Casey Stoner did a bit more than simply prove the ability of the Repsol Honda RC212V at qualifying for Motegi MotoGP Saturday.
The Australian made history aboard the Honda after taking his 10th pole of the 2011 MotoGP Championship, the current points leader in the best possible position to win his ninth race of the season.
If Stoner is victorious at Sunday’s Japanese GP, he can possibly clench the title at next weekend’s round in Phillip Island, a home race for the 25-year old.
The man who can put a damper on things, though, is the reigning MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo; the Spaniard qualified second at Motegi, 0.256 of second behind Stoner. Taking the final front-row position was Stoner’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso.
Here’s what the riders were saying as the grid preps for Sunday’s Japanese GP, Round 15 of 18 in the 2011 MotoGP Championship.
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “Everything
has gone very well so far this weekend, we’ve been fastest in all but
one session so it’s been fantastic. We tried a few different settings
this afternoon and didn’t really improve so we’ll probably go back to
this morning’s setting for tomorrow.
“We’ll have to watch the
weather as this will affect the set up, there’s also a chance of rain so
it could get complicated. Jorge [Lorenzo] has been riding fantastic, as
has Dovi and Dani [Pedrosa], but there is no doubt that the Honda suits
this track, I’ve been looking forward to riding it here for a while now
and I’m not disappointed! Tomorrow will be a tough race, but the team
is working hard and we’ll do our best.”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “The qualifying practice started quite well for us, we were doing lap times with a consistent pace preparing for the race and everything seemed to be going well.
“But at the end, when I switched to soft tyres, I couldn’t get them working, I had much less grip. I thought it could be a problem with the first tire and so I came back to the garage to change it but again I had the same issue.
“I am disappointed not to be on the front row, but the good feeling with the race tyres is good news. We will need to see how the weather is tomorrow, if the temperature drops a lot maybe some riders will use the soft, but considering my feeling, I will probably choose the hard one.
The race will be very tough with Stoner, Dovizioso and maybe Lorenzo, but we want to fight until the end.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “I’m very happy to be on the front row here in Motegi! This afternoon we improved again from this morning and I feel very confident, especially under braking. We still haven’t decided on the tyre for tomorrow as we are good on both compounds but I feel positive for the race and for the fight for the podium tomorrow.
“I’m really happy with the work of the team and the Honda is working really well at this track, I think tomorrow we will have a great race!.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says: “We tried something different this afternoon and our lap times were unbelievable, we almost got pole! The most important thing is the first row because there are riders like Casey who find it easy to escape so I want to be right there.
“We have improved today but Motegi is still a tough track for Yamaha riders. If the other riders do a perfect race it is almost impossible to win, but anything can happen. Now I can say I am ready for the battle and we will put on a good show for all the Japanese fans who have come to see us race!”
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says: “I’ve had a lot of support from the guys at Clinica to get me back towards 100% fitness. I’m just glad now to be on the bike, a couple of days ago I didn’t think I was going to be able to ride. I’m really happy to have got into the middle of the second row today and I hope things get even better for tomorrow, we’ll see how it goes.
“Yesterday I was pretty weak on the bike, this morning I felt a bit stronger and this afternoon I felt ok with energy levels, I was just fighting a lot of stomach cramps. I’m doing the best I can for my crew and the paddock and all the fans who are here to watch us.”
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: “We’re pretty satisfied, although we can’t celebrate seventh place. Still, I was able to ride the bike a bit better. We improved the setting again this morning, and I was faster in the afternoon.
“We’ve changed the weight distribution for Motegi, and now I can ride more naturally, though still not as I would like. Our goal was to manage to lap at 1:46.5, and as we were able to do that, I’d say we worked well. Also, our pace with the hard tyre isn’t bad. We’re not far from Spies and Simoncelli. We hope to get a good start, and then we’ll see. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain, as I’d like a dry race.”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: “We weren’t able to continue from the good start we had yesterday, even though our times aren’t too far from the second group. With the cooler track, I didn’t have the same grip, and I was spinning quite a lot on the edge of the tire.
“This afternoon, we also picked up some chatter that I hadn’t experienced all weekend, which made it really difficult to go fast. We improved compared to yesterday, but not as much as we should have. We haven’t made a lot of changes to the bike, as we tried to keep it pretty simple and just chip away. We can’t be happy with tenth, and it’s going to be tough tomorrow, but hopefully we can get a good start and have a decent race.”
