Superb qualifying sees Capirossi fifth for his 300th start
Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi will start his 300th Grand Prix from the middle of the second row following an impressive qualifying session in Qatar this evening.
Capirossi (P5, 1'55.899, 23 laps) recorded his
best time on his final lap of the 5,380m Losail International Circuit, to push himself right into contention for tomorrow's 22-lap race. Following last night's heavy crash, Capirossi and his crew made several changes to the Suzuki GSV-R which resulted in significant improvements in handling and overall lap-time. The Italian is in a confident mood for the opening round of the season and will be looking for a strong race to celebrate the milestone that he will set on race-day.
Alvaro Bautista (P13, 1'56.450, 23 laps) will start his first MotoGP race from the front of the fifth row after a fast crash at the end of the qualifying session ruined his chances to move up the grid. He suffered a very similar crash to that of team-mate Capirossi last night, and like the Italian, was able to walk away uninjured from the accident. Bautista's race pace during the free practice and qualifying session was very consistent and competitive, and if he can get a good start he will certainly be running further up the field than his grid position.
Tomorrow's 22-lap race will see Casey Stoner on his Ducati start from pole position as he goes in search of his fourth successive victory at Qatar. The race will get underway at 23.00hrs local time (20.00hrs GMT) with both Rizla Suzuki racers looking to start the season in promising form.
"Overall I am quite happy with tonight's qualifying, because after my crash yesterday we struggled a bit in the earlier practice, but at the end of the session we tried something different and in the qualifying it seemed to work well. Once we made the change I immediately went quicker and we modified the bike a bit more for qualifying and from that we found a very good setting. I went well in qualifying and I did 1'56 laps many times and this is good. In the end I followed Valentino and got a bit of help with my lap, but that doesn't matter because I am happy with the result. I am pleased for the team because they made a huge effort after I destroyed a bike last night and the guys didn't get to sleep until about five o'clock this morning! This is a small present to them, but we really hope we can have something better tomorrow to enjoy."
"This is my first official crash in a race weekend, but I am still quite happy because I rode well and got a good setting for the bike during the free practice and I feel very good on the bike. I improved my time on the race tyres and this is very important, but I also think I can still go a little bit faster. I have a good race rhythm and even though I am too far back on the grid for what I wanted, I will try to get a good start and run with a good group and see what happens. I am really excited for tomorrow's race and I think I can enjoy myself and we'll see what we can do."
Paul Denning - Team Manager:
"Loris did an incredible job in qualifying and is riding at the absolute limits - and beyond - as he comes to his 300th Grand Prix start tomorrow. The improvement from yesterday didn't only come from Loris, but the guys also improved the bike quite a lot and the lap-time rhythm on the harder tyres has improved significantly. If Loris can get away with the fastest riders and find his rhythm early on we could be in for a very exciting Grand Prix tomorrow night.
"Alvaro's crash in the final seconds of qualifying was his first real one he's had and it's something that had to happen somewhere, and qualifying is where the absolute limits are found. I don't think it will dent his confidence for tomorrow and if he can make a good start I think he will make a significant improvement on his grid position.
"Finally on behalf of Loris and everyone at Rizla Suzuki we'd like to extend our thanks to Carmelo Ezpeleta and Dorna for the very nice presentation to Loris in celebration of his 300th Grand Prix start tomorrow."