Rizla Suzuki racers Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen have a big mountain to climb during tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix after the pair qualified on the fifth row of the grid today.
Capirossi (P13, 1’31.873, 30 laps) did make steps forward with his bike in the early part of the morning practice session, before heavy rained intervened, and was consistently posting times within the top-10. He continued with the programme for getting the best set-up during the qualifying session and although his times were comparable with the other riders on the harder compound of tyre, Capirossi was unable to make a big enough jump with the softer compound to propel himself up the grid.
Vermeulen (P15, 1’32.338, 29 laps) was left bitterly disappointed after his qualifying session this afternoon. He improved dramatically on his times from yesterday, but couldn’t find enough to get in a challenging grid position for tomorrow’s race. One positive note for Vermeulen was that when the heavy rain fell in the morning practice he was one of the fastest and most consistent riders in the wet and will almost certainly be in contention during tomorrow’s race if conditions like those of this morning repeat themselves.
Today’s qualifying was held in very overcast conditions with a threat of rain always in the air, a strong breeze blowing off the Pacific made conditions feel considerably cooler than they were and gave the venue a feel more like ŒPhillip Iceland’ than Phillip Island. Local hero Casey Stoner on his factory Ducati took pole position as he goes in search of his third successive home GP victory.
Tomorrow’s 27-lap race will get underway at 16.00hrs local time (05.00hrs GMT) with both Rizla Suzuki riders looking to make a good start to give them a fighting chance of a competitive race and higher places than their grid positions.
“It was another tough day for us today, even though we did make another step with the overall setting of the bike. During the morning session we were making some good progress, but after 30 minutes it started to rain and ruined what we were doing. In the qualifying the conditions were better and we made some good runs with the harder compound tyre and it wasn’t too bad for us, but when we tried to go quicker with the softer one we just couldn’t make a big difference. We struggled on the left corners because we were spinning a lot and we need to find a good solution to give us better traction. We have improved the feeling from the front compared to yesterday, but it is not enough because we need better traction to go faster. It is bad to be starting so far back, but for sure in tomorrow’s race I won’t finish in the same place in the race as I did in the qualifying!”
“We had difficult weather this afternoon; the rain could have come at any moment just like it did this morning. We did a few laps in the wet this morning – in fact I think I was the first one out – and the bike felt pretty good and I managed to get lots of information if it’s wet tomorrow. In the dry it was tough in qualifying and we’re really struggling with rear grip on the left-hand-side and the performance of the tyre seems to drop off after only a few laps, so we need to try and improve on that. We tried some things today that helped a bit and we went over a second quicker than we did yesterday, but it’s still not where we need to be. We need to find some positives from today and go and give it 100% tomorrow.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“Phillip Island has been our nemesis over the last few years and I am now starting to dislike the place as much as our bike obviously does! There is no hiding the fact that the qualifying result is a disaster, but it’s also true that we have taken a decent step compared to 2008 and the difference in our lap-time to pole position and the second row shows that. Unfortunately lap-times count for nothing and the positions are not where they should be. The only silver lining is that if it’s dry we have a similar pace to a lot of the field on the harder tyre and everyone else seemed to find a big step on the softer compound to give them better grid positions, so fingers crossed we’ll be able to keep reasonable consistency in the race and try to aim at least for the top-10.”