Friday, April 07, 2006
Two weeks ago Casey Stoner couldn’t use qualifying tyres. Today he used them to knock 0.7 of a second off his lap time and secure pole in his second MotoGP race.
It was a remarkably mature performance from the 20-year old Aussie and it impressed no less an authority than Valentino Rossi, who mischievously remarked that Stoner had made a good choice in going to Honda rather than Yamaha. The Doctor’s view is that the Honda is working very well here–‘it is very precise’–but that Casey is also riding very well, ‘especially on the qualifying tire.’
‘I expected this to take a couple of years,’ was Casey’s slightly startled reaction.
Another Honda youngster, Toni Elias, is third, sandwiching the (relatively) ageing Loris Capirossi who picked up where he left off in Jerez. However, Toni was reportedly throwing up a lot today and if it’s as bad as some people think then it’s doubtful he can do race pace for many laps. Nicky Hayden, on the development Honda that bears no relation to the 0ther RCVs out there, was on course for pole after a difficult couple of days when his last qualifying tyre cried enough one sector from home. He still got fourth though.
Meanwhile, over at Yamaha, the dreaded chatter was back. Rossi couldn’t even use a qualifier because the vibration through Turn One was so extreme. His real problem, though, is that the he gets chatter when he has too much grip and when he has too little. A race simulation here at the end of Yamaha’s February test showed up chatter on a worn race tyre. ‘This is not a 100% race for me,’ said Rossi.
He could be in worse shape, he could be John Hopkins.
Hopper’s Suzuki has blown a couple of engines, the fault is believed to originate with pressurization for the pneumatic valve operation. He had two engines go in the morning and one as was starting his last flying lap on a qualifier.
Bridgestone’s qualifiers worked well for Capirossi, Gibernau and Nakano (who leapt five places up the order with his last lap) so Hopper is entitled to believe he could have had a good start spot. Instead he is again behind his rookie team mate Chris Vermeulen.
This looks like being an even bigger lottery than Jerez post the first corner.
Rossi thinks the youngsters – Stoner, Elias, Pedrosa – will be the men to beat. Second place qualifier Loris Capirossi begs to differ. ‘My age is 33 but inside I am 20!’