Pedrosa Leads Repsol Honda Sweep of Front Row

Henny Ray Abrams | October 22, 2011


 Repsol Hondas swept the top three places in qualifying for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix on the hot and greasy Sepang International Circuit outside of the capital of Kuala Lumpur.Dani Pedrosa recovered from an early harmless get-off to top teammate Casey Stoner by .029 sec. Andrea Dovizioso, the third member of the team, qualified third fastest. All three had been fastest at one point during the session.The pole was Pedrosa’s second of the season and denied Stoner the chance to set a new record for poles in one year. Stoner currently has 11 poles and needs 12 to tie fellow Australian world champion Mick Doohan. With only the Valencia season finale remaining, Stoner won’t be able to set a new pole record.Pedrosa finished with a lap of 2:01.462 mins., about a second off the pole record set by Valentino Rossi in 2009. Stoner was second at 2:01.491 mins., with Dovi third at 2:01.666. The front row was covered by .204 sec.

“At the beginning of the session I had a small crash on the front, so then I had to get back on the bike and I was still able to go good,” Pedrosa said after his first pole since the Czech Grand Prix in Brno. “I’m testing the two tires for tomorrow’s race, so it’s still not clear. I think everybody still has the same thing.”But yeah, of course, working a lot on the suspension, on the chassis to get the best setup possible for tomorrow’s race. And, yeah, try hard on the pole. I was in one section coming faster but then I got some traffic; I couldn’t improve my lap time, but still able to be on pole for the second time is good, but hoping to do even better tomorrow in the race.”Having clinched the 2011 MotoGP World Championship last week, Stoner was no longer under pressure, which wasn’t a good thing. A day earlier he’d said he performs better under pressure.”I didn’t do as many laps as I’d like to, but it might be better for me tomorrow to have a few more and we’ll see what we can do,” he said. “But all weekend we’ve been working with the hard tire trying to get it working. We seem OK on it, but we’re struggling to really get the balance between the bike. We get the rear a little better, but then we lose the turning in the front and a little bit of instability on these bumps. So I think once we put the soft tire on we found a huge improvement.”Everybody else, most people, have been running quite a lot the soft tire this weekend. And I think it’s still capable of doing the race distance, so everybody’s going to be choosing between the two tomorrow. But in general, yeah, we seem quite happy. I think we can improve a little bit before tomorrow, but our race pace is OK.”Dovi expressed surprise that he was “fastest with the soft and hard tire in the middle of the session. So sure, Dani crashed, so we can’t know exactly the rhythm of him about this qualifying, because it was hotter and it was really difficult for everybody to do the lap time. Anyway, we made a really good improvement from the first free practice.”I’m happy to be on the front row. It’s always difficult to do a fast lap here. I don’t want to take more risk that what I already take on the last lap. The front was on the limit. Maybe I can make a little bit better, but I don’t know if I can do the pole position.”Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards was the first non-Honda, the first non-factory bike, and the first Yamaha. It added up to his best qualifying effort of the season in fourth place. His previous best was sixth, which he did twice. It was his best qualifying effort since Valencia 2008.With the problems of the factory team, Edwards was Yamaha’s standard-bearer. Jorge Lorenzo is recovering at home in Majorca from his severe finger injury. And teammate Ben Spies was at well less than full strength after his crash in qualifying in Australia. Spies crashed in the morning and could only manage the 16th fastest time in qualifying. Only Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga was behind him.San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli was fifth fastest, narrowly in front of Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden. Hayden equaled his best qualifying mark of sixth, which he first did last week in Australia.Hiro Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) was on the third row with Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista and Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi. Bautista was Suzuki’s lone rider after John Hopkins was forced out with his lingering finger injury. Rossi hit a bump and crashed in qualifying, but he recovered to set his best time on his last lap.Malaysian Grand Prix MotoGP Qualifying:1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:01.462

2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 2:01.491

3. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 2:01.666

4. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 2:02.010

5. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 2:02.105

6. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:02.172

7. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 2:02.254

8. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 2:02.332

9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2:02.395

10. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2:02.756

16. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:03.768

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.