Valentino Rossi will start his Phillip Island assault from second on the grid tomorrow, after sealing his twelfth front-row start of the season in Australia this afternoon. His Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who was still feeling under the weather following yesterday’s upset stomach, missed out on the front row by just 0.001 seconds, the first time he has been out of the top three this season.
This morning’s practice was interrupted by rain, which allowed the riders a quick chance to check their wet-weather settings in case of more rain tomorrow. By the afternoon the weather had cleared up and qualifying was run in the dry, albeit with grey skies and a cold wind. Rossi spent most of the hour-long session a few tenths off Casey Stoner in second but a late setting update gave him the extra pace to challenge the Australian and he duly moved to the top of the time sheets with nine minutes to go. Stoner hit back five minutes later however and set a best time that knocked Rossi off pole by 0.050 seconds.
Lorenzo felt much better today but he was still not at 100%, having been unable to eat much since yesterday’s illness. The 22-year-old was still struggling for rear grip but he was able to improve his time in the later stages and looked like he would make it onto the front row before a late charge from Dani Pedrosa edged him off by just one thousandth of a second. He will now have to mount his challenge from the head of the second row tomorrow, something of a novelty for him having qualified in the first three at all fourteen previous rounds this year.
Tomorrow’s race will start at 1600 local-time tomorrow, which is 0700 CET.
Position: 2nd Time: 1’30.391 Laps: 30
“We are on the front row which is the most important thing and I think we can definitely have a good race tomorrow. We have a few things to check in the morning, depending on the weather, including the final tyre choice – of course we hope for it to be dry. I have a good setting and with the last modification we made I was able to make another step and we were quite fast. The pole position was possible today but unfortunately I made a mistake in the last section on my flying lap and Stoner was able to go a little bit faster than me. We have an advantage on Lorenzo, which is important for the championship points, and I hope that I will be able to fight with Stoner for the win.”
Position: 4th Time: 1’31.071 Laps: 31
“I’m a bit disappointed to lose my 100% front-row qualifying record by such a tiny amount, but today we just didn’t quite have enough pace. We still don’t have enough grip on the rear and the tyre is spinning too much, which makes it difficult to be fast enough. Tomorrow I will try to adapt my riding style instead in order to try to make it onto the podium. I feel better than yesterday but I’m still not at 100%; I feel quite weak still because I haven’t been able to eat much. I will have to try before tomorrow in order to have enough strength for the race. I don’t feel any pressure, I will just go out and do my best.”
“So far all the sessions have gone well for us. We’ve got a good starting position for tomorrow and we’re in good shape for the race. As far as our strategy goes, of course we will have one eye on Lorenzo and the championship but also one eye on Stoner and the chance to win the race if possible! The only issue is the late time of the race, because at 4pm it could be quite a lot colder and therefore this might throw up some surprises.”
“It’s a real pity to miss out on the front row by just one millisecond after we have been so consistent all season! We still have rear grip issues at the moment, the team have done a good job to improve it over the sessions but we still have some work to do. The warm-up will be very important for us tomorrow in order to try to solve the problem and put us in a position to be able to challenge in the fight for the race and the championship tomorrow.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Colin Edwards finished tantalisingly close to recording his first front row grid position of the season today in typically mixed and unpredictable conditions at the spectacular Phillip Island circuit.
Edwards finished just 0.026s away from a place on the front row of the grid, the Texan working closely with his crew on improving stability and agility with his YZR-M1 machine to cope with Phillip Island’s fast and flowing sections.
Edwards posted a best time of 1.31.096 and the 35-year-old is confident of a strong showing in tomorrow’s race to bolster his bid for fifth place in the world championship standings.
Working hard with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew to find a compromise between front-end stability and rear traction, James Toseland posted a best time of 1.31.722 that left the British rider in 12th position. Proving once again just how close the level of competition is in MotoGP, Toseland was only 0.7s away from a top three placing.
The 28-year-old though is confident with further overnight set-up tweaks that he can launch an attack on a second successive top six finish at Phillip Island and strengthen his challenge for a top seven championship finish.
All eyes will be on the weather ahead of tomorrow’s 27-lap race after today’s rapidly changing conditions. A large Australian crowd witnessed blue skies, strong winds, heavy cloud cover and rain today, though forecasts predict dry conditions for tomorrow’s race.
Colin Edwards 5th 1.31.096 – 27s laps
“I can’t remember how long I’ve been racing at this track but it is always a different experience and today was no exception. It’s no secret that Yamaha had to make the bike much shorter this year to maximise the performance of the Bridgestone tyres, and it hasn’t been easy to make the set-up work this weekend. With the track flowing like it does you need a stable bike for the fast sections but some agility for turning. But it seems with the shorter wheelbase bike here, a tiny change completely transforms the feeling. My guys have worked unbelievably hard to make me more comfortable and we found something that almost got me on the front row for the first time this year. On this track you’ve really got to take some risks to get a fast time, but you can’t do that without having the bike right. At the end I had a setting where the risk was reduced a lot and I could push much harder without feeli ng like I was right on the limit. I feel we’ve got a good package for the race. I’ve got three races to take nine points out of (Andrea) Dovizioso for fifth in the championship and he’s a few places behind me on the grid. I’ll just hope the weather smiles on us so I can get my head down and put up a strong fight.”
James Toseland 12th 1.31.722 – 30 laps
“Once again today we saw just how close the competition is in MotoGP and how small the difference is between having a really strong grid position or being down the order. Another two or three tenths and I would have been in the top six and feeling much better after all the hard work we put in today. But today wasn’t easy because I was looking for more rear grip. But changing the set-up to give me more rear grip, we sacrificed too much of the front-end feeling. And when you don’t have front feeling on the fastest track on th e calendar with some really flat-out sections, you can’t ride with the confidence you need. We made some changes to bring back my confidence with the front, but that just created wheelspin and a lack of rear grip again in some parts of the track. We just need to find a compromise but I’m not a million miles away. I’m confident with a good start that battling for a top six is certainly within reach. I’ve still got plenty to fight for in these last three races, so as usual I’ll be giving it my maximum for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team.”