Michelin Man Hayden so Close to Pole
Michelin rider Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V-Michelin) starred in this afternoon's final qualifying session of 2008, leading most of the hour-long outing and finally claiming a front-row start with third-best time, only two tenths off pole position. Hayden had earlier led all three practice sessions, proving Michelin's performance on a soaking track yesterday and again on a damp track this morning.
Michelin also proved its strength in depth this afternoon, with a total of six riders in the top nine: Colin Edwards (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin), James Toseland (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) and Randy de Puniet (Honda LCR RC212V-Michelin) together on the second row and Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) on the third row, along with Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot Honda RC212V-Michelin).
Conditions have changed constantly over the last two days. Riders were able to run slicks for the first time in this afternoon's qualifying outing, but some light drizzle fell after 20 minutes, spoiling their runs on race tyres and causing many riders to switch to qualifying tyres earlier than usual, in case the rain intensified.
"We were able to use slicks this afternoon but the track was changing all the time throughout the day," said Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "Nicky's idea to use qualifiers early on was clever, because no one knew if the rain would get heavier. He did a really good job today and he pushed really hard to get the best out of the tyres and the bike. We are also really happy with the work our other riders have done here, with Colin, James, and Randy on the second row and Jorge and Andrea on the third row despite a complicated session. Of course, the lack of dry-track time means that none of our riders have done many laps on race tyres, but we know this track well, so we should be okay. We will need some more discussions with our riders to help them make the best race tyre choice, though if conditions remain dry and temperatures stay similar to what they were today, we should be able to find the best tyres without any real problem. It's a long race here and this is a tough track - the layout is very demanding on the left side of the tyres, while on the right side it's important to have good warm-up performance."
Hayden said he did everything he could to give Michelin pole position for the company's final race in MotoGP.
"It was pretty obvious that we really wanted to be on pole, we've been fastest all weekend, the bike and tyres are working good and the team did a great job when it started sprinkling, getting one bike ready with qualifiers early on," said. "I'm a little frustrated because it would've been cool to give Michelin a pole position for their last MotoGP race. But we've got a good bike and a good set-up, so we'll just try to go for it in the race."
1. Casey STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team), 1' 31.502
2. Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team), + 0,053
3. Nicky HAYDEN (Repsol Honda Team-Michelin), + 0,201
4. Colin EDWARDS (Tech 3 Yamaha- Michelin), + 0,710
5.James TOSELAND (Tech 3 Yamaha- Michelin), + 1.016
6. Randy DE PUNIET (LCR Honda MotoGP- Michelin), + 1.070
7.Jorge LORENZO (Fiat Yamaha Team- Michelin), + 1.092
8. Loris CAPIROSSI (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP), + 1.112
9. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (JiR Team Scot MotoGP-Michelin), + 1.232
10. Valentino ROSSI (Fiat Yamaha Team), + 1.460
11. Toni ELIAS (Alice Team DUCATI), + 1.481
12. Chris VERMEULEN (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP), + 1.515
13. Sylvain GUINTOLI (Alice Team), + 1.850
14. John HOPKINS (Kawasaki Racing Team), + 2.179
15. Shinya NAKANO (San Carlo Honda Gresini), 2.265
16. Alex DE ANGELIS (San Carlo Honda Gresini), + 2.346
17. Anthony WEST (Kawasaki Racing Team), + 2.377
18. Marco MELANDRI (Ducati Marlboro Team), + 2.672