Stoner gets fifth pole in Mugello:
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner sped to his fifth pole position of the season by running the fastest ever lap by a motorcycle in a rain-shortened qualifying session at the Mugello Circuit in Tuscany. Ben Spies (Yamaha) was second and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) third and on the front row for the fifth race in succession.
The one hour session began with some urgency under a very light rain on the recently repaved 5.245k track north of Florence. Honda riders started strongly, taking over the top spot from the seven minute mark and sharing it among themselves to the end of the hour. Fastest rider honours went from Stoner to Simoncelli to Dovizioso in the span of 90 seconds just into the seventh minute, and before the ninth minute had elapsed Simoncelli was on top, beginning a battle with Stoner. The Australian would overtake Simoncelli with his eighth lap, just prior to 19 minutes elapsed, and strengthen it on his ninth, which turned out to be the fastest lap of the Mugello Circuit.
Stoner lapped the undulating track in 1m, 48.034s, which was under the mark of 1m, 48.080 sec. set by Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) in Saturday morning practice. Stoner would certainly have dipped into the 1m, 47s had the rain not begun to fall harder with 27 minutes to run. That sent everyone headed straight to the pits, where most watched the rest of the hour pass. A few riders went out at the end of the hour, but to no effect.
The pole was the 31st of Stoner’s career and it came at a track where he got his first pole in the 125cc class in 2003. It was also his 27th premier class pole.
Simoncelli enjoyed strong home country support, with the enthusiasm of the rain-dampened crowd filling the valley in which the track is situated. Simoncelli was either on pole or second fastest at the previous five races. His fastest lap of 1m, 48.485s was slower than Spies’ best by a mere .006s.
Just behind Simoncelli on the row two pole was Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V). Dovi hails from the town of Forli, about 90kms north of Mugello, and was hopeful of joining team-mate Stoner on the front row for his home grand prix. But his consolation was that he was the third Honda in the top four.
Dani Pedrosa, the third member of the Repsol Honda team, made his return to racing after a forced lay-off due to injuries. Pedrosa broke his right collarbone after getting hit by another rider in the French Grand Prix at Le Mans six weeks earlier. Two surgeries followed, with the Spaniard not riding at all until Friday morning practice. Pedrosa said the pain increased as the day went on, but that he believed he would be close to full fitness in a race or two. He finished with the eighth fastest time.
Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m, 48.034s
“After the two sessions yesterday and also in FP3 this morning, we weren’t too happy with the set-up we had, so we were looking to utilise all of this afternoon’s session. However, we made some changes to my second bike, which I made my fastest lap on, and we’ve come out with a fantastic bike. I’m really happy to get pole here, especially on a used tyre. The start of qualifying didn’t look too good, there was some rain and it was difficult to know how much to push, so we went with soft tyres on front and rear to try and get a good lap time before the rain arrived. Once I was on track I realised the rain hadn’t affected conditions so much, so I came back in and made a change on the second bike and went back out with a hard front which gave us a little more stability and we managed to go a lot faster. The way the surface is working and everything in general is perfect, even with difficult conditions, we made the right choices at the right time.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 4th – 1m, 48.694s
“I’m fairly satisfied with fourth position after the rain created strange track conditions, and I’m happy with our overall pace. Starting from the second row is fine on this track as there is a long straight before turn one. We made some modifications to improve my feeling with the front of the bike and, as far as I could tell, they were positive. I wanted to do some laps with hard tyres in preparation for the race, as on this track the tyre drops quite quickly, but it was not possible. The race will be long and physically demanding and it won’t be easy to maintain the rhythm for all 23 laps, but we are ready for this challenge and look forward to fighting for a good result. I’m confident tomorrow the Italian riders will put on a good show for the public here in Mugello.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 8th – 1m, 49.398s
“I was pretty lucky because the session was only 30 minutes old when the rain arrived and this is good for my injury. I made a few nice laps at the beginning of the session and I’m impressed with my lap time; eighth place on the grid is very good given my physical condition. I know that in the race it will be hard but I will try my best. I’ll try the maximum during the 23 laps, 100% in my situation and we will see how much I can achieve. This morning I felt better because I had a good rest last night, but for sure lap by lap the shoulder is getting more and more sore and this afternoon it’s been harder. I want to save energy during the warm up tomorrow morning to try to give the rest in the race.”
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