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.
Valentino Rossi Speaks… (1st, 2’00.518)
"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 Speaks… (2nd, 2’01.087)
"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."
Casey Stoner Speaks… (4th; 2’01.455)
"I’m really disappointed with that session because I know we could and should have been fighting for pole position. I had a much better feeling with the setting at the start of the session but midway through we went to change tyres and after that we suffered from a huge vibration in the bike. We still haven’t worked out what it is yet so we need to figure it out and fix it for tomorrow. I tried the softer compound but the chattering was even worse. I swapped to my other bike but we had a different setting in it that I hadn’t tried and I didn’t feel comfortable. Everything that could go wrong in the crucial second part of the session did go wrong but if we can fix this problem then we’ll be in good shape for tomorrow. Anyway I’m happy with my pace in race conditions and I look forward to tomorrow"
Nicky Hayden Speaks… (7th; 2’01.980)
"I didn’t actually make as big a step this afternoon as I had hoped from the morning session. On race tyres in the hotter temperature it was certainly tough and I was struggling a little bit. We had a couple of problems during the session but in the end I was able to find one good lap to get me into a respectable grid position, very close to the second row. I’m not too happy with my race pace – we’re missing a few tenths and we have some work to do tonight to try and find where we can make them up. I’m never really happy with seventh place but to be honest today it was a pleasant surprise because it could have been much worse off than that if we were just a few tenths slower. We’ve got a big job to do tomorrow. 22 laps around here when your race pace isn’t perfect is certainly not easy but that’s what we train for. Hopefully we can improve in the warm-up, get a good start and we’ll see what we got for them."
Randy De Puniet Speaks… (8th, 2’02.098)
"It’s been the hardest week end so far to set up the bike. After yesterday’s difficult session we worked hard to improve the machine set up and I finally lapped with a good pace in the afternoon session. In these conditions I could not qualify better than this; we still have some rear grip issues to adjust as the asphalt temperature is very high and I do not feel very comfortable with my braking points especially on turn 1, 4, 9 and the last one. However the things are going in the right direction and tomorrow’s warm up session will be helpful to fix the overall package".
Colin Edwards Speaks… (9th, 2.02.195)
"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 Speaks… (16th, 2.03.528)
"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."
Mika Kallio Speaks… (12th, 2’02.435)
"We are always between the fastest in every session, in every racing weekend, but in the last fifteen minutes of the qualifying session we can’t manage to gain those five tenths of a second that our rivals gain. It is a difficult situation because it’s been almost all season that it happens. Anyway I am not worried for tomorrow’s race because my race rhythm is better than various riders that are in front of me on the starting grid. If we will manage to make a good start like last Sunday in Australia then we can conquer a good result."
Aleix Espargarò Speaks… (13th, 2’02.859)
"We didn’t make any big modifications on the bike today, for the moment I prefer to get to know the bike and adjust my riding style on it. We didn’t find any big complications; the bike is fast and reacts well to my indications. Maybe I miss some confidence with the front part of the bike but nothing that worries me too much. The things that worries me a bit is the climatic conditions: I am drinking a lot of water and I hope it will help me to be at the best during tomorrow’s long race."