MOTEGI, JAPAN, OCT 13 - Practice and qualifying for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi produced the usual suspects at the top of the order, but not by the usual gap.
Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo stole the MotoGP pole from Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, but it took the fastest ever lap by a motorcycle around the Twin Ring Motegi to do it. Pedrosa was on top of qualifying when time expired, but Lorenzo wasn’t finished. He was faster at every interval and when he crossed the line at the end of the hour, he had a new lap record.
His lap time of 1:44.969 was well under the previous mark of 1:45.257 set by Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) in taking last year’s pole. Pedrosa was second by 0.246 seconds, then there was a cluster that was hanging close by.
The pole was the 50th of Lorenzo’s career in Grand Prix racing and sixth of the year. It came as something of a surpise since many believed the stop-start nature of Motegi would favor the harder-accelerating Hondas and the seamless shift gearbox. Clearly that wasn’t the case. Three of the top four qualifiers were Yamaha mounted. Behind Pedrosa came Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, on the front row for the sixth time, and Yamaha’s Ben Spies, who’d flirted with both the pole and the front row.
Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo set...
Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo set a new lap record at Motegi on his final lap during qualifying for his 50th career pole position.
“Yeah, it's a really good weekend,” Lorenzo said after qualifying with the Motegi lap record. “From the beginning I feel very good on the bike and having a good pace, the pace that we needed in Aragon and we didn’t have it. Now we changed something on the electronics and we find some better pace. This is going to be important for tomorrow. And I’m really happy with the pole position, because this is the 50th pole position of my career, so it's a lot. And I’m confident for tomorrow. Tomorrow is the important thing and we are in the best way possible to start.”
Lorenzo will start Sunday’s 15th round of the MotoGP World Championship with a 33 point lead on Pedrosa. Asked if the race would be fought between himself and Pedrosa, Lorenzo said, “I don't think we will be only Dani and me for the race, because Cal and Andrea and maybe Ben, they are fast enough to be with us, mainly at the beginning of the race. Maybe after is going to be different.”
Although he was at the top...
Although he was at the top of the qualifying leaderboard when time ran out, Dani Pedrosa was forced to settle for second when Lorenzo's last flying lap was in the books.
Pedrosa developed a chattering problem in the middle of the MotoGP qualifying session that he hadn’t had all weekend at Motegi. That forced him to cruise around for 15 minutes while making a series of changes because “the bike was just moving a lot and through this moments we finally couldn’t test the things we want, but jump on the last tire for the grid position, so yeah, again chattering and, yeah, I tried to pull my best lap out of the situation. Second place it was good because front row it’s important.”
Asked after the MotoGP qualifying session about the return of chatter at Motegi, which he and Stoner fought earlier in the year, he said, “Yeah, but it's a bit strange, because didn’t have such a big chatter in the morning or even yesterday, just today in qualifying, even not in the first part of qualifying. But just hope to not have it tomorrow in the race and have the chance to do a good race.”
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Cal...
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow put himself on the front row for the seventh time this season.
Third fastest Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) didn't have chatter, he had a mysterious vibration that nearly put him on the ground.
“Yeah, seems we had a small problem with something, either the bike or the tire,” he said after being only 0.042 seconds slower than Pedrosa in MotoGP qualifying at Motegi. “I haven’t been able to get back to the garage to analyze it with the guys. Definitely there’s a problem. I nearly crashed and then we had some big vibration with the bike and I nearly crashed. The next lap I continued again and still had the vibration. We came in, changed a small setting on the bike and I went back out with a new tire in the end and it was impossible to ride. Every corner was the same vibration.
“We don't know if it was the bike or the tire or something, so we’ll find out later. I'm pleased we had a great session. Even with the hard tire in the start we were fast enough. When we changed to the soft tire, we did a run on the soft there as well, I was pleased with the initial pace and that’ll be important for tomorrow’s race, definitely.”
Crutchlow was one of many problems overheating his brakes during MotoGP qualifying at Motegi. Teammate Dovi also had it bad, as did the Ducati Marlboro teammates Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden.
“Yeah, we have big problems,” Crutchlow said. “Not just me, Andrea and Ben, Vale and Nicky apparently are the same.” He added, “Yeah it seems that if we’re braking the temperatures getting too high and then they're not working so well. So we’ll have to see in the race tomorrow.”
Ben Spies couldn't quite put...
Ben Spies couldn't quite put it together for a front row grid position, qualifying fourth despite a crash in the waning moments of the session.
Spies was fourth in qualifying at Motegi and lamenting not being farther up the MotoGP grid. He said his tire strategy didn't allow him to make a serious run at the pole, then he went to the pool to relax.
