Dani Pedrosa took pole position at Misano after a late session push put him just 0.018 ahead of Jorge Lorenzo.
The second day of MotoGP action at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli started off much like the first, with riders forced to exercise additional caution due to the potentially hazardous conditions on track and losing valuable time to dial-in their machines before Sunday. Luckily, by the afternoon qualifying session conditions had improved and action intensified.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa took pole position with a 1’33.857 lap time set in the final minutes of the session, beating Yamaha Factory Racing rider Jorge Lorenzo’s 1’33.875 set just three laps earlier. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow continued to show his growth in the premier class, earning his fifth start from the front row this season 0.144 seconds behind Lorenzo.
Owing to the fact that the qualifying session was the first dry run for riders since they arrived in San Marino, many had to scramble to find the right configuration for the technically demanding circuit.
“It was a pretty tight session and no time to rest as we had to test the tires, suspension and find some settings, as well as finding some feeling for myself,” said Pedrosa. “At the end we managed a good lap to take pole, which is very important as the first part of the circuit is very tight, so a good start is necessary. The setting on the bike is good so I hope to have a good race tomorrow.”
Lorenzo faced similar difficulties early on, but was also able to find a suitable set-up by the end of the afternoon. “The session was really hard as it was our first dry one. I struggled at the beginning to get the pace as we only had that hour of dry conditions. At the end I was able to get much better every lap and improved the bike a little bit. In the end we missed pole by such a little time. We are very close to Dani so I think everybody is waiting for a big battle tomorrow.”
Jorge Lorenzo needs to command the front on Sunday if he wants to protect his current lead in the championship.
A big battle is likely to occur for a number of reasons. Lorenzo and Pedrosa have both earned wins at Misano in the past two years and both are currently locked in a battle for the points lead. Pedrosa trails Lorenzo by 13, but has had an increasingly successful season, challenging for podium position in every race of the year and he currently enjoys a two-race win streak. Lorenzo, though, has never taken a placement lower than second all year, excepting the incident at Assen where he was forced to retire from the contest, and has five wins to his credit.
While Crutchlow may not be a points threat to either Pedrosa or Lorenzo, his continued improvement on track may add to the action in the lead pack on Sunday. The British rider is coming off his first career, premier-class podium (third in Brno) and has been consistently happy with the way he and the Tech 3 team are working together to improve performance.
“I am really happy to be on the front row again and I am particularly pleased for my Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew because they did a fantastic job in giving me a great bike, despite the lack of time on track,” said Crutchlow. “To be honest I felt a bit rusty because after missing the whole of yesterday’s practice with the weather, Brno felt like a long time ago. The start of the session was quite difficult and I was struggling for rear grip. I spoke to Jorge and he said he was also having an issue getting temperature into the tire but every minute the track was getting better and the grip was improving. I am feeling really confident after scoring my first podium in Brno and the good thing is we have carried that momentum to here.”
Another rider riding on positive momentum is rookie Stefan Bradl of LCR Honda. The German heads up the second row, tying his season best qualifying result. He also was included as the only satellite rider to test at Aragon with Repsol Honda and Yamaha Factory Racing, providing valuable time for him and his team to further fine-tune his machine. Bradl has yet to earn a podium in the main event, but has been close on a number of occasions and has been a regular top-10 finisher.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista followed Bradl in fifth, coming in just 0.442 off the top time posted by Pedrosa. Bautista was fastest in the morning’s Free Practice round, but was able to shave nearly eight seconds off his time when conditions improved. The Doctor, Valentino Rossi of Ducati, came in sixth-fastest and was followed by Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso in seventh. Dovi was less successful in dialing-in his machine than Crutchlow, but remains positive that he will be able to post a big result on Sunday.
Andrea Dovizioso will fight for podium position on Sunday despite his disappointing qualifying time.
“I can’t be satisfied with the work we did when I am only seventh on the grid,” said Dovizioso. “We should have done a better job but I am still on the third row and I am convinced I can fight for the podium tomorrow. It is going to be a very difficult race because we are going into the unknown a little bit with so much track time lost because of the weather. It will be a bit of a gamble on the set-up but we did manage to gather a lot of good data this afternoon and I know we will be competitive.”
Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies held to eighth and was followed by Repsol replacement rider Jonathan Rea in ninth. The World Superbike regular is filling in for the injured Casey Stoner, and though he’s been afforded the chance to test in Brno and Aragon, this was his first professional MotoGP qualifying session in proper race conditions. He achieved his goal of making the top-10 and he continues to improve his time as he gains experience on the RC213V.
“I woke up this morning pretty stressed after yesterday’s missed sessions and then FP3 was also pretty useless so I’ve got to be happy with a third row start and my goal was top 10,” said Rea. “I’m learning something on every single run and the team did a great job on translating my feedback to give me good settings on the bike. I’m taking things step-by-step and the limit is still quite a way off, but I don’t really want to find that limit just yet, I’m taking my time.”
Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden qualified 10th and he continues to recover from a broken hand sustained in the lead-up to Indianapolis. Friday’s fastest rider, Karel Abraham of Cardion AB Motoracing, took 11th with Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet heading up the CRT effort in 12th. Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera returned after missing a number of rounds due to injury and placed 13th.
MotoGP Misano Qualifying Results 2012:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’33.857
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’33.875
3. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’34.001
4. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1’34.221
5. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1’34.299
6. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’34.619
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1’34.916
8. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’34.988
9. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1’35.358
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’35.401
11. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’35.648
12. Randy de Puniet (ART) 1’35.756
13. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’36.048
14. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 1’36.284
15. Michele Pirro (FTR) 1’36.340
16. James Ellison (ART) 1’37.124
17. Mattia Pasini (ART) 1’37.162
18. Yonny Hernandez (BQR) 1’37.316
19. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter) 1’37.751
20. Colin Edwards (Suter) 1’38.068
21. David Salom (BQR) 1’40.075