Japan: Pedrosa on pole, Hayden outside Both Repsol Hondas will start Sunday’s Grand Prix of Japan from the front row after a highly impressive show of pace by the factory Honda squad in today’s qualifying session at the Twin Ring Motegi. Dani Pedrosa produced another dominant display and has been fastest in every session this weekend before taking his second pole position of the season by 0.391s Saturday afternoon.
Just as important as securing the front slot on the grid has been Pedrosa’s pace on race tires this weekend. The 21-year-old Spaniard was able to complete a high number of laps on his Michelin race tire options today including a lap of 1m 47.155s this morning which is inside the existing race lap record of 1m 47.288s.
As promised, Nicky Hayden made substantial improvements at Motegi today as he made full use of the two one-hour sessions. In the morning the World Champion knocked a full second from his best lap time of yesterday and finished the session in third place behind Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi. With his first qualifying tire in the afternoon the 26-year-old from Owensboro, Kentucky went to second on the time sheets before being nudged back to third by Rossi. A small mistake on his second qualifier cost the World Champion a chance of pole position, but Hayden was pleased to record his fourth front row start in successive races.
The weather is expected to be unpredictable tomorrow at the 4.801km (2.981-mile) Motegi circuit with a chance of rain for the 24-lap race, so the Repsol Honda Team will remain vigilant as the 14.00hrs start time approaches.
Dani Pedrosa Qualifying : Pole Position 1m 45.846s
“I’m very happy to be on pole position and it’s been a little while since I’ve been on the front row so today went very well for us, all in all. We’ve spent today mostly working on race tire selection and it looks like we’ve got good pace in all the conditions we’ve had so far this weekend. We’ll have to look at the weather for tomorrow to make our final selection of race tire, but I think we’re looking pretty good, and hopefully the endurance will be there too because we’ve tested for that by putting in a lot of laps on the same tire. We’re in a good position for the race, but anything can happen. The weather is looking like it will change and we’ve seen first corner incidents at this circuit before. I hope we get through the first corner cleanly and have a good race at Honda’s home track.”
Nicky Hayden Qualifying: 3rd – 1m 46.575s
“I definitely have to say thanks to the team because we made quite a lot of progress straight away this morning and I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike. I’m not completely thrilled with my second qualifying lap though. My first two splits were quite good but then I made a little mistake and in the last part of the lap I didn’t put it together clean enough. I really didn’t improve my time from my first qualifier to my second one and with these boys that won’t cut it. Nevertheless I’m happy to be on the front row – that’s four in a row – and the bike, tires and everything is working pretty well so I’m excited for the race. I know it’s going to be difficult tomorrow because there are a lot of guys going quickly but hopefully we’ve got a package that we can do something with. This afternoon I was able to put in some decent laps on a used race tire so I’m excited for the race.”
Makoto Tanaka - Team Manager
“This was a very successful qualifying session for us because we have both riders on the front row. Dani has had a perfect record at Motegi so far this weekend – being fastest in every practice session and taking pole position. He was a very close second at the last race in Portugal and is looking good for tomorrow. The ground temperature changed from the morning to the afternoon but still the race tires can cover the range of conditions, so thanks to Michelin because we seem to have very good performance on race tires and qualifying tires here. Nicky also put in many good laps today. We still need to make some setting adjustments to his machine but with a good start tomorrow I hope he can be at the front too. Anything can happen but we’re hoping for a Repsol Honda one-two in the race.”
Rider Team Time
1 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda Team 1m 45.864s
2 Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha Team 1m 46.255s
3 Nicky Hayden Repsol Honda Team 1m 46.575s
4 Randy De Puniet Kawasaki Racing Team 1m 46.643s
5 Toni Elias Honda Gresini 1m 46.804s
6 Anthony West Kawasaki Racing Team 1m 46.912s
7 Colin Edwards Fiat Yamaha Team 1m 46.997s
8 Loris Capirossi Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 47.047s
9 Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 47.121s
10 Marco Melandri Honda Gresini 1m 47.136s
11 John Hopkins Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1m 47.163s
12 Shinya Nakano Konica Minolta Honda 1m 47.295s
13 Kousuke AkiyoshiRizla Suzuki MotoGP 1m 47.316s
14 Carlos Checa Honda LCR 1m 47.334s
15 Alex Barros Pramac d'Antin 1m 47.367s
16 Makoto Tamada Dunlop Yamaha Tech 1m 47.714s
17 Chris Vermeulen Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1m 47.914s
18 Sylvain GuintoliDunlop Yamaha Tech 1m 48.085s
19 Akira Yanagawa Kawasaki Racing Team 1m 48.569s
20 Shinichi Ito Pramac d'Antin 1m 49.548s