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) says: “I was going quite well up to the crash but unfortunately I made a little mistake in turn five, hit a bump and crashed, which compromised the second half of the session. I struggled a little for confidence when I went back out and only got to use one soft tyre. Without that I could have maybe been fighting for the front row but in any case I am happy because I have good race pace and hopefully tomorrow I can be fighting for the podium.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) says: “The final position is not particularly pleasing but my feeling with the bike is good and so is my race pace so I am confident for tomorrow. I will try to start as well as possible and make up as many positions as I can. The weather could change tomorrow and the track temperature will definitely be lower so we might have to change the set-up but we have a clear idea which direction to take. I want to have a good race in my home Grand Prix and give my fans a positive result.”
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP) says: “I’m a bit disappointed to be back in 12th when you look how close I am to the third row. But I can’t be too upset because I feel well below my physical best today. All last night I was coughing and sneezing and I’ve been drinking about eight litres of water today and I still feel dehydrated.
“My throat feels like I’ve swallowed gravel but I still mana ged to go out there and lap faster than last year’s pole time. I can’t really ask for much more than that on a circuit I’ve never even seen before in my life. I might have been a bit further up the grid but on my last soft tire I nearly high-sided coming out of the first corner. It was a big moment because I struggled to get heat into the tyre out of the pits.
“I still got in one more lap on that final tire and managed to set my best time, so now I’m looking forward to the race and hoping I can have another good battle like I did at the Motorland Aragon. That was a lot of fun but also helped me learn a lot, so I’ll be looking to be in a fight for the top 10.”
Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP) says: “I had high hopes coming to Japan because last year I got my best grid position and my best result of the Championship at the Twin Ring Motegi. But it just hasn’t worked out at all so far this weekend and I’m just not quick enough. I’m faster than I qualified last year but still nine places further back down the grid, so that shows how much the competition has stepped up this season.
“The early crash didn’t help the session run smoothly and I haven’t made a mistake as bad as that in a long time. I just completely missed my braking marker and that was all because I was pushing too hard to get more out of the bike. Looking at the lap times it is obvious that our bike doesn’t turn or accelerate as good as the rest and that means you have to ride on the ragged edge a lot.”
Toni Elias (LCR Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “After yesterday’s good adjustments I felt more confident ahead today’s qualifying but at the end I could not lap into the 1’47 range. This morning on harder tire it seemed we could improve our lap time but later on Q-tires I started to lose the front again. I went wide a couple of times but I could not go faster in these conditions. We have already chosen our race tire and tomorrow we will work through a number of various set-up changes to move into the 1’47 range.”
Akiyoshi (LCR Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “Today I have started to understand better the tyres features and with a few changes of the suspension setting I made the bike feeling better compared to yesterday. I have improved my pace gradually and with further adjustments on the front fork and rear link I am well prepared for the race. I will do my best as a delegate of the Japanese riders group to bring some courage and fun to my population”.
Randy De Puniet (Pramac Racing Team says: “I tried to improve at the beginning of the second practice with used tires but nothing was working too well. So we decided to go back to this morning set up and we managed to improve straight away.
“The positive thing is that I can ride in 1:47 low all alone and this gives me good hops for the race. I will surely use soft tires as with the hard one I don’t have the right feeling to push more. A pity as I can’t manage to improve those 3 or 4 tenth of a second that would put me in third row.”
Damian Cudlin (Pramac Racing Team ) says: “I have to be happy with the progress we are making. It seems every time I sit on the bike we manage to lower our lap times. This was my target for the weekend. Now we are getting to the point where the improvement will be smaller and more difficult to find, but we are starting to look in some technical changes to help me.
“I still believe that most of the gap is still coming from me as I am still learning the bike and the track. For tomorrow my plan is just to continue to improve and get closer to the others. It would be nice to have some fights during tomorrow’s race, this is what I am aiming for.”
“The strange part is that the bike feels fine. It is not doing anything crazy but I can’t get it to go round the track any faster. The target will be to fight for the top 10 tomorrow, but a repeat of fifth like last year unfortunately doesn’t look like it’s a realistic aim.”
Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R MotoGP) says: “With the time I did in qualifying – one-and-a-half-seconds quicker than last year – I would have been in pole position in 2010! This year the level is amazing and the lap-times are very fast, but our performance is also due to the hard work the guys in the Factory have put in, it has made a big difference.
“This morning we tested different settings in the two bikes, one of which was set a little bit lower to help me in the hard braking parts of this track, but I tried it too late in the free practice so I didn’t have a clear idea which setting was better. This afternoon we started with the lower bike and harder compound tires, but the feeling was not what I wanted, so I changed to the other bike and it was better.
“I improved my lap-time at the end, but I got into some traffic on my last laps so couldn’t improve it anymore. Eighth is not too bad and I want to produce a good race for all the Suzuki company and factory guys that are here this weekend supporting us. I will try to get a good start and fight from the beginning, I think the first three or four will be difficult to catch, but after that I think we can be in the battle for the next few positions. We will see what the weather brings and the condition of the track, but I am looking forward to a good race.”