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Qualifying Italian Grand Prix, Mugello
Posted by: newsla on May 31, 2014 - 04:49 PM
Qualifying Italian Grand Prix, Mugello

Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez took his sixth pole in six races at Mugello today, reinforcing his aim for a full house of 2014 race wins in the first third of the season, and underlining the strength of Honda’s awesome 1000cc V4 MotoGP machine.


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In fact, it is the 21-year-old Spaniard’s seventh successive pole – he was in the same position at the closing round of 2013 at Valencia, where he secured his rookie season World Championship to become the youngest premier-class champion in history.

Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) set fourth-fastest time to lead the second row, after leading free practice. Times were close: Pedrosa missed a front-row slot by just over half-a-tenth of a second, and was only three tenths slower than pole time, at a long 5.245-km circuit with a lap time of one-and-three-quarter minutes.

Marquez’s run of success has given him a commanding lead in the first part of the championship, and a sixth win would see him break yet another “youngest-ever” record in his quest for a second successive title crown.

The Italian GP, held at the scenically spectacular circuit on the flanks of the Apennine mountains, has mixed memories for the former 125cc and Moto2 champion. Last year he crashed at high speed in practice, breaking another record for falling at more than 320 km/h, and then crashed out of second place in the race, his only such non-finish of the season.

This year he has dominated the first five races, and is in a strong position to continue in the same vein in Italy.

Pedrosa, who lies second overall, has had a slightly more troubled season, with arm-pump problems requiring emergency surgery after round four in Spain. Fifth place in the next round at Le Mans was his first time off the top-three podium, after two second and two third places in the opening rounds. Two more weeks of recuperation have put Pedrosa in a stronger position for the Italian race.

The former 125cc and double 250cc champion still holds the best lap at Mugello, with Marquez’s time today a tenth of a second slower than Pedrosa’s pole last year. Pedrosa finished second in last year’s race.

Times were close through the top dozen who qualified for the elite final Q2 qualifying … all within one second of Marquez’s time.

German LCR Honda RC213V rider Stefan Bradl was the better of the satellite riders, qualified ninth on row three. The former Moto2 champion also required surgery to cure arm-pump problems after the Spanish GP, and is striving to equal or improve on his best-this-year fourth place, achieved at round two in Texas.

Spanish former 125cc champion Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini RC213V) qualified 11th, winning through from Q1 by heading the time sheets. Bautista has a special role, race-testing Japanese-made Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, made by companies with strong links to Honda.

His team-mate Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini RCV1000R) came out top of the four riders campaigning the new production-racer Honda machines, based closely on the factory RC213V, qualifying 14th. The Briton is a class rookie, after finishing runner up in the Moto2 championship last year.

Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) qualified 16th to head the sixth row; one place ahead of former 250cc champion Hiro Aoyama (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R).

Former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R) withdrew from the Italian GP after painful hand problems flared up again on the first day of practice. The American will have corrective surgery on Tuesday, and hopes to be fit to return to the Catalunyan GP in two weeks.

All riders missed out on the second free practice on Friday, when spots of rain made for half-wet conditions, too dangerous on either full wet of full dry tyres.

The middleweight Moto2 class is exclusively Honda powered, with the organisers providing all competitors with identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines fitted to individual prototype chassis to ensure evenly matched and reliable racing.

With 16 riders qualifying within one second of pole time, the prospect of more of the same was clear for the Italian race.

Championship leader Tito Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) took his fourth pole of the season, adding to his hopes of returning to winning form. The Spaniard won the first and third rounds this year in Qatar and Argentina, and was second at the in-between race in Texas; but was fourth and third at the next races while his team-mate Mika Kallio took two wins in a row to move to second overall in the points.

A sensational second place went to British grand prix rookie Sam Lowes (Speed Up Speed Up). The 2013 World Supersport champion had never seen the Mugello circuit before essaying some practice laps on a production bike, and set a lap time just over a tenth off the relative veteran Rabat’s time.

Former Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) was third as he continues his recovery from injuries sustained in the opening round. The German racer has been on the front row twice this season, with a best finish of seventh at Qatar, where he rode with a fractured foot.

German class rookie Jonas Folger (AGR Team Kalex) has claimed one pole position and one third place in his first Moto2 season, and heads the second row from Swiss star Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) and another ex-Moto3 class rookie Luis Salom (Pons HP 40 Kalex).

