Hayden Just Misses MotoGP Pole in Malaysia

Cycle News Staff | October 9, 2010

Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden came within a tenth of a second of his first pole position in three years with a sizzling lap in sizzling Sepang, site of Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.The Kentuckian had been struggling throughout practice; he was 15th in Friday’s free practice and 11th on Saturday morning. But from that first practice to qualifying he found over two seconds and just missed out on his first pole since the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril in September 2007. Hayden lapped the tropical circuit in 2:02.637 mins., one-tenth slower than the world champion-elect, Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo only needs to finish ninth or better to sew up the title.”This is a bit of a surprise; I didn’t expect to be on the front row today,” after taking the middle spot on the front row between Lorenzo and Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso. “We only missed pole by one tenth, but don’t anybody feel sorry for us, we’re pretty happy!”The lap itself was obviously a good one-I don’t think I could have got any more out of myself or the bike-but overall we’ve done a good job today. We were struggling yesterday, but we went back to a setting that worked for us in the test and even though I didn’t get the lap time this morning I told the guys not to make too many changes to the bike because I felt comfortable and knew I could improve purely through riding. Once again, my thanks go to the team because everybody knows it’s tough on the riders in this heat, but it’s tough for them too and they’re doing a great job.”Lorenzo said he wanted the pole because Sunday’s race would be “tough and it will be difficult to battle for the victory. We were strong throughout the session and in the end we did a great lap; I am so happy to be back on pole. Now the moment is arriving, it’s such an important day for my career and I’m excited for tomorrow. We are starting in the best shape and we just have to see what happens.”Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, the only rider with a mathematical chance of stopping Lorenzo, remains in Spain recovering from surgery to fix the collarbone he broke in Friday practice at last week’s Japanese Grand Prix.Dovizioso had taken his first premier class pole a week earlier in Japan, but felt this one was more satisfying because of the conditions. The ambient temperature was 93F and the ground temperature 125F. The humidity was a relatively low 37%.”We have moved things on from where we were in Japan and improved our electronic set-up again – we’ve found a good direction, which is really positive,” Dovizioso said. “For tomorrow it’s difficult to understand how the race will pan out – we’ll have to study the lap times from today to get a feeling for our rivals’ performance; qualifying doesn’t always give you the real picture of what everyone’s race pace will be.”A tenth of a second covered the next four riders led by Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). Spies missed out on the front row by .164 secs. but the three riders behind were almost as close. Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner was .030 sec. off the Texan, with Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi only .007 behind Stoner.Spies completed 19 laps, one short of race distance, while proving that the extreme conditions wouldn’t be a worry for the hyper-fit Texan.”I’m happy to be so close to the front row and it gives me a lot of encouragement for the race,” he said. “From fourth on the grid it means another good start will put me in contention for a strong race. I did a race simulation this morning so at least I know how the bike is working in race set-up and I’m happy with it. I intentionally did the longer run in lower heat conditions just to see how I felt. It was still pretty brutal, but I felt pretty good and it set me up for a good qualifying.”This afternoon was the first time I really used the soft tire. Everything went pretty good and I put together one decent lap time and then I had good lap going when I made a mistake at the final corner. I caught Colin (Edwards) and he was actually trying give me a tow down the back straight to help me out, but I was a little further back than he thought and by the time I got to him we were hitting the brakes and I missed my brake marker and ran wide. That lap would have put me on the front row for sure but I’m confident that if we raced right now I’d be in the top five and that’s what I’m looking for.”As it was, Edwards ended up seventh and on the row three pole with a lap only .067 sec. slower than Rossi’s.”It was really hot out there this afternoon,” Edwards said. “Each time I was in the pits I was pouring water all over me and it’s going to be a tough race tomorrow in that heat. I would love to say I could have gone faster but I gave it my maximum and there wasn’t a lot left in the tank. But the bike feels really good and my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 did a great job because we found a lot more grip today. The grip was so good in Japan last weekend that you kind of come here and expect a similar feeling, but we had to change everything on the bike to get some grip. We’ve definitely made the bike a lot better and I’m confident for the race.”As for Ben, I was coming into the pits and I looked back coming out of turn four and I could see he was behind me. I thought I’d pick my pace up a little bit so I could perhaps tow him down the back straight and he might be able to get on the front row or even pole. But as I got closer to the final corner I guess he just missed his braking marker. Both of us ended up decent on the grid though and I’m looking forward to the race.”Edwards shares the third row with Rizla Suzuki teammates Alvaro Bautista and Loris Capirossi. Capirossi had a heavy crash in the morning and missed much of the practice.MotoGP Qualifying:1. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 2’01.537

2. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team 2’01.637

4. Ben Spies (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 2’01.993

5. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 2’02.023

6. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 2’02.030

7. Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 2’02.097

8. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 2’02.394

9. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 2’02.522

10. Marco Melandri (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 2’02.624