Qualifying at the Gran Premio Cinzano di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini went down to the wire on Saturday afternoon at Misano, but Valentino Rossi ultimately emerged on top for tonight's MotoGP race to start from pole position.
Qualifying at the Gran Premio Cinzano di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini went down to the wire on Saturday afternoon at Misano, but Valentino Rossi ultimately emerged on top.
Having crashed out at Indianapolis last Sunday Rossi is fighting back in style at his home event this weekend and he took pole right at the end of an intriguing qualifying practice.
The Italian legend has been the fastest rider in every session so far this weekend and his last gasp 1’34.338 lap put him in pole position for the sixth time this season in the Rimini coast sunshine.
As the session drew to a close it looked as though Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa had snatched pole from Rossi with a decent 1’34.560 effort, but the Fiat Yamaha rider found another level in the closing seconds to deny the Spaniard.
Completing the front row, Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo also marked his best time at the end of the hour, but he finally fell half a second short of his title rival. Lorenzo will need to be at his very best if he is to improve on his second place result in last year’s Misano contest.
The second row of the grid is headed by San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Toni Elías who lapped with a similar pace to Lorenzo and he will be desperate for a good performance on Sunday as he fights for his future in the premier class.
Behind Elías on the grid sits the experienced Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and the Texan’s compatriot Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro), who is enjoying plenty of support from the Ducatisti this weekend.
The top ten also features home rider Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) – the veteran Italian surviving an off track excursion unscathed during the session.
Despite his great overall form this season, with three victories and six podiums to his name, it has taken until the 12th 250cc qualifying session of the year for standings leader Hiroshi Aoyama to achieve his first pole of 2009.
The Japanese rider broke his duck with a 1’38.867 time on the 21st of his 23 laps, though it was only just good enough as Spaniard Héctor Barberá (Pepe World Team) came within 0.008s of denying the Scot Racing man.
Local riders Marco Simoncelli (Metis Gilera) and Mattia Pasini (Team Toth Aprilia) were not far behind, the pair of them lapping around two-tenths down on Aoyama, and both will be expected to fight desperately for victory from the front row at their home round on Sunday.
Frenchman Mike di Meglio (Mapfre Aspar), meanwhile, is the only non-Spaniard on the second row, which also comprises Alex Debon (Aeropuerto-Castello-Blusens), Héctor Faubel (Valencia CF – Honda SAG) and Álvaro Bautista (Mapfre Aspar Team) – all of whom lapped within a second of the pole-setting pace.
Earlier in the day Bradley Smith set a new pole record for the 125cc class at Misano, as he qualified at the head of the grid in scorching hot conditions in Rimini.
The young Englishman secured his third pole of the season with a lightning fast 1’43.727s lap, to hold off a strong challenge by his Bancaja Aspar team-mate Julián Simón, who was just 0.016s behind him.
The Aspar pair are joined on the front row by Andrea Iannone (Ongetta Team I.S.P.A.) and Nico Terol (Jack & Jones Team), who both lapped within three-tenths of the pole time.
Again, there is a strong Spanish presence on the second row, where Sergio Gadea (Bancaja Aspar), Pol Espargaró (Derbi Racing Team) and Marc Márquez (Red Bull KTM) are joined by Italian rider Simone Corsi (Fontana Racing).