Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V) produced a brilliant performance at scorching hot Catalunya this afternoon to put himself in pole position for tomorrow’s Catalan MotoGP. Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V), who started the last race at Le Mans from pole, ended the day a close fifth fastest, just 0.361s off pole.
Conditions could be very different for the race, however. While track temperatures soared to over 50 degrees this afternoon, latest weather forecasts suggest that tomorrow will bring significantly cooler temperatures and possibly rain as well.
Stoner was a close second to pace-setter Pedrosa in this morning’s final free practice session, then found some more speed for qualifying.
The reigning World Champion spent much of the hour experimenting with the two rear tyre choices and despite having to contend with some chatter issues he was able to better title rival Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) by 0.146s, good enough to give him his second pole position of 2012.
After the session Stoner announced that he isn’t especially confident of victory tomorrow, but added that he is “definitely in it to win it”.
Two weeks ago Stoner finished third in the rain-soaked French GP, which lost him the World Championship lead to race winner Lorenzo. Stoner had won the previous two races at Jerez and Estoril and is aiming to score his third win of 2012 here at Catalunya where he dominated last year’s race.
Pedrosa missed out on a front-row start when he had a moment at the entry to turn ten during his final run. The Spaniard got his RCV crossed up on the brakes and had to run wide, which spoiled what should have been his fastest lap and consigned him to the second row. Nevertheless the former 125 and 250 World Champion is happy with the progress he has made over the past two days and believes he can be a contender tomorrow if his crew can make a few final tweaks to his RC213V.
Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) continued his impressive progress in his rookie MotoGP campaign, achieving his best grid position so far, in eighth position. The reigning Moto2 World Champion had even higher aims – a first-ever second-row start – but in the end he had to be happy with eighth, less than eight tenths off pole. Most importantly he is confident of running a good race pace at this challenging, high-speed track.
Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) had a difficult day, losing some of the grip and confidence he had had in yesterday’s slightly cooler conditions. The Spaniard qualified tenth and so he will keep working with his crew in a bid to improve the situation for the race. His team-mate Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda) also had a tough time, ending up 16th quickest on his CRT machine.
Honda MotoGP rider quotes
Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: pole position – 1m 41.295s
“We used the qualifying as an extended practice session as we don’t always have enough time to do everything during the 45 minute sessions. This morning we did a lot of work with the hard tyre, so in the afternoon in these hot conditions we worked more with the softer one to get a clearer understanding if we can run with it for race distance. We were in and out a lot during the session trying a few different things, hoping to reduce the chatter which is still proving to be a problem. As soon as I touch the throttle the bike starts to chatter in the rear and it’s making things very difficult. Towards the end of the session we managed to improve it slightly, but I think we need to make another step before the race. Tomorrow, for sure tyre degradation is going to play a role so we’re going to have to wait and see, but I’m happy to start from pole.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 5th – 1m 41.656s
“It was a difficult qualifying session because I spent a major part of the hour testing used soft tyres and I was down in the classification. But I was not worried because I knew that I had two new soft tyres for the end of the session. When we put the first one on, I immediately improved my lap times and I jumped to second place, then on my final flying lap I braked too late, I had a big shake on the bike and I ran wide. From this side it’s a pity because I missed my chance at pole position or, at least, the front row of the grid. Anyway, I’m happy with the work we did yesterday and today’s preparation for the race and for me this is always the most important thing. Let’s see if together with my team we can improve the bike slightly for tomorrow and be ready to give 100% in a hard race.”
Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 8th – 1m 42.065s
“This is not bad for us and we are in a good shape. Finishing in eighth position considering the hot track conditions is quite positive, but I was expecting something more: maybe sixth or seventh. During the qualifying session we could handle that position easily, but at the end everybody went out on soft tyres pushing at 100%. I am happy with the bike package and our race pace is good so I am really optimistic ahead of tomorrow’s race. We will try to follow the top guys for a while and we will see considering the tough conditions. Everything is possible!”
Alvaro Bautista, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 10th – 1m 42.356s
“Today didn’t go very well. The track conditions changed in the afternoon and I lost the grip at the back and some of the confidence in the front that I had yesterday. Now we will read the data and try to improve for tomorrow. I had a good feeling before today, so it was very hard and difficult out there, but I’m confident and I hope to do better in the race.”
Michel Pirro, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 16th – 1m 44.356s
“Too bad, because I think I could do a better lap time than we did in qualifying. But we are convinced that in the race we can be closer to being the best CRT. We must try not to lose too much ground on new tyres and then try to make the difference later in the race. In any case, this is a confirmation of the improvements that we already made at Le Mans in the dry.”