have to start from the second row after he was unable to improve from fourth on the grid. The Swiss rider was followed by Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Marquez just 0.086 seconds behind. Tech 3’s Bradley Smith, who placed in the top-three during practice on Friday, was sixth in the timesheets followed by Marc VDS Racing’s Mika Kallio and Mapfre Aspar’s Julian Simon. Blusens-STX’s Esteve Rabat and NGM Forward Racing’s Jules Cluzel rounded out the top-10 times during qualifying, with Cluzel missing out on a third row start by just 0.030 seconds.
Stefan Bradl has a perfect record so far in 2011 for taking pole position, his record continuing now at Catalunya.
Catalunya Moto2 Qualifying Results 2011:
1. Stefan Bradl (Kalex) 1’46.753
2. Aleix Espargaro (Pons Kalex) 1’46.867
3. Tuki Takahashi (Moriwaki) 1’46.978
4. Thomas Luthi (Suter) 1’47.068
5. Marc Marquez (Suter) 1’47.154
6. Bradley Smith (Tech 3) 1’47.207
7. Mika Kallio (Suter) 1’47.226
8. Julian Simon (Suter) 1’47.355
9. Esteve Rabat (FTR) 1’47.426
10. Jules Cluzel (Suter) 1’47.456
11. Scott Redding (Suter) 1’47.527
12. Dominique Aegerter (Suter) 1’47.558
13. Javier Fores (Suter) 1’47.741
14. Michele Pirro (Moriwaki) 1’47.765
15. Simone Corsi (FTR) 1’47.781