Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo set a new qualifying record for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, the first race for which he has a mathematical chance to clinch the 2012 MotoGP World Championship.As he’d done in Motegi last week, Lorenzo saved the best for last. He went to the top of the order with a new lap record just before the end of the one hour session, held in typically tropical conditions, then lowered it after time had expired. The lap of 2:00.334 mins. bettered the previous mark of 2:00.518 mins. set by Valentino Rossi in 2009.
The pole was Lorenzo’s seventh of the season. If he makes the most of it and wins Sunday’s 16th round of the MotoGP World Championship he can secure his second title, but only if title rival Dani Pedrosa finishes 13th or worse. Considering Pedrosa has won four of the past five races, it’s a big task.
“We made a very good lap at the end of the session with the new ‘qualifying’ tire,” Lorenzo said of his use of Bridgestone’s soft option. “In the middle of the practice we struggled a little bit because we had a bit of chattering and the rear tires wasn’t working as well as it had been in the morning session. We need to still work a little on our pace as it’s not extremely good yet, but we have some options for tomorrow. Let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a long race in difficult conditions.”
Pedrosa had dominated the practice sessions that mattered-the wet/dry second session was irrelevant-but found a recurrence of the chattering problems that plagued many teams, especially Honda, at the tests earlier this year in Sepang. The problem, which had also cropped up unexpectedly in last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, prevented Pedrosa from taking the pole, which he’d held until Lorenzo’s two flyers.
“It was hard because we had a lot of chattering this afternoon and it was very difficult to get a clean lap, as in some areas the bike was chattering too much, even on the straight,” he said. “Nevertheless, we managed to get on the front row again and second position is good. The pace is high and after missing FP2 yesterday because of the mixed conditions, this morning we worked hard on the race pace. I just hope that we don’t have this chattering for the race. The weather can play an important role too, so we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow afternoon.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso gave the team their tenth front row start of the season, and sixth in succession, but setting the third fastest time that was nearly the equal of Pedrosa’s. The Italian had been fast all session-he was the only rider other than Pedrosa and Lorenzo to head the time sheets-and was on top well into the 58th minute.
“I am very close to Lorenzo and Dani and my goal will be to stay with them for as long as possible tomorrow.,” he said. “With more rain earlier it meant the track was quite slippery, but normally when that is the case I am very fast and again today I have proved that. Hopefully it will be a dry race tomorrow but if it is raining then it will be the same for everybody and nobody has an advantage because we haven’t tested on a full wet track.”
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner qualifying fourth fastest in his second race since returning to action. Stoner didn’t complain about chatter, but did say there were a number of other small issues, including the brakes, which prevented him from showing his best. And since he spent so much time in the garage, he wasn’t able to gauge his fitness for what is certain to be a difficult race.
“Our potential is much higher than where we are currently at and now we go into the race without any real direction,” he said. “Physically I’m not sure how I am going to be as we haven’t been able to complete many laps this weekend, our pace is there and I just hope that we can make some small improvements in tomorrow’s warm-up.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow qualified fifth fastest, hobbled by the same vibration issues that had slowed him in last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Still, he narrowly outqualified the second factory Yamaha of Ben Spies, who admitted not having the pace to go faster.
The third row was Pramac Racing Ducati’s Hector Barbera, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, and Nicky Hayden on the Ducati Marlboro machine. Valentino Rossi, Hayden’s teammate, was down in 11th, with both riders complaining of chatter.
Sepang MotoGP Qualifying Results:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:00.334
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:00.528
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 2:00.567
4. Casey Stoner (Honda) 2:00.811
5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2:01.178
6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:01.185
7. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 2:01.294
8. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2:01.491
9. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:01.526
10. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 2:01.640
11. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2:01.783
18. Colin Edwards (Suter) 2:04.941