In Bridgestone's backyard Japanese Grand Prix
Loris Capirossi once again proved the might of the Ducati-Bridgestone package around the Motegi circuit by smashing his own pole position record by almost seven-tenths-of-a- second on his way to the front of the grid for tomorrow's
24-lap Japanese Grand Prix.
The result marks Capirossi's second pole position of the year after the season-opening event in Jerez and Bridgestone's sixth pole in total this season. The closest rival to Capirossi's time of 1m45.724s was eventually Valentino Rossi who was nearly 0.3s adrift of his compatriot's best lap.
Marco Melandri made it an all Italian front row by nudging Bridgestone rider Shinya Nakano back to fourth spot for his home race in the closing stages of this afternoon's qualifying hour. Nakano and team-mate Randy de Puniet had dominated the session having elected to set a time on qualifying tyres early in the session. Both Kawasaki riders threatened the top three but Nakano missed out by 0.041s, while De Puniet ended up eighth, just two-tenths from his first MotoGP front row.
Sete Gibernau also performed strongly for a valiant fifth position, his best qualifying result since he took pole in Mugello back in June, validating the competitiveness of the Ducatis this weekend.
Suzuki's three-man line-up was led by wildcard entry Kousuke Akiyoshi who took 12th position in his debut MotoGP qualifying session. Regular riders John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen must settle for 13th and 15th respectively after a difficult session in which Hopkins crashed out.
The second wildcard rider, Kawasaki's Naoki Matsudo, also completed a solid lap on his Bridgestone qualifiers and will start his first MotoGP race in 16th place. Junichi Kawajiri - Manager Motorcycle Race Tire Development :
“That was generally a good qualifying session for us with Loris taking pole position at our home GP. He produced one of his trademark super-qualifying laps to beat his own pole position record by 0.7s, a standard that proved impossible to beat. Ducati has again proven to be competitive with Sete also featuring prominently this weekend.
Kawasaki has performed well in race trim and with qualifying tyres. Shinya was unlucky to miss out on the front row but fourth place still puts him in a good position to attack in his home race. Randy also used his qualifying tyres well to take eighth and perhaps deserved more after dominating most of the session. Suzuki endured a difficult afternoon with John crashing out, so they will be looking to use the strong race pace shown in this morning's practice to overcome disappointing grid positions. The two wildcard entries made a positive impact with Kousuke Akiyoshi in 12th for Suzuki and Naoki Matsudo in 16th for Kawasaki. They have performed faultlessly this weekend and we hope they will do a good job in the race. Qualifying was an action-packed session with big dark clouds forcing riders to set a qualifying time earlier in the session than usual. We tried different qualifying compounds, one slightly harder compound that was able to run two qualifying laps and a softer version that was the one which allowed riders to set their fastest times. We could see from this morning's practice times and the runs on race tyres this afternoon that all three of our teams are able to set competitive lap times over a race distance, so we will be expecting big things in Bridgestone's home GP in Motegi.” Loris Capirossi – Ducati Corse :
“My best lap was amazing, seven tenths faster than last year's pole, incredible! I did my best but a big part of this is down to my crew, they've done an incredible job all weekend. Step by step we have worked towards a fast consistent pace on race tyres. We really deserved today's pole, but as always tomorrow is another day. We will see what happens with the weather. I know I can be fast if it rains but I would prefer a dry race.”