(Saturday, August 30, 2008)
First, the good news. Casey Stoner’s damaged left wrist held up to twenty-three laps of Misano and he set his
seventh straight pole position – by the more than significant margin of over half-a-second. Naturally Casey is not entirely happy, and thinks there are things that can be improved. He worked on race set-up rather than qualifying and used only two of the super-soft tyres rather than the three or four the rest habitually put in their allocation. Pole nearly went to a Michelin man for the first time since the French GP, the fifth round of the season, in the shape of a resurgent Jorge Lorenzo who twice led the session in the closing stages. He starts from the third, his first front row since he won the third race of the year in Portugal. He feels he can ride ‘with flow’ again.
Second on the grid is Valentino Rossi. As this is his home race he has a special paint job on his helmet – a cartoon of his house complete with dog, washing on the line (the socks are yellow) and weather vane. The most revealing thing he said today was that as it is over thirty degrees he would rather be on the beach.
The bad news: although John Hopkins was on track today, he and team-mate Ant West are the slowest men on the grid. More bad news: Nicky Hayden is the next slowest. Frankly, the lad looks quite unhappy. He is having trouble changing direction, the front is pushing and he can’t find a front tyre he likes. His foot is ‘not that great’. Actually it’s bad enough to stop him using the back brake, and he usually uses it a lot. He did think about skipping this GP to try and ensure he’ll be okay for Indy but that would have meant eight weeks without racing. Nicky is walking on crutches and is using a removable oversize splint boot when he’s not on the bike. He is not optimistic about his chances of being competitive at Indianapolis.
Finally, a chance to laugh at other people’s misfortune: all four Yamaha riders did practice starts after qualifying: this was outlawed at the end of July. That’ll be $1000 each please, Messrs Rossi, Lorenzo, Edwards and Toseland. Ouch.