Spain’s Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) qualified seventh to lead row three. Italian Franco Morbidelli (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex) was eighth, and then Swiss former 125cc champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter), with Marcel Schrotter (Tech 3 Tech 3) completing the top ten.

Current championship runner up Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) was eleventh.

In Moto3, where Honda is fighting with rival manufacturers, Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda) claimed a second pole of the year, to preserve the new Honda NSF250RW’s perfect front-row record.

Rins set his time before suffering a minor spill, preventing further improvement, but he had already set a best-ever Moto3 lap for the track, giving him an advantage of better than a quarter of a second. His team-mate, fellow-Spaniard Alex Marquez, placed sixth in a hectic session, after leading free practice, at the far end of the second row.

French Honda rider Alexis Masbou (Ongetta Rivacold Honda) was one place higher, fifth-fastest, for his second successive row-two start.

The other Honda riders placed strongly in a closely-matched set of lap times, with strong title contender Efren Vazquez (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda) heading row four, tenth-fastest, and his team-mate John McPhee alongside in 11th.

Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia Honda) was 18th; with two one-race wild card riders – Anthony Groppi (Pos Corse FTR Honda) and Simone Mazzola (MT Racing FTR Honda) – placed 30th and 32nd respectively.

Tomorrow’s race is the sixth of 18 rounds, concluding the first third of the 2014 season. The next round is the Catalunyan GP at Montmelo outside Barcelona in two weeks.

Honda MotoGP rider quotes

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: 1st, 1m 47.270s
“I’m very happy to have taken this pole position at a track that I found very difficult last year. I’ve felt good on the bike right from the opening practice session this time around, and this shows that we are working well this season – because in 2013 it was much harder to be up at the front. As for the race, it will be difficult to break away and do what I’ve been doing up to now, because at this track you tend to ride in a group and things are more tightly packed. However, I will try to give 100 percent in order to fight for the victory.”

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 4th, 1m 47.584s
“Today qualifying went better than in Le Mans, and we had good sessions – especially in FP4. I think that the bike was working fairly well, although when we put on the second tyre option in qualifying I made a small mistake - which I didn’t realise until afterwards – I touched the engine mapping button which lowered my power and I wasn’t able to improve my time. Tomorrow we will try to start well and have a good race. It seems that the pace of the other riders is very evenly matched, but we will do all that we can.”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 9th, 1m 47.765s
“It was a quite tough qualifying and I am disappointed about my grid position because I wanted to be more in front, especially on this race track. Anyway the lap time is good and with one tenth faster we could have been on the second row. The team did a good job today after I crashed this morning, and I have a good feeling on the bike for the race tomorrow. Starting from the third row is not what I was expecting but there’s a long way to the first corner and many things can happen. As I said yesterday the Ducati riders have a strong pace here and it is going to be a close race but we’ll try our best to finish in the top five.”

Alvaro Bautista, GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 11th, 1m 48.132s
“I crashed in FP4 as I lost the front under braking at turn 4; as a result I had only the other bike available to do both Q1 and Q2, so I needed to avoid other mistakes. For sure it’s been definitely not an easy day for us: after yesterday’s crash we had some problems, therefore this morning we made a big change in the bike set-up, but unfortunately it didn’t work. This afternoon we returned to yesterday’s setting, but today my pace was not so good, I need more confidence on the front end, because we are struggling a lot with the hard front tyre and, on the other hand, we lose some stability with the softer one. We will work hard tomorrow morning during the warm-up to try and find a solution, because the goal is to use the front hard tyre.”

Scott Redding, GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 14th, 1m 48.754s
“I did a good lap time, but I think that there was some room to improve a little bit, because I’m still learning the track on a MotoGP bike. This morning I did some laps behind Valentino, who is a specialist here and I just saw some lines, but we haven’t done much practice because we missed FP2 yesterday because of the rain, so I’m also lacking some track time. Anyway, I did my best lap on my own and I’m happy with that, but I think that I could improve two or three tenths. It’s a shame that Nicky Hayden is not riding, because I wanted to compare our performance, because he’s always really good in qualifying. We’ll have to see tomorrow for the race: the tyres are working pretty good – I’m going to use the front medium compound, and the harder at the rear - but it will be a long and hard race, also demanding for the body.”

Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing Honda: 16th, 1m 48.804s
“I am a little disappointed with the position, but satisfied because we solved a rear tyre grip problem we have had for some time. Now I can ride consistently better lap times, and this is the best place I could hope for with a top speed about 20 km/h slower than the factory bikes. If I could have cut another tenth, we could have fought for 13th position, but I shall be going for more points tomorrow.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 17th, 1m 49.505s
“We improved quite a lot this morning compared to yesterday and gained some stability in corner exit. Unfortunately in the afternoon I wasn’t comfortable with a change we made to the suspension that compromised the bike in other areas so we had to take a step backwards. At the end of the final free practice session we made another change to the suspension and luckily this time we were able to improve the lap time. It was an improvement but for qualifying the other riders went even faster so in the end I am not happy with where we finished. We will try to improve the bike a little more in the warm-up tomorrow and be better prepared for the race.”

Nicky Hayden, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: withdrew
“In the first free practice, the problems with my right hand came up again. It’s a hangover from an old injury, and I had surgery last November and I thought it was fixed … but it flared up again at Jerez, with a lot of pain. Then I fell on it again at Le Mans. At this track there’s much more strain, and it’s hard to hold on, especially at the end of the straightaway. I’m very disappointed, but after seeing the doctors I’m going to have to sit this one out. I’ll have orthoscopic surgery on Tuesday in Italy, and I hope I’ll be able to ride in Catalunya in two weeks.”

Moto2 Rider quotes

Tito Rabat, Marc VDS Racing Team: 1st, 1m 52.718s
“I’m happy because we’ve done a good job this weekend and it’s always a little easier starting a race from pole position. But we still have work to do, first in warm up and then in the race. We’ve made good practices before, only for me to be unhappy with the race result, especially the last two races, so tomorrow is very important. I will try to win tomorrow, like always, but it will be a tough fight once again, I’m sure.”

Sam Lowes, Speed Up: 2nd, 1m 52.901
“It’s a good day for me, and for my team, which is Italian. The brought some new parts here, including a new seat that makes me more comfortable on the bike, and immediately we felt quite good. All weekend I’ve been quite fast, and we put a new setting in this afternoon and a new tyre, and we were away. I’m really excited, and looking forward to the race.”

Sandro Cortese, Dynavolt Intact GP: 3rd, 1m 52.915s
“Qualifying was really hard and it was important to do a good lap time before the last five minutes, because there were so many people waiting on the track to follow somebody. Generally I had a good feeling, in the top three all weekend. I’m slowly coming back to what I was before the injury in Qatar. I’ve had a lot of pain for the last three months, and it was hard to do full race distance, but in the last two weeks I’ve been able to do a lot of cycling and motocross. A good qualifying is so important because if you are not in the first three rows the race has gone. I hope being on the front row will mean an easier race for me.”

Honda Moto3 Rider quotes

Alex Rins, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda Team: 1st, 1m 56.229s
“I want to dedicate this pole position to my team, for everything they are doing for me this season and for what they did today: repairing my bike in five or six minutes. I am very happy, although it wasn’t a very ‘true’ pole because I wasn’t alone when I set my time – I was behind Miller. We will start at the front tomorrow and will try to get off the line well. I don’t think that we can break away from the group, because we don’t have such a high pace, but if we ride a clever race then we can do a good job.”

Alexis Masbou, Ongetta-Rivacold Honda: 5th, 1m 57.580
“For me this placing in Mugello is very good, because it is not an easy track for me. We worked a lot to improve my style in the sections where I am losing time – the fast corners. We improved enough for today but we will try to make it better still for tomorrow. I feel very good on the bike. I have been riding alone all weekend, and I feel confident on the bike and have a good pace – we will see tomorrow for the 20 laps.”

Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda Team: 6th, 1m 57.881
“I think that this was a positive second day. In the free practice session we were on top and had a great pace. We knew that slipstreams would be key to qualifying, because in Moto3 you can easily gain half a second on the straight and also if you have another rider as a reference on the fast corners. However, we didn’t have much luck. I think that the pace that I have by myself is not bad, and in the end tomorrow we will be on the second row – it’s no drama. I will try to start well and push, because I think that we have the pace to fight for the podium.”

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