Jorge Lorenzo took his first pole position since Laguna Seca back in June at Estoril this afternoon, the Mallorcan sealing his fifth pole of the season with a strong performance ahead of tomorrow’s Portuguese Grand Prix. His Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi meanwhile took his eleventh front row of the season and will start tomorrow’s race from second, with Casey Stoner taking the final front-row slot.
Having topped both practice sessions this weekend, Lorenzo was the clear favourite for pole this afternoon and the 22-year-old looked smooth and comfortable out on track as he made a few last-minute setting changes before the fight for grid spots. With twenty minutes remaining he took the lead and didn’t surrender it for the rest of the session, improving his time several times and never looking in much danger from his rivals.
Rossi had a few problems yesterday but was in better shape today, having improved the balance of his M1 in the hard braking zones. His penultimate lap was good enough to put him second although he was unable to quite match his team-mate’s pace on the softer Bridgestone tyre today. The championship leader is planning a few overnight improvements in order to ensure he is at the maximum for the race.
Tomorrow’s 28-lap race gets underway at the slightly earlier time than usual of 1300 local time, which is 1400 CET.
Position: 1st Time: 1’36.214 Laps: 29
“It’s been quite a few races since I’ve had a pole! I was getting a bit worried because doing one fast lap has always been one of my strong points but lately we haven’t been able to be quite competitive enough with the soft tyre. This weekend however everything is working really well and the setting with both tyres is great, so I was able to go out and do some very fast laps. Tomorrow is another day and we know that everyone will be strong, so we will just try and push to the limit and see what happens.”
Position: 2nd Time: 1’36.474 Laps: 28
“We improved the setting a lot this afternoon from yesterday and managed to fix a lot of the problems we had in the braking, so today was not so bad. We still need more traction on the exits from the slow corners however and we are also losing some time in the tight hairpin. We are not so far but we need to study the data and find a way to improve things a bit more for the race. It will be quite a strong fight tomorrow I think and 28 laps in this heat is going to be hard, but we will be ready.”
“It’s very good to be back on pole position after what has been quite a long time. Jorge was today able to do some very fast laps with the softer tyre, which has allowed us to get back on pole, but he also has a good and consistent race pace and so we feel confident for the race. We still have a little work to do on some rear grip issues in order to be a bit faster in the last section of the track, so we will use tomorrow’s warm-up to do that and then we will be ready for an exciting race.”
“We’ve done a good job to have improved our setting and this has allowed Valentino to be on the front row today. However we still have some work to do to make another step and get to what will probably be tomorrow’s race pace – it looks like we’re a little bit slower at the moment. Tomorrow’s warm-up will be important and we will use the time as best we can in order to be ready to fight.
Colin Edwards continued his brilliant qualifying form at the Estoril circuit this afternoon, the Texan riding his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine to fifth position on the grid in preparation for the 28-lap Portuguese MotoGP.
A fastest lap of 1.37.142 ensured Edwards claimed his 10th second row start of 2009 to strengthen the American’s bid for fifth place overall in the world championship standings.
In temperatures that again hit the mid-twenties, Edwards concentrated his efforts on finding a balance between stability and turning with the front-end of his YZR-M1 machine.
Edwards was as high as fourth place at one stage and the 35-year-old finished leading non-factory rider again on the timesheets, an achievement he has managed with remarkable consistency this season.
James Toseland, who is still firmly in the hunt for a top seven world championship finish, will start from 12th position on the grid.
The British rider worked on geometry and wheelbase changes to improve grip levels with his YZR-M1 and he was under 0.2s away from a top ten finish in another closely contested session.
Colin Edwards 5th 1.37.142 – 26 laps
“If you’re the next best rider on the timesheets behind the four best in the world then you’re not doing a bad job. And I felt like I did a good job today. We tuned the bike to get rid of some of the small movement issues I had with the front yesterday. It made it more comfortable but the chan ges meant the bike didn’t turn as well. We played around with the setting to make it turn better again but then the movement returned. At this track you need the turning so I can handle the movement. I’m probably trying to make the bike feel too perfect. The first corner here is always pretty tricky and after what happened in Misano I’ll be trying to make it through. I genuinely believe I can fight for the podium tomorrow. I know it will be really difficult but Dani (Pedrosa) had some problems at the end of the race in Misano and nobody is sure whether Casey (Stoner) is going to be able to keep his pace for 28-laps. I’m sure it will be a good race though and I’m looking forward to having a strong finish to the year for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team.”
James Toseland 12th 1.37.823 – 26 laps
“It has been a little bit frustrating today because we decided to change the geomet ry and the wheelbase of the bike, but it meant we had less time to find the ideal set-up. Towards the end of the session we found a good set-up and while 12th on the grid is not bad, I feel I could have been at least one row further forward. That’s frustrating but I’m sure I’ll be starting the race tomorrow in pretty good shape. My lap times on race tyres are good and I’m looking forward to a really good warm-up session because we’ll be making a couple of slight tweaks that I think will give us even better performance. The first corner is always quite difficult at this track with it being so tight, so my plan is to try and stay out of trouble, get my head down and have a really good race for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team.”