Saturday, June 17, 2006
Valentino Rossi reckons he’s got to back up his Mugello wins with victories here in Catalunya, at Assen next week and at Donington Park before collecting ‘big points’ in Germany and at Laguna if he wants to retain his title. He’s going the right way about it; he’s on pole for the first time since the Donington Park race almost a year ago.
The qualifying picture is slightly distorted by the fact that both Repsol Honda riders got baulked on their last flying laps, so if he is to mount the expected challenge to the Doctor, Dani is going to have to do it from the fourth row. That’s a weight off Rossi’s mind because he reckons the evidence from practice says Dani has the same race pace as himself. Rossi has never been that bothered about pole position but admits this one is ‘a big emotion’ simply because he hasn’t been in the postion to challenge for pole for a long time.
As usual the Bridgestone runners used their qualifying tyres well but there has to be a question mark over their race tires. Last year they had ace qualifiers but no race tyre and had to default to a ‘safe’ (ie very hard) tire. Given the evidence from Qatar where Bridgestone had another nightmare in ’05, there isn’t going to be a repeat of that debacle but the Ducatis did not look at all comfortable. Capirossi’s sixth place was achieved with one killer lap at the end of the session; his team-mate is down in 13th.
John Hopkins says he will have to make a good start from his second slot on the grid and look to conserve his tires. It’s not all doom though; he did a 15-lap run this morning at a good pace, but track temperatures have a habit of varying widely here and making tire engineers’ careful calculations meaningless.
Anyone who thought Kenny Roberts Junior showing at the front of the field all through practice was some sort of freak event had to think again after qualifying. Kenny himself affected surprise, saying he thought the third of fourth row would have been pretty good. Neither was he playing up his chances: “If I can see Valentino when I come down the finishing straight tomorrow, I’ll be happy,” he said.