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Qualifying Dutch Grandprix, Assen, The Netherlands
Posted by: newsla on Jun 28, 2014 - 06:13 AM
Qualifying Dutch Grandprix, Assen, The Netherlands

Repsol Honda RC213V team-mates Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa will start tomorrow’s Dutch TT from the front row of the grid, slotting into second and third positions early in a 15-minute qualifying session that was hit with rain that grew stronger before it was halfway done.


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Both riders anticipated worsening conditions to gain a valuable asset for the start of tomorrow’s race. For defending champion Marquez it preserves a perfect record of front-row starts at every race this year. For Pedrosa it underlines his return to competitive form after surgery earlier in the season.

Other riders fell foul of the tricky situation – with the factory Honda pair’s greatest rivals suffering badly. The factory Yamaha pair of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi qualified down in ninth and 12th places respectively, on the third and fourth rows of the grid.

Marquez, already 125cc and Moto2 champion, became the youngest-ever premier-class champion at his first attempt last season, and in 2014 has won every race so far, breaking yet more records while building up a commanding lead on points. The 21-year-old Spaniard is now looking for a classic eighth win in a row, to be the first rider to win the opening eight rounds since Giacomo Agostini in 1970.

His second place on the grid reflects his position in free practice, with first-time pole qualifier Aleix Espargaro leading those sessions. In yesterday’s dry conditions, all the fastest riders were travelling at new record speeds; rain struck this morning just as the final free practice started, and continued for the rest of the day.

Pedrosa spent two races off the front row while recovering from surgery to correct arm-pump problems, performed after round four. He returned with a bang at Barcelona two weeks ago, claiming his first pole position of the season. It preceded a strong race for the 28-year-old Spanish former 125cc and double 250cc World Champion. He battled with Marquez for victory to the end, finishing third after the pair collided on the last lap and he was forced to run wide.

The long-standing Repsol Honda rider was delighted in any case with his clear return to full strength, and is anxious to add more success at tomorrow’s race, to prove the point still further and regain second place overall from long-standing rival Rossi.

German LCR Honda RC213V rider Stefan Bradl was the better of two satellite-team riders, qualifying eighth for a row-three getaway. The former Moto2 champion is aiming for his first podium of the year, after finishing fourth once and fifth twice.

Spaniard Alvaro Bautista had to fight his way through from the “junior” Q1 qualifying session after missing the top ten in free practice, and ended up tenth. Former 125cc World Champion Bautista and GO&FUN Gresini Honda team-mate Scott Redding have a special role, exclusively race-testing Nissin brakes and Showa suspension, made by Japanese companies closely linked to Honda.

Redding is one of four riders campaigning the new production-racer Honda RCV1000R, built for the “Open” category rules introduced this year, and using control electronic software supplied by the organisers rather than the custom-made software available to the factory teams.

Czech rider Karel Abraham (AB Cardion Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) was best of them, placed 13th. It is the best grid position of the season so far for the qualified lawyer, who has been gaining strength race by race after major reconstructive shoulder surgery last year.

Former 250cc World Champion Hiro Aoyama (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R), back with Honda this season, was one place lower and just three hundredths of a second slower for 14th.

Redding was 16th on the GO&FUN Gresini Honda RCV1000R. Former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, recovering from wrist surgery barely three weeks ago, qualified 22nd on the second Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R

Lap times in the elite Q2 session were slowed by rain that began again as the riders went out, so that the Q1 times were actually faster, for lower grid positions.

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.

Assen qualifying times again proved how close the contest is, with 15 riders within one second of pole time – set for a sixth time this season and third in a row by championship leader Tito Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex). Rabat has won four races this season including the last two, and has been off the top-three podium only once as he builds on his points lead.

Experienced Swiss racer Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) was a close second, equalling his best starting position this year for a third front row.

Grand prix rookie Sam Lowes (Speed Up Speed Up) was third, for his second front-row start in an impressive debut season. The Briton is reigning 600 Supersport World Champion.

Second Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Mika Kallio is second overall to his team-mate in the championship standings, and starts tomorrow from the head of the second row of the grid. Japan’s Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex) is alongside, as he battles to regain his previous form. Italian veteran Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing Kalex) completes the second row.

