Fourth and fifth fastest
Two hundredths of a second was all that separated Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso in today's dramatic qualifying session for the U.S. Grand Prix.
The pair will head the second row of the grid for tomorrow's 32-lap race
at the spectacular Laguna Seca circuit after finishing in fourth and fifth places - both riders less than half a second from pole position.
Pedrosa initially completed a 12-lap run at the beginning of this afternoon's session, confirming his choice of Bridgestone race tyres and working with his crew on further adjustments to his machine set-up. In the closing moments of the hour he lowered his best lap time to 1m 22.113s, a mark just 0.022s ahead of his Repsol Honda team-mate. The Spaniard, who took second place on his debut MotoGP race here in 2006, will use tomorrow's warm-up to make final setting adjustments and is confident of getting away with the leaders.
“We started this afternoon's session really well and were able to lap consistently quickly straight away. Towards the end it became a little bit more difficult to improve the lap times because they tyres weren't quite getting up to temperature and it was easy to make a mistake - we saw a few crashes out there later in the session”, he said. “Fourth on the grid is not bad - I would have liked to be on the front row of course but fourth is ok. For tomorrow I'd like to improve our race pace by about three tenths per lap and that's what we'll work on in the warm-up. We did a lot of laps today on the tyres we're planning to race on and this was one of our targets this weekend so I'm satisfied with that. It's a short lap here and there isn't any chance to rest which is going to make it a tough race tomorrow. You have to stay very focused and concentrated because it's easy to make a mistake. In the sessions today I was mostly riding on a clear track, so I'm confident that if I can get away with the front group then this will help my rhythm and pace even more.”
Dovizioso also chose to put in a long run as qualifying got under way this afternoon, lapping consistently in the 1m 22s bracket during an unbroken 17-lap outing.
The Italian was also strong in the closing stages and looked capable of taking a place on the front row, but he had to slow on his fastest laps as yellow flags came out late in the session for a series of crashes. Still, Dovizioso is positive about his chances when the lights go out tomorrow.
“As I expected this afternoon, with the higher temperatures and using the hard Bridgestones, I could improve my lap times by a decent amount over this morning. That's good because these are the tyres we'll use for the race and we're in pretty good shape. I think I have a good race pace and starting from the second row is not bad”, he said. “Towards the end of qualifying I think I could have gone even quicker with the last soft tyre but I was on track when Lorenzo crashed so I had to slow down because there were yellow flags. Anyway I'm happy with qualifying and tomorrow we'll aim to make a good start and stay with the leaders. In the heat of the race I think I should be able to grit my teeth and shave a few more tenths from my lap time too. This track is really special and the atmosphere here is unique, so and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's race. I hope we can be competitive and give the team a strong result before we head back to Europe.”
It was an unfortunate session for Jorge Lorenzo, who set pole position before suffering a heavy fall. The Spaniard hopes to make the start tomorrow. The US Grand Prix - round eight of the 17-race MotoGP World Championship - begins at 14.00 following a 20-minute warm-up session in the morning.