Sepang : Kawasaki - Day 2
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet will start tomorrow's 21-lap Malaysian Grand Prix from seventh place on the grid, after unique circumstances at Sepang saw this afternoon's qualifying session abandoned due to torrential rain.
But while de Puniet
was relatively satisfied with his starting position, his Kawasaki teammate, Shinya Nakano, was disappointed to find himself placed twelfth on the grid, at a track that he rates as one of his favourites.
After three dry free practice sessions for the MotoGP class, the rain that had been threatening for the past three days finally arrived with a vengeance, shortly before an already delayed qualifying session was due to get underway.
With standing water quickly building up on track under the onslaught from the elements, race direction had no option but to delay qualifying again, in the hope that the weather would improve and the track drain quickly enough for the all-important timed session to get underway.
But, despite the torrential rain gradually easing and allowing the standing water - which was ankle deep in some places - to drain quickly from most of the track, qualifying was abandoned after a delay of two hours. Race control cited safety concerns, due to water running across the track at turn five, as the reason for the abandonment.
As a result, the final grid positions for tomorrow's 21-lap Malaysian Grand Prix were calculated using the fastest time of each rider over the course of the three free practice sessions, all of which were run in the dry.
This method of calculation favoured those riders who'd run qualifying tyres during free practice.
And while Randy de Puniet is happy that the decision will see him start tomorrow from seventh place, and the head of the third row, Shinya Nakano was disappointed to find himself placed twelfth, and facing a start from the fourth row, after staying on race tyres for all three free practice sessions.
Randy de Puniet (7th - 2'02.313): "We decided to run a qualifying tyre this morning, just so I could get a feel for it at this track, and that obviously gave us something of an advantage when they calculated the grid positions after abandoning qualifying. On the other hand, the bike and the tyres were working well this morning, with no recurrence of the braking problem I had yesterday, and I like to think that I could have finished higher than seventh if qualifying had gone ahead as planned. I need to get a good start tomorrow, and it's important that I carry the speed all the way into the first turn, as this is the best way of holding the right line through the corner. Overall, I'm happy with the progress we made during today's free practice session, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race."
Shinya Nakano (12th - 2'02.832): "With hindsight it is easy to say we should have run a qualifying tyre during free practice, like some of the other riders did, but it's impossible to account for every eventuality. As far as I know, this is the first time qualifying has been abandoned and this method used to calculate grid positions, but we have to live with the decision. Despite having to start tomorrow's race from the fourth row of the grid, I think it's still possible to leave here with a good result. I'm fairly happy with the bike, and also the tyre options for tomorrow's race, so I guess it's just going to be a case of getting the best start I can, and then getting my head down and pushing hard for the best result possible."
Harald Eckl – Team Principal: "It's unfortunate that qualifying had to be abandoned, but there was obviously a problem with the track and safety is, of course, paramount. Some riders, like Shinya, have been unlucky because they chose not to run a qualifier during free practice, while others may be higher up the grid than they would normally expect. But, I'm pretty sure this won't have a major effect on tomorrow's race results. I just hope that the rain doesn't return tomorrow, as it would not be good for MotoGP if we had to abandon the race because of the same problem we experienced with water running across the track today."