With such close times, positions on the first three rows were hard-won. AirAsia Caterham Caterham-Suter rider Johann Zarco took seventh, ahead of reigning Moto3 champion Maverick Vinales (Paginas Amarillas), a class rookie who took victory in the second round of the season.

Ricard Cardus (Tech 3 Tech 3) and Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Suter) complete a close top ten.

Honda is fighting rival manufacturers in Moto3, and was up at the sharp end, as usual. Barcelona’s runaway race winner Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda) was knocked off pole by a tenth of a second, to start in the middle of the front row.

Another Honda leads the second row, with Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda) qualifying fourth, again underlining the experienced French rider’s strength.

Second Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider Alex Rins is on the other end of row two; qualified sixth. Rins’ performance was in spite of still carrying foot injuries from the Barcelona race, two weeks ago.

Scotsman John McPhee was tenth, after making his mark with a lap record at Barcelona; SaxoPrint-RTG team-mate Efren Vazquez – a strong title contender – was disappointed to drop to 15th in changeable weather conditions in the qualifying session.

New Honda rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia Honda) placed 27th out of 35 starters.

Tomorrow’s race is the eighth of 18 rounds, approaching the half-way point of the season. That will come in two weeks at the Sachsenring in the former East Germany.

Honda MotoGP rider quotes

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: 2nd, 1m 40.194s
“I’m happy with this front row, although we obviously wanted to take pole. The weather was very unpredictable, as sometimes it was raining and then it stopped – meaning that conditions were far from ideal. My goal was to get onto the front row, so when I saw that I was up into second I decided not to take any more risks; there was a lot to lose and not much to gain, so I kept calm because I had already reached my target.”

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd, 1m 40.732s
“It was a difficult session because the track was half-dry, half-wet, and then it started to rain more heavily. We went out with slick tyres and had time to put in a couple of laps, although there was a lot of traffic and we were all close together. It was hard to know how much of a risk we could take. Finally, with the track half-wet, we managed to set a good time and qualify on the front row which I’m happy with. Tomorrow we will continue working on the bike and try to have a good race, which could be either dry or wet.”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 8th, 1m 41.982s
“We had a tricky qualifying session today, and even the free practice in the morning was not completely wet so we have been a bit unlucky with the weather. I do not have so much to say, we took the eighth spot in the grid because it was like a lottery. We could have pushed earlier in the session but it started to rain in certain parts of the track and in some others the asphalt was dry. We were a group of riders overtaking each other like in a race but in some points we could push and in some others we had to slow down, so it was impossible for me to do a proper flying lap and I thought it was stupid to take risks.”

Alvaro Bautista, GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 10th, 1m 42.884s
“Today has been strange: yesterday during practice we could have set a lap time to jump right into Q2, but it was not possible because of the traffic. Then this morning it rained! During FP4 we also tried two different set-ups looking for more traction, but with no improvement. In Q1 I was able to be fast even if I didn’t use new tyres. Then right at the beginning of the Q2 it started to rain and it was very risky. It was the same for everyone, but on the first lap I preferred not to push too hard because if I fell and the track had dried out, I’d be in an even worse situation. Tomorrow first of all we will keep an eye on weather. Overall I’m happy with my feeling on the bike in the dry.”

Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing Honda: 13th, 1m 34.907s
“I’m really happy: this is my best result of this season. But it’s something we had to fight for. We were struggling with the excessive spin of rear tyre and the weather made everything unpredictable. However, the fact is that I was finally able to make a perfect single “qualifying lap”, which was significantly better than the other ones. And this is the reason why I got my position. We’ll see what tomorrow brings to us. But I’m pretty sure that it will be really exciting race.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 14th, 1m 34.930s
“The track conditions changed today almost every five minutes, so it was not easy work. Luckily the Q1 qualifying session was on dry asphalt. Despite the short time, we managed to complete two very fast laps and we have achieved our goal, which was to mark a turning point in 1’34. This weekend I’m feeling pretty comfortable with the bike, thanks to improvements with the front suspension. It appears that the new fork helps me ride faster. We’re still working on the settings, but in any case I feel much more comfortable, and this is very positive for the race. I am very motivated: I’ll give it my best, I hope for a good result.”

