Sepang : Camel Yamaha - Day 2
Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi will start from pole position for the second consecutive race tomorrow after a tropical downpour forced the cancellation of this afternoon's MotoGP qualifying session at Sepang.
With several sections
of circuit still several inches underwater even after the rain had ceased, the riders were forced through an agonising wait before Race Direction decided to base the grid line-up on the best times of each rider from the three previous free practice sessions. A stunning pole record lap from the Italian this morning was therefore enough to put him at the front of the pack for the thirteenth round of the championship, which takes place one hour later than usual tomorrow, at 3pm local time.
Whilst the weather played into the hands of Rossi it was a different story for his team- mate Colin Edwards, who had been hoping for more dry track time to improve his pace aboard the YZR-M1 after struggling to find an adequate set-up yesterday.
Edwards made some progress this morning and was hoping for further improvement in the afternoon but he will now have to focus on tomorrow's warm-up session before starting the race from eleventh place. Rossi will be joined on the front row of the grid by series leader Nicky Hayden (Honda) and Loris Capirossi (Ducati).
Valentino Rossi (1st – 2'00.605; 23 laps)
"I don't know if it is harder to go and ride in those conditions or stand around waiting for two hours in your leathers! Seriously though the safety was the most important issue today – there was a lot of water on the track and the conditions were very bad. At two or three points it was like a river running across the surface and the water was very deep.
As a member of the MotoGP Safety Commission I spoke with Race Direction and I also went down pit-lane to chat with the other riders and we all agreed that the best thing was to not ride, not just because of the water but also the limited vision."
"You couldn't even see turn one at one point! I think that shows everybody is sensible and the situation has changed from ten years ago – the riders now have more power over these situations and that is a good thing. This morning the bike was really good and I was able to ride it at 100% and use the tyres properly. We went back more towards the setting we found in pre-season here and straight away I was able to set some fast times. We even had time to try a qualifying tyre and I suppose I was lucky we did that after what happened in the afternoon. We have a few options for the race tyre but we'll wait and see what the weather is like tomorrow before deciding – hopefully it will be dry."
Colin Edwards (11th – 2'02.800; 22 laps)
"The weather has really messed things up for me today! Valentino found the magical set-up this morning, which was much closer to the set-up we used at the tests in January, and our plan was to try it this afternoon. Unfortunately the rain put paid to that and, having not used a qualifying tyre like Valentino did this morning, we're now going to have to start from 11th on the grid - which is not ideal to say the least. Now we're going to have to do what we hoped to do this afternoon in the warm-up tomorrow and hope that we can get everything sorted in just twenty minutes. Then it's going to be a case of getting my head down and trying to fight my way through the pack."
Davide Brivio – Camel Yamaha team director:
"What a strange day! It was a good morning practice for Valentino – he made a big improvement with the bike and tested a qualifying tyre, which helped us in the strange situation this afternoon. He made a great lap time but his general pace shows that the steps made with the bike are in the right direction. We are happy about that and now we feel confident about tomorrow, it is good to be on pole again."
"Unfortunately Colin wasn't helped by the weather because we feel he could have improved his grid position but he didn't get the chance to do that so it's a shame – it was a good and bad day for us from that perspective. The weather might be a problem tomorrow too if the storms come back so now we are all just hoping for nice weather when we open the curtains tomorrow."
* Grid positions determined by Combined Free Practice times from all three sessions