News 31 May 2009

MotoGP: De Puniet top Honda with fifth in Italy

Honda Racing PR:

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was Honda’s top performer in this afternoon’s thrilling Italian GP qualifying session, the Frenchman putting his non-factory RC212V on the second row of the grid. The session was topped by World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) who grabbed pole position in the final moments. Weather conditions were just about perfect with ambient temperature at 25 degrees and track temperature at 42 degrees. Lap times were tantalisingly close, the fastest seven riders separated by just 0.661 seconds.

De Puniet was delighted with his fifth-place performance which matches his starting position the recent Spanish GP, which he turned into an excellent four-place finish. Mugello is one of MotoGP’s greatest challenges, a magnificent rollercoaster of a racetrack which only reveals its secrets to the most talented, intelligent riders. De Puniet certainly found the track’s secrets today, his fastest lap just 0.512 seconds off pole. Although he already has a good race pace here, de Puniet will try further minor adjustments during morning warm-up in a bid to give him even more rear grip for the race.

Repsol Honda duo Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa will start tomorrow’s Italian GP, fifth race of this year’s 17 rounds, from the third row of the grid. Dovizioso, readying himself for his first home race as a factory MotoGP rider, was seventh fastest, less than seven tenths of a second off pole position after making machine adjustments to improve corner-entry performance.

Pedrosa had a horribly unlucky day, sustaining a nasty injury this morning without even crashing. The Spaniard survived a big slide exiting the Scarperia chicane but the whiplash effect gave him an agonising right hip injury, pulling the gluteus medius muscle and causing a suspected crack at the top of the femur. Despite this injury, the brave former 125 and 250 World Champion intends to race here.

Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) was the only faller during the qualifying session, the Spaniard sliding off at the Poggio Secco right-hander while chasing reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) at the start of what promised to be a very hot lap. Elias’ best fastest lap rewarded him with ninth best time, just five thousandths of a second behind Pedrosa and equalling his best grid slot of the year.
Team-mate Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) had a challenging qualifying session for his team’s home race, ending up in 12th spot.

Today was a great day for class rookie Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) who scored his first top ten MotoGP qualifying result after making crucial adjustments to the rear end of his RC212V. Qualifying well at Mugello proves that Takahashi is really getting to grips with his four-stroke 800. The 250 GP winner’s previous best MotoGP grid performance was 13th position at the Japanese and Spanish GPs.

Although Pedrosa didn’t figure in the thick of the qualifying action today he yesterday became the fastest rider in MotoGP history, his RC212V clocking a remarkable 349.3km/h (217mph) on Mugello’s long start-finish straight. A strong tail wind made conditions perfect for high top speeds. The figure was recorded on official MotoGP timing equipment but still has to be finally verified.


Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), 5th fastest at 1m 49.499s, said: “I am very happy and this qualifying result is almost perfect. This morning we worked a lot on suspension and geometry set-up. Honestly, we did not achieve all that we are hoped; what we tried was not a real improvement but in the end it helped us to understand which way to go. We still have some issues with rear grip, so we will try some further adjustments in tomorrow’s warm-up. Our race pace is acceptable and I made my life easier by achieving a second-row start. If we make a good start and can follow the leading riders for some laps we could get a positive result here.”

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), 7th fastest at 1m 49.648s, said: “We have improved our lap time session after session, reducing the gap from the fastest riders and this is a positive move. Yesterday we had a gap of 1.3s, this morning it was one second and this afternoon we got it down to five tenths so I’m happy about that. This morning we made an adjustment to the settings which improved the feeling during corner entry. For the qualifying session we tried another modification but we didn’t get the results we expected, so we’ll need to make some changes to finalise the set-up tomorrow morning in the warm-up. I’m confident we can improve by two or three tenths but it will be difficult to consistently match the pace of the fastest riders. Tomorrow the race will be tough and really I was hoping to start from the second row.
Still, I will do my best to get a good start and try not to lose contact with the first group. It’s my home race and the atmosphere here is incredible. The fans are so passionate and so I’ll be going all out to give them something to cheer about tomorrow.”

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), 8th fastest at 1m 50.073s, said: “Considering what happened today, eighth place on the grid is actually quite good because I was in a lot of pain on the bike and for a while it was touch and go whether I’d be able to ride at all. In this morning’s session I had a slide from the rear tyre and the bike went into quite a violent shake. During this, I pulled a muscle in my right hip really hard and maybe caused some more damage – we’ll have to check what the next scans show. But what I can say is that it was very painful and I had to stop riding immediately because the pain stopped my right leg from working properly – it was like a switch. This afternoon I had some painkillers, but it was still very difficult. It’s very hard to make a prediction for the race – I will try, but at the moment I don’t know for how long I can continue my pace – we’ll see.”

Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 9th fastest at 1m 50.078s, said: “Overall I’m happy because we’ve improved the bike a lot here, we’re moving in the right direction and my pace is good. I’m also pleased because I rode my best lap alone in qualifying, whereas this morning I set my best time following Lorenzo. The crash was a shame because I was following Valentino and through the first split we were 0.00 seconds down on pole. I felt like it was going to be a great lap! The problem is that when you know things are improving and you feel good, you can get a little excited! That’s what happened to me and I was too aggressive with the bike, which caused the crash.
Anyway, the good thing is that despite the crash my next best time was still good enough for ninth on the grid and if I can get a good start tomorrow I think we can have a great race. I’ll be aggressive in the race too but not too much!”

Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda), 10th fastest at 1m 50.305s, said: “We made a very good job of working on the chassis set-up, working with the rear end of the machine, adjusting swing-arm pivot point, springs and so on. This is a very flowing track, so I always expected that it would be good for us. Tomorrow a good start will be crucial, then I will do my best to get my best MotoGP result so far.”

Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 12th fastest at 1m 50.448s, said: “I don’t think we could have gone much faster than that but the gap to the riders just ahead of me is quite small so it’s a shame we couldn’t just manage a little more so we could gain some positions. Anyway, we’ve got a good chance for tomorrow because my pace on race tyres is good – good enough for a top-ten finish, which would be really important to us. The races are always tough here because of the heat and the physical nature of the track, but also because the riders push to the limit from the first lap to the last. There really is no respite and it looks like it’s going to be a close one tomorrow. As always I’m ready to fight and do my best but the important thing is to finish the race with a good result for the team in their home Grand Prix.”