“I was hoping for the first row”
Qualifying practice for the final Grand Prix of the year took place at Valencia today, with Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and Anthony West claiming fourth and 16th positions on tomorrow's grid, respectively.
De Puniet's impressive
second row spot was secured by his best time of 1'31.963, with the Frenchman missing out on a front row start by a mere 0.060 to Nicky Hayden. Furthermore, he is less than half a second off pole position man, Dani Pedrosa, and he set the fastest time of the day, at 300.8kmh.
After two days' worth of practice and preparation, and having found an excellent Bridgestone tyre combination in the process, he is confident he can put in a good performance tomorrow: his race set up giving him the confidence to consistently display superb lap times even without the benefits of a qualifying tyre. Lapping in the low, one minute, 33-second region, it all bodes well for Sunday's event.
Anthony West, meanwhile, has continued to improve his times throughout the weekend, and today recorded a stunning, fourth-fastest, top speed of 296.9kmh, but remains uneasy after a disappointing session. Having struggled with grip on Friday, the 26-year-old Australian succumbed to the gravel today in a lowside at turn two but, undeterred, made his way back to pit lane to continue on his second bike.
He was not the only one who suffered in a session which saw a number of riders getting out of shape, including seven times world champion, Valentino Rossi. However, West will tomorrow grit his teeth and give it his all when the race begins. Slow progress for the 26-year-old during practice sessions has, in the past, failed to deter him from the task of taking his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR around any track with the utmost determination.
All in all, it looks as if tomorrow's 30-lap race at the 4km Ricardo Tormo circuit will be a heated affair, with the front ten qualifiers recording times within a second of Pedrosa. What's more, judging by the large amount of spectators present around the track already, and with a Spaniard on pole, it's going to be an atmospheric one at that.
Randy de Puniet
"I was hoping for the first row for my last race for Kawasaki but still, my position is pretty good because it's very difficult to overtake here. We've improved the race set up hugely on the bike today and I managed to do good, consistent times during the sessions. I had a big slide on my final qualifier, just before I had to brake for a corner, so I lost a couple of tenths and, because of that, narrowly missed out on the front row. I hope to continue to improve during tomorrow's warm up but I'm feeling really good."
"I haven't been able to find my pace so far and have struggled a bit to find a good set up for tomorrow. I thought I'd show more improvement today than I have but I'm finding it harder at Valencia on the MotoGP bike than on the smaller capacity machines I've ridden here. I'm more angry than injured after my small crash, and I don't have the same confidence I had in, say, Sepang, but now I will look towards the race and do everything I can to do my best."
"At the beginning of the afternoon, we evaluated the race tyre choices for tomorrow and I think we've found a good option for us to use. Randy managed to do some fast times on that race tyre which means he'll be able to run at a good pace on Sunday. Our goal today was to be on the front row but Randy missed out by such a small margin; I'm really pleased with the way he's been riding today and during the weekend as a whole. He suffered quite a bit of movement on the bike but it got a lot better when the track temperature rose this afternoon and, if it's like this tomorrow, I think we can expect a good result in the race."