Scott Redding, GO&FUN Honda Gresini: 16th, 1m 35.509s
Qualifying wasn’t bad, all the Open Class Hondas are very close, and we made more or less the same lap time, and my race pace is quite good, so I’m not too worried about the grid position. Maybe it’s going to rain for the race, so we will have to change our plans because I have still made no laps in the wet with this bike. Overall I’m quite happy, also because I made my best lap alone, but I’m obviously a little bit disappointed to be only the third fastest production-racer Honda, even if the gap is minimal.”

Nicky Hayden, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 22nd, 1m 35.792s
Not a good day for me … in FP4 we improved a bit and I could do 35’9 on quite used tyres, but in qualifying I made too many mistakes and I hardly improved on that time with new tyres and qualifying trim. The bike’s not perfect, I’m not perfectly healthy, but qualifying 22nd is not acceptable, and I have to take most responsibility for that. I need to do a lot better job tomorrow. My wrist has been better off the bike, but the bike’s heavy in the high-speed changes of direction, so I’m having more trouble than I anticipated. But I don’t want to rattle off a lot of excuses.”

Moto2 Rider quotes

Tito Rabat, Marc VDS Racing Team: 1st, 1m 37.311s
“I’m particularly happy to be starting from pole here at Assen tomorrow, because we’ve had to work hard for it this weekend. We’ve had some problems in free practice, but the team did a good job to find a solution each time. We need to find another small step for tomorrow in warm up, but we’re pretty much ready to race. We will need to see what the weather conditions are like tomorrow, because they’ve been pretty changeable so far this weekend, but a dry race would be good.”

Dominique Aegerter, Technomag carXpert Suter: 2nd, 1m 37.462s
“I was lapping and I saw Tito come out of the pits, and I thought: ‘Okay, he’s a fast guy, I’ll follow him.’ But I have a good rhythm also when I am alone, and I got the same lap time on my second run by myself. I made a lot of fast laps, I have a good feeling with the bike, and the team is working very well. For sure last week’s test helped me improve. Now the weather is critical. I hope for a dry race.”

Sam Lowes, Speed Up: 2nd, 3rd, 1m 37.674s
“Every session today we’ve had a bit of rain and we’ve had dry. I don’t know what to expect for tomorrow, but I’m feeling good in these conditions. Although I’ve not had much experience with this bike in the rain. But I’m feeling good, we’ve worked hard all weekend, and also we had a good test the bike now is feeling like my bike, so I’m excited for the race, and I feel I can do a good job.”

Honda Moto3 Rider quotes

Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda Team: 2nd, 1m 42.356
“It was a little bit of a strange qualifying session due to the weather, because at times the track was a bit wet. The important thing for tomorrow is that we have a good pace, after how much we have struggled. In qualifying we changed the bike a little and took a step forward, and that was important. Starting from second gives us a lot of motivation for tomorrow and I think in the warm-up we can still adjust some things that will allow me to ride more comfortably. I’ll try to do well and push as much as I can, but I think that the race could be between a large group. We saw in Barcelona that, even though it is difficult, you can break away, so we must be vigilant at all times.”

Alexis Masbou, Ongetta-Rivacold Honda: 4th, 1m 42.458s
“Another rider was not so fast in the last chicane, so I lost a little time. The first row was possible, but I improved a lot compared with yesterday and this morning. I’m happy because in Barcelona we lost our way a little bit, and this weekend we came back in a good way, and I feel better with the bike. I am sure the race will be difficult, but we can be in the front group again, and this is the most important thing.”

Alex Rins, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda Team: 6th, 1m 42.564s
“It was a pretty good session, all things considered. Despite the pain I have in my foot and a small problem with the clutch, I am satisfied with the time that we set because we did it when riding alone. Once again I have to thank my team for the speed with which they fixed my bike, because they had to change a clutch disc in no time at all. They did it perfectly, with enough time to complete the session and improve my best lap.”

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