Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) were Honda’s top performers in this afternoon’s Portuguese GP qualifying session, the pair ending the outing fourth and sixth fastest.
Pedrosa missed a front-row start by a tantalising 0.174 seconds, putting him off the front row for the first time since July’s British Grand Prix. Nevertheless the Spaniard is still on the pace here, less than half a second off pole-sitter Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and just a fraction off second- and third-fastest Valentino Rossi
(Yamaha) and Casey Stoner (Ducati), who is back in action after a nine-week layoff. Winner of this year’s US GP, Pedrosa is currently locked in a battle for third place overall with Stoner. He is confident of more progress in morning warm-up to further boost his chances of a strong result in tomorrow’s race, the 14th of this year’s 17-race series.
De Puniet was justifiably delighted with his performance. The Frenchman, now almost fully recovered from the broken left ankle he sustained in July, solved some traction problems to come close to equalling his best grid slot of the year, the fifth places he scored at Jerez and Mugello.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) is still learning his way with Öhlins suspension, which he raced for the very first time at last month’s San Marino GP. The Italian is working steadily through the set-up options with his Öhlins front forks and rear shock, gaining more vital data with each and every outing.
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and his crew have worked hard at this tight and tortuous track to keep his RCV running tight lines, but they only found the solution to their problems quite late in the day. That left the Indy podium finisher 11th fastest in a closely bunched mid-pack, with less than half a second covering sixth to 13th places.
Thirteenth place belongs to Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) who struggled yesterday, leaving him with plenty of catching up to do during today’s two sessions. The Spaniard was hoping for a better grid position but was unable to get the best out of his soft Bridgestone’s at the end of this afternoon’s outing.
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) has struggled to improve his times here and believes he’s taking a wrong direction in machine set-up. Changes are thus likely in morning warm-up.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: fourth, 1m 36.702s. “We were working hard on machine set-up this morning, though we experienced a few issues which delayed us a little this afternoon in the fight to set the best lap times on the softer Bridgestone’s. It’s always better to start on the front row of course, but I think fourth is not a bad starting slot. We improved our lap times significantly this afternoon and if we can make a few more improvements to the set-up, everything is possible in the race. It’s difficult to know what the rhythm and race pace will be tomorrow because maybe the conditions will be a little cooler. Casey’s performance today was impressive, so compliments to him – I’m not surprised he was this fast. My main goal for the rest of the season will be to retain third in the championship and we hope take the first step towards that goal tomorrow.”
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: sixth, 1m 37.448s. “After the long break it’s nice to come back, and when you get the sixth fastest time it’s even better! We worked pretty well to solve the rear grip problems because yesterday I struggled a lot to open the throttle in the corner exits and we were sliding too much out of the curves. We did make some small improvements which we need to adjust tomorrow but it has been a very positive first part of the weekend. After much effort due to my injury, I finally could push to make a stunning flying lap in the qualifying”.
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: eighth, 1m 37.541s. “We got through a lot set-up work today trying to improve the feeling from the machine at this circuit, which is quite bumpy. There’s definitely more to come, and starting from eighth obviously isn’t ideal. However, with a good warm-up tomorrow we should be able to make some progress. At the moment we don’t have the rhythm to fight with the leading riders and we’ll be focussing on suspension settings to try to get closer to them. We cannot be happy with today’s result, but the important thing is to maintain concentration and try our best in the race. The characteristics of this racetrack accentuate some issues we found at the last race in Misano, but I’m confident we have a lot of potential with the Öhlins suspension. Plus we only have experience from one race, so there’s a lot more to come. We be looking to take a step forward in warm-up and to get as strong a result as possible in the race.”
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 11th, 1m 37.822s. “Physically I feel a bit better today but we’ve been struggling with the bike. I wasn’t able to keep it close to the apex in the tight corners, it was running wide everywhere, but we made a change at the end that helped a lot. It brought us back into contention and if we’d have had more time to build on it and make another step we could have been much higher up the order. Anyway, I’m happy that we’re working in the right direction – now it’s a case of waiting to see what the conditions are tomorrow, talking things through with Bridgestone and making the right tyre choice. ”
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 13th, 1m 37.911s. “I’m quite pleased with my race pace and I think we’ve done a good job. We were in bad shape yesterday but like at a lot of other races where we have had bad Fridays we were able to turn the situation around on the Saturday. I was up there in fifth or sixth, occasionally up to fourth, and I think that is the kind of position we should be in. Unfortunately things didn’t work out on the softer tyre. Just when I was putting together a fast lap I ran into Toseland and Dovizioso in the middle of the track and I was blocked. It’s a shame to be starting from thirteenth but that’s the way it is and now we have to fight back – just like I did at Assen and Sachsenring.”
Gabor Talmacsi, Scot Honda: 17th, 1m 39.320s. “More or less, we wer getting the same lap times in every session, which is unusual – normally you improve from the first practice to qualifying. My feeling is that at some point we went in the wrong direction: we have to go back, and find what can allow us to improve for the race.”