“The problem was we had only one front tire for three rears, and what I wanted to do is go out on the first soft rear tire with the front that had over race distance on it, just to get the feel of the soft rear tire, but they wanted to put the new front on just to be safe and it was that fine line of you know that was probably the right thing to do, but the soft tire I wasn’t going to go all out, go for a qualifying lap,” he said. “But you know, quite honestly, when we put the third soft tire on the front tire just lost the edge and didn’t have that max grip that we needed.
“And I’m just disappointed because I know we had the pace to be on the front row and really close to pole. Because on the second lap I made a mistake in the last corner. If we put all my splits together it would’ve been right at 44.9, 45.0, so in hindsight its good that we know we have the pace. We ended up having the mistake in the end, we know why, because you throw three fresh rears at one front the things just cooked and I knew we still had a possibility to still get it on the front row with that setting, but just pushed the front just a little bit too much and that was all she wrote.” Spies crashed in the hairpin turn on the inside as time was running out for the MotoGP qualifying session at Motegi. “But for tomorrow the bike was good, the pace is good and I think we can fight really well. I mean, I think we can actually stay pretty close to Dani and Jorge, hopefully. I mean, that’s the goal. If we’re not fighting for the podium I’d be extremely upset after what we felt today and what we saw today. So…actually I'm quite happy with the pace of the bike, but you know just the way we had to go with the tires didn’t allow us to get the max out of the bike when we needed it.”
Asked if he was having brake problems at Motegi, Spies said, “Yeah, for sure and we’ve seeing the highest temperatures Brembo’s seen on rotors. We hit 950C. 1700 Fahrenheit, so we’re halfway to cremation, I guess. Its 3000, right? It’s hot as hell. So 950C is what we hit yesterday, but that was when the brakes were dragging on the straightaway too. We’re hitting mid-800s now, which is about 100 over optimal range and the brake pads are basically just going to last the race. That’s it. They're going to be done. I don't lose much feel but we definitely from about lap 16 to 24 we start losing braking just power.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista was fifth fastest. Shortly after MotoGP qualifying, it was confirmed he’d be staying with the team another year.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso was sixth fastest.
Casey Stoner returned from...
Casey Stoner returned from his injury-induced layoff to discover that his ankle was hindering his ability to move on the motorcycle. He qualified seventh.
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner was on the row three pole and not happy that he wasn’t able to maneuver on the bike as wanted.
“Difficult to explain,” he said after MotoGP qualifying at Motegi had ended. “I thought I’d be able to get a little more movement out of it today, sort of try and jam it a little bit, but unfortunately it just doesn't want to go, doesn't want to move. As I was explaining before, the lean angles are a lot less than I’d normally run, especially in the middle of the slow corners I’d normally get to a certain point and be able to pick up the bike. But I can’t get to the lean angle, I can’t get the bike to turn and then to pick up the bike for the exit I’m not able to put my weight on it. I can’t push the bike up quickly enough because the foot’s sort of jammed in one position, so I'm using too much rear brake at the same time and it’s just sort of a bit savage at the moment. So we’re trying to set the bike up in a different kind of way that I normally don't ride like, but it’s proven to be difficult because on left hand corners I’m OK, but on right hand corners I just can’t get it right.”
LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl recovered from an early crash to finish seventh fastest in qualifying at Motegi, behind Stoner and in front of Valentino Rossi. Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden was right behind him on the row four pole.
MotoGP Motegi final qualifying results:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 1:44.969
2. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 1:45.215
3. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha 1:45.257
4. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha 1:45.336
5. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda 1:45.481
6. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Yamaha 1:45.612
7. Casey Stoner (AUS) Honda 1:45.745
8. Stefan Bradl (GER) Honda 1:45.848
9. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Ducati 1:45.976
10. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 1:46.461
11. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (JPN) Yamaha 1:46.780
12. Hector Barbera (SPA) Ducati 1:46.881
13. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) ART/Aprilia 1:47.383
14. Randy De Puniet (FRA) ART/Aprilia 1:47.581
15. Karel Abraham (CZE) Ducati 1:47.791
16. Colin Edwards (USA) Suter/BMW 1:48.125
17. Yonny Hernandez (COL) FTR/Kawasaki 1:48.513
18. Michele Pirro (ITA) FTR/Honda 1:48.653
19. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ioda-Suter/BMW 1:48.831
20. James Ellison (GBR) ART/Aprilia 1:49.023
21. Roberto Rolfo (ITA) ART/Aprilia 1:49.183
22. Ivan Silva (SPA) FTR/Kawasaki 1:49.831