Valentino Rossi smashed the pole record at Sepang this afternoon to take his sixth pole position of the season ahead of tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix, the Italian’s first championship ‘match point.’ Jorge Lorenzo recovered from a difficult session to put in some good laps at the end and qualify second, making it the 12th time this year that the Fiat Yamaha Pair have shared the front row.
Temperatures during qualifying reached a sweltering 34 degrees at the tropical track but nothing hampered Rossi today and the 30-year-old was flying throughout, as he continued to work closely with his Yamaha and Bridgestone engineers in order to maximise tyre performance ahead of tomorrow’s 21-lap race. The championship leader topped the timesheets early on, making way for Casey Stoner during the middle part of the hour but taking the lead again with 25-minutes to go and never looking in danger of being beaten. He continued to improve his time before a stunning last flying lap saw him beat his own pole position record, which has stood since 2006. Rossi can clinch his ninth World Championship title tomorrow simply by finishing fourth or better, regardless of where his team-mate finishes.
Lorenzo had looked in brilliant form yesterday but the youngster struggled more today, failing to make another step with his setting and losing some ground to his rivals. He could only manage fourth this morning and spent much of this afternoon’s session uncharacteristically out of the top four. With the softer Bridgestone tyres at the end he was able to set some decent hot laps and his final effort, 0.569 off Rossi, was good enough for second, but he and his team will be working hard overnight and in tomorrow’s warm-up in order to improve their race pace.
Valentino Rossi – Position: 1st Time: 2’00.518 Laps: 21
“I am so happy about that final lap! I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on my dashboard, I thought it was possible to go faster but not by that much! My team and I have worked very well here and we’ve had a good strategy with Bridgestone, which left us with plenty of time at the end to try for the pole. It’s very important to be on the front row here so we have done our job well, plus I am confident about our setting and our race pace. We’re in good shape. It’s incredibly hot and tomorrow will be hard for everyone, as it always is here, but we have a good advantage and I am really looking forward to the battle. Let’s see where we are at this time tomorrow!”
Jorge Lorenzo – Position: 2nd Time: 2’01.087 Laps: 23
“Today hasn’t been my best day and I have found things quite hard. The conditions are basically the same as yesterday so I can’t blame them, but we just don’t have the same levels of grip and confidence that we had before and it’s hard to understand why. We didn’t make the step we expected and we are lacking pace compared to our rivals. Now we all need to study the data and work out what we can do for the warm-up tomorrow. I am happy that we were able to be back on the front row as this will be important, now we will just try our best to be in better shape for the race.”
Davide Brivio – Team Manager
“What a lap! We broke the best lap record with an incredible time from Valentino, who really wanted that pole position today. The team have worked very well during practice so far and the result is that we’re starting tomorrow’s race in the best place. We’re in good shape and we’re excited, let’s hope tomorrow can be a good day for us!”
Daniele Romagnoli – Team Manager
“At the end Jorge was able to do some very quick laps and make the front row, which is key for tomorrow. Unfortunately we still need to find an improvement to our rear grip levels for the race, because at the moment we are not in perfect shape. The team have worked a lot to try to fix the problem but we still have more to do. Tonight we will have a good look at the data and try to find a way to give ourselves a better chance, then we will use the warm-up to try a few things.”
Edwards and Toseland ready for hot battle
Colin Edwards and James Toseland are confident they can produce strong performances in the Malaysian MotoGP race after a tough qualifying session in baking hot conditions at the Sepang circuit this afternoon.
American Edwards will start the penultimate race of the season from ninth on the grid, the 35-year-old clocking a best lap of the long and technical 5.548km circuit in 2.02.195 to miss out on a seventh consecutive second row start by less than 0.3s.
Working hard with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew to improve the corner entry performance with his YZR-M1 machine, Edwards remains optimistic that he can fight for a top five result in tomorrow’s 21-lap race.
Toseland experienced another difficult day, the British rider working tirelessly to try and improve edge grip on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine as track temperatures hit 51 degrees – five degrees hotter than yesterday’s practice.
Despite his best efforts, the 28-year-old couldn’t find a comfortable setting in the extreme heat and humidity, and he finished in 16th place with a quickest time of 2.03.528 set on his final lap of the session.
Colin Edwards – Position: 9th Time: 2’02.195 Laps: 23
“With the feeling I had with the bike, that was about as fast as I could go today. Being honest though I struggled a little bit today and I’m obviously doing something consistently wrong. I’m losing the same amount of time in the same sections over and over again, but when we change t he bike we improve in one area and sacrifice feel in another. I can’t get the bike turned in at all and I’ve always thought I’ve been good at that. But at this track I’m struggling with it, particularly in the third section where I’m losing a bit of time. Those guys in front of me are not lapping much faster than me and the start is going to be crucial. I’ve just got to get by as many of them as I can early on and try and make a break like I did in Phillip Island. At least I’m in front of (Andrea) Dovizioso on the grid, so hopefully I can take some more points out of him tomorrow and have a really good crack at fifth in the championship in Valencia.”
James Toseland – Position: 16th Time: 2’03.528 Laps: 22
“It has been a really tough weekend and qualifying down in 16th is well below my expectations. This has always been a tough track for me and I wasn’t expecting an easy weekend, but I w asn’t expecting it to be as tough as this. I’m struggling to get grip on the edge of the rear tyre to give me the confidence to push harder. We’ve tried a lot of different options to try and improve the setting but it doesn’t seem to matter what we change, I don’t have enough grip on the rear. It is a problem mid-corner and also when I first open the throttle. Tomorrow is going to be tough with the heat, but we might just have to gamble with a setting for the race and see what happens. Being so far back on the grid means it will be difficult, but I never give up and I’ll be giving it my all for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team again tomorrow.”