Marco Simoncelli fired his San Carlo Honda Gresini Team to the front of qualifying at the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya on Saturday to take his first pole position of the premier class, in front of Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) and Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing).
"I'm very satisfied and happy," said Simoncelli. "I didn't expect it because Stoner was faster than me in the other sessions and today we had some problems in the first part of qualifying, but after we chose the right tire for me I could push like I wanted and got this time. I'm really happy and for sure tomorrow will be difficult in the race, but I will do my best to push for the podium or even victory."
The result provided Simoncelli the perfect opportunity to put the recent controversy which followed the Le Mans incident involving Dani Pedrosa behind him, and he was relieved to be able to focus on riding once again.
"This is the best way to forget what happened in Le Mans and what everyone has been saying in the last two weeks, and before this race," he concluded.
Simoncelli shot into a surprise pole position in the last 30 seconds of qualifying, pulling out a fast lap of 1:42.413 in front of Stoner, who had otherwise led the entire session, but was relegated to second. Stoner, who holds both the best pole position time and the fastest lap at the Montmelo track, qualified just 0.016s behind the Italian.
"I'm disappointed with qualifying, we had good pace and should have been able to go a lot faster on new tires," Stoner admitted. "In my first run of the session the bike wasn't working so well, the tires weren't warming up as expected with that set up and I had a lot less grip on the soft tire, which we couldn't understand why. We tried changing inner pressure but it made it worse and we weren't able to do anything with the last tire, which I'm very frustrated with because I almost did the same laptime with the soft and the hard tire.
"Front row is obviously where we want to be but I'm annoyed as we spent the whole session working on the tires and not improving the bike set up. For tomorrow we're confident with our race pace on hard tires if the weather stays dry, it's just upsetting to have a qualifying session like this."
Last year's race winner Lorenzo completed the first row with a third fastest time of 1:42.728.
"It has been a tough session today," Lorenzo said. "In the morning it was good but in the afternoon we struggled a little bit. I pushed as hard as I could for pole but it was not possible. The race will also be tough because we are still quite far from the front but not as far as yesterday. If we can take one or two tenths we can fight for something, but I think a win would be a miracle."
Ben Spies was in top form, just missing out on a front-row start by a margin of 0.014s, having held second in the timings with three minutes remaining. Spies will head the second row, in front of Repsol Honda rival Andrea Dovizioso. Finishing the second row is Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who matched his previous best grid position of 2011 in sixth.
The Ducati Team duo head up the third row, with Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) ahead of Nicky Hayden for the first time this weekend, followed by Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki), who finished fifth here last year and won the 250 race in 2009.
Completing the top 10 in the session were Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) in ninth position followed by Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini), who ran off the track earlier.
Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) had an early crash at the start of the session, and rejoined the session after a medical check to finish in 15th.
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) will not be participating in this round due to injuries.
Moto2 World Championship leader Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) set pole position for this weekend's Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya. Aleix Espargaró (Pons HP 40) and Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) will join Bradl on the front row for Sunday's race.
The German rider Bradl set a fastest lap time of 1:46.753 which makes his the only Moto2 rider to reach a Moto2 pole position for all five rounds of the 2011 season to date. He was 0.114s quicker than Espargaró, who ran up front in the top three for much of the session and qualified in second position, and 0.225s in front of third place qualifier Takahashi.
Bankia Aspar riders Nicolas Terol and Héctor Faubel head up an all Spanish 125cc front row for the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya, with Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing Team) in third.
A determined Terol secured his fourth pole position of the 2011 season with a fastest lap of 1:51.281, nearly half a second faster than that of his team-mate Faubel, who topped the times briefly in the last three minutes.
Sixteen year-old rookie Viñales had another impressive qualifying session to join the two Bankia Aspar riders on the front row for the Catalunya race, his second third position qualifying result this year.
MotoGP Qualifying Results
1. Marco SIMONCELLI (ITA) San Carlo Gresini Honda 1:42.413
2. Casey STONER (AUS) Repsol Honda 1:42.429
3. Jorge LORENZO (SPA) Factory Racing Yamaha 1:42.728
4. Ben SPIES (USA) Factory Racing Yamaha 1:42.742
5. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (ITA) Repsol Honda 1:42.749
6. Cal CRUTCHLOW (GBR) Monster Tech 3 Yamaha 1:43.202
7. Valentino ROSSI (ITA) Team Ducati 1:43.223
8. Nicky HAYDEN (USA) Team Ducati 1:43.228
9. Alvaro BAUTISTA (SPA) Rizla Suzuki 1:43.447
10. Hector BARBERA (SPA) Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP Ducati 1:43.656
11. Hiroshi AOYAMA (JPN) San Carlo Gresini Honda 1:43.734
12. Randy DE PUNIET (FRA) Pramac Racing Team Ducati 1:43.764
13. Loris CAPIROSSI (ITA) Pramac Racing Team Ducati 1:44.068
14. Toni ELIAS (SPA) LCR Honda 1:44.510
15. Karel ABRAHAM (CZE) Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati 1:45.661
Colin EDWARDS (USA) Monster Tech 3 Yamaha
Monday, June 6, 2011
First pole for Simoncelli