Friday, June 23, 2006
John Hopkins has his first pole position in MotoGP after pipping fellow Bridgestone man Shinya Nakano late in the one-hour session. Colin Edwards rounds out the front row after being baulked on his last flying lap. He’s not bitter though, just happy to be looking at clear tarmac from his starting posiiton. His job will be to prevent the opposition, primarily Nicky Hayden, taking too many points out of a seriously wounded Valentino Rossi. Now Hopkins has finally got a pole position, he has just got to jump the final hurdle of getting on a MotoGP rostrum. If his race tires work as well as they did in the last couple of races he has a real chance.
What of the walking wounded? Amazingly, Marco Melandri looks set to race and some Honda people are talking about him being on the podium. But the other Italians, Rossi and Capirossi are in serious trouble.
As for Nicky, he won’t have many better chances of taking a win outside of the USA. However, he doesn’t really need to risk too much because he is odds-on to extend his championship lead as long as he gets to the flag. Nicky leads the second row and judging by the fact his team were changing primary gearing during the qualifying session they still haven’t got the set-up right for the new Assen. The bookmakers have Edwards as favorite thanks to his pace on race tires right from the start of free practice.
What of the walking wounded? Amazingly, Marco Melandri looks set to race and some Honda people are talking about him being on the podium. But the other Italians, Rossi and Capirossi are in serious trouble. Capi’ was seen holding his chest and taking very deep breaths during qualifying and did not string long runs together. Rossi is in severe pain from a cracked bone in his right wrist. It is preventing him using the throttle as he wants and TV pictures show he is hardly moving on the bike. He will decide whether or not to race after morning warm up. At the moment, the smart money says neither Rossi nor Capirossi will race.
The best Rossi can expect, he was the slowest guy out there today, is for a couple of points through the misfortune of others; is that worth aggravting a wrist injury with Donington next weekend and two more races in the following three weeks?
The loser today was Casey Stoner, who had brake problems at the start of qualifying and ended up twelfth; the ones smiling were Alex Hofmann who will start ninth in his first ride on the factory Ducati, and Dunlop as both Checa and Ellison show significant improvement.