Vermeulen takes MotoGP pole in wet
Rizla Suzuki’s wet specialist Chris Vermeulen took his first pole position of the current season in a rain-soaked Friday afternoon MotoGP qualifying session at the A-Style TT Assen today, lapping less than one tenth of a second quicker than compatriot Casey Stoner who will start second on the grid.
Vermeulen took two pole positions in his first full MotoGP season last year, but this is his first appearance on the front row in 2007 and the 25 year-old Australian is likely to be hoping for more rain tomorrow having recently demonstrated his wet riding skills at Le Mans and Donington.
The Suzuki rider clocked a time of 1’48.555s on the 19th of his 25 laps and topped the timesheet by just 0.017s ahead of Ducati Marlboro’s World Championship leader Stoner.
Starting down in 11th on the grid tomorrow is seven-time former World Champion Valentino Rossi who was unable to produce a competitive lap time and may be concerned that Stoner – who qualified nearly two seconds ahead of him and has shown good pace in practice – could build up an early advantage over him in tomorrow’s ninth race of the season.
With Rossi off the front two rows for the first time in 2007 Stoner will certainly be confident having won races in all conditions this season.
Another excellent performance from the in-form Randy de Puniet saw the French Kawasaki rider complete the front row as his final lap of 28 was good enough to give him third place - even though it was a second slower than Vermeulen and Stoner’s times.
A solid effort from Honda Gresini’s Marco Melandri saw him miss out on the front row by just 0.1s, while the second row is completed by Vermeulen’s colleague John Hopkins and fellow American Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha).
Kawasaki newcomer Anthony West also put his wet riding technique to good use again to head the third row and he will be joined on the grid by Pramac d’Antin’s Alex Hofmann (eighth) and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa (ninth) – while Ducati’s Loris Capirossi completed the top ten.
World Champion Nicky Hayden will be disappointed to have qualified 13th, especially given his recent improvement in dry conditions.
Meanwhile Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3’s Makoto Tamada required the discretion of Race Direction to save his blushes as they have decided that he can participate in Saturday afternoon’s race despite lapping outside the 107% marker of Vermeulen’s pole.
Pos Rider Bike Time Behind
1. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 1:48.555
2. Casey Stoner Ducati 1:48.572 + 0.017
3. Randy de Puniet Kawasaki 1:49.579 + 1.024
4. Marco Melandri Honda 1:49.679 + 1.124
5. John Hopkins Suzuki 1:49.684 + 1.129
6. Colin Edwards Yamaha 1:49.691 + 1.136
7. Anthony West Kawasaki 1:49.807 + 1.252
8. Alex Hofmann Ducati 1:49.927 + 1.372
9. Daniel Pedrosa Honda 1:50.132 + 1.577
10. Loris Capirossi Ducati 1:50.169 + 1.614
11. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1:50.392 + 1.837
12. Alex Barros Ducati 1:50.402 + 1.847
13. Nicky Hayden Honda 1:50.581 + 2.026
14. Kurtis Roberts KR 1:51.259 + 2.704
15. Shinya Nakano Honda 1:51.827 + 3.272
16. Carlos Checa Honda 1:53.271 + 4.716
17. Sylvain Guintoli Yamaha 1:54.253 + 5.698
18. Makoto Tamada Yamaha 1:57.525 + 8.970