Ahead of Motegi showdown
Valentino Rossi sealed his tenth front-row start of the season ahead of tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi today, the Italian taking second place on an all-Michelin front row in between Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden.
Colin Edwards also
had a good session, qualifying seventh at the head of the third row.
After making a poor start to the weekend by finishing 14th yesterday, Rossi made a step up this morning and put in the second fastest time in free practice. His qualifying session did not get off to plan however as he made an off-track excursion in the opening minutes and then found himself down in 18th place mid-way through. Edwards meanwhile, was doing little better in 17th, but both began to steadily improve as they worked on refining their race settings and finalising their tyre choices for tomorrow
Once it came down to qualifying tyres it was clear that Rossi especially was on top form and his first run put him in second place, before improving again with his second tyre and moving one place higher. Pedrosa was even faster however and, despite Rossi's Michelin tyre working well enough to give him a second flying lap, a small mistake on the last corner cost him a few tenths and he was unable to better the Spaniard. Edwards also put in two good qualifying laps and looked to have sixth in the bag before he was edged down one place by Toni Elias.
Tomorrow's 24-lap race gets underway at 1400 Japanese time. Rossi must finish in front of Casey Stoner in order to keep his championship hopes alive for another race; the Australian will start from ninth tomorrow, on the outside of the third row.
"I'm in good shape and I'm very happy with this result after the problems we had yesterday.
We were struggling a lot but everyone has worked very hard and today has been much, much better. We tried some modifications and now I can use the throttle well and the grip from the tyres is good. In fact today the tyre situation is really a lot better and I can use my M1 how I want to, with a good rhythm. This morning especially was a big improvement although this afternoon we tried some different things again and it wasn't quite so good to start with. Pedrosa's rhythm is slightly better than mine at the moment so we have one or two things to work on, but we're definitely in a good position and we are starting from the front row, which is the most important factor. I was very happy with the qualifying tyres because I was able to do two laps with the second one. Michelin brought a new tyre and asked that I try for a second lap and it worked well, so this is very encouraging. Now I am really looking forward to the race; it's going to be hard in this heat but we will do our best and see what happens."
"We've made some really important steps forward today with regards to the new tyres, how we use them and also to our base setting. We've rearranged the bike a bit and things were a lot better today. This afternoon was really difficult at the start, I was riding as hard as I could but I was two seconds off the pace! Then we put a different tyre in - the one I will use in the race - and I was riding the same but was suddenly a lot faster. This is a very sensitive track when it comes down to tyres and setting and you really have to find the key. With my first qualifying tyre I put in a pretty uneventful lap and with the second I was looking faster but I caught up to some other riders and, although they didn't slow me down, I slightly lost the edge of my concentration and that cost me a little bit of time. Thanks a lot to my guys, they've been working as hard in the box as I have out on track and they've done a great job today."
"It's been a good day's work, considering the issues we were facing yesterday. Valentino is in good shape for the race and, most importantly, starting from the front row again. Colin has a few more things to work on but he's improved his pace a lot as well and with a good start he can be in the fight tomorrow. We have a few more details to check and our engineers are working hard to make sure both riders have the best package for tomorrow; it will be a very testing race and 24 laps here puts a lot of stress on tyres, brakes and engine, so we need to be sure everything is perfect. Then we will just be hoping to see another exciting race like last week and with both of our riders able to be in the fight until the end."