Repsol Honda riders Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa are focused on podium finishes in tomorrow's race after securing sixth and seventh positions with just 0.027s separating them in this evening's first qualifying session of 2010 in Qatar.
Dovizioso and his Honda RC212V have
been near the top of the timesheets for the whole weekend and the Italian is confident his race pace should allow him to battle for a finish in the top three. In the earlier free practice period he recorded the fourth fastest time to replicate his position from yesterday's sole practice session, and this afternoon he broke the 1m 56s barrier for the first time, stopping the clock at 1m 55.963s - which was good enough for the final place on the second row of the grid. Ever the realist, Dovizioso realises that fighting for victory will be a tall order under the Losail floodlights, and the final podium spot is his realistic aim. The 24-year-old will be looking to make final adjustments to machine settings in the warm-up and to get away with the leaders in the race.
Pedrosa has been making steady progress in every session this weekend, methodically working his way towards his accustomed place near the sharp end of the grid. This continued today, with the Spaniard immediately up to speed in both sessions. For the first 15 minutes of qualifying Pedrosa led the way after quickly setting an impressive lap of 1m 56.225s - easily his fastest of the weekend at that stage. He was then able to bring that down to 1m 55.990s - just 0.027s behind his team-mate - which means Pedrosa will start tomorrow's race from the front of the third row. It's not as far forward as he would have chosen, but if he can begin the 2010 season with the type of lightning start he made his trademark last year, few would bet against Pedrosa being in the mix into the first corner.
A 20-minute warm-up at 19:00 on Sunday is followed by Round One of the 2010 MotoGP season, starting at 23:00 local time (GMT +3 hours).
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO -- 6th -- 1m 55.963s
"Tomorrow we will start from the second row on the grid, and this is positive because on this track it's not easy to recover positions - it's very important to start well. We had a good qualifying session after having some issues during the first free practice today and our pace is not too bad. I could have gone a little quicker in qualifying, but overall I'm reasonably satisfied. There are two or three riders with similar pace so tomorrow our target is to fight for the podium. Casey and Valentino have an incredible pace, but I'm confident I can compete for third position - provided I make a good start. Now we will analyze the data from today and think about some machine adjustments that we will test in the warm-up. Specifically, I was losing a lot of time in T3 and I also need to improve my starts so that's where we'll be focusing. All in all I'm optimistic about tomorrow and I'm looking forward to this race."
DANI PEDROSA -- 7th -- 1m 55.990s
"We improved the set-up again today - a little bit in the morning and then a bigger step in the afternoon - and the lap time is coming down which means our position is better than where we have been recently. In the warm-up we will try to optimse the set-up a little more to help us with the race distance and then it's down to the race where I'll be looking for a good start of course. In qualifying I felt more comfortable on the hard option Bridgestone tyre which is why I was pushing hard at the start of the session. I wasn't able to improve with the soft tyre so it looks like we'll be going with the hard tyre for the race. It was actually a shame this evening because on my last lap I made a mistake and lost some time, and if I hadn't done that I could have been 4th on the grid. Stoner and Rossi look very strong for the race, but there should be a big group fighting for the final place on the podium and I hope to be in amongst it."
TOSHIYUKI YAMAJI - REPSOL HONDA TEAM MANAGER
"Both Repsol Honda riders did a good job today and they have made significant improvements to the set-up of their machines, which should allow us to have a competitive race tomorrow. The practice and qualifying sessions today have yielded a lot of data to analyse and Andrea and Dani will use tomorrow's warm-up to make final adjustments to the settings ahead of the race. Their times are very close and we could be in for a very exciting first race of the season. Some of our rivals look very strong here, so the whole Repsol Honda Team will be giving it everything to run them close tomorrow."