2017 MotoGP Qualifying Results and News from Misano

Michael Scott | September 9, 2017
Maverick Vinales took the pole at Misano.
Maverick Vinales took his fourth pole of the season at Misano, heading a front row covered by just 0.197 of a second. (Gold & Goose photo)

Vinales Denies Dovi at Home For Pole

Maverick Vinales took his fourth pole of the season at Misano, heading a front row covered by just 0.197 of a second and including all three title contenders.

The Movistar Yamaha rider was using a 2018 chassis and the aero bodywork, and the former had returned his earlier confidence. “The bike was going well, so I knew I could try for pole. I was just riding smoothly,” he said.

He displaced crowd favorite and points leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) at the last gasp. With four wins to three each for his rivals, Dovi was the only factory Ducati to ride without aero bodywork. His methodical approach had paid dividends, however, and he hoped for more, in the different conditions predicted for tomorrow.

Rain is expected, or at the least a big temperature drop, after a sunny Saturday, making tire choice crucial – a point emphasized by third-fastest Marc Marquez.

The Repsol Honda rider had been fastest in free practice, but he scuppered any chance of a fifth pole in succession with his second crash of the weekend, on his second Q2 exit. He’d already spoiled that lap by running over track limits, he said; “then I lost the front when I touched a white line.”

Cal Crutchlow claimed a storming fourth, barely a tenth of the front row on the LCR Honda, and overcoming left-hand injuries after severing the tendon in his index finger while cutting cheese earlier in the week. Riding was awkward, he admitted; and he was having to use his body differently to compensate.

Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati) and a late-charging Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha) completed the second row; a thwarted (by traffic) Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) led the third from Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).

Behind them, three more Ducatis, with Alvaro Bautista and Aspar team-mate Karel Abraham, both through from Q1, bracketing factory tester Michele Pirro., whose chances were spoiled by a broken front wheel and flat tire early in the session.

Jack Miller (VDS Honda) and Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha) had both set times apparently good enough to get through from Q1 but were dropped out when their best laps were canceled for exceeding track limits. They ended up 14th and 16th respectively.

Moto2

Mattia Pasini (above) donned a replica Marco Simoncelli helmet at the circuit named after the fallen Italian rider and took it to an emotional fourth pole in a row in Moto2.

Points leader Franco Morbidelli (VDS Kalex) had to be content with a close second to the Italtrans rider in spite of his best efforts, ending up less than a tenth adrift.

Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Suter) was third, for his second front row of the year; with last year’s winner Lorenzo Baldassarri heading the all-Kalex second row from Silverstone winner Taka Nakagami and top rookie Pecco Bagnaia.

Title challenger Thomas Luthi was seventh, heading row three.

Moto3

There was the usual Honda domination in Moto3, taking the top five slots after the only close KTM challengers were ruled out – Gabriel Rodrigo by crashing on the last corner while massively the fastest, and Nicolo Bulega when his lap time was canceled for exceeding track limits.

Pole went to Enea Bastianini (above), his first this year as he finally picks up the pace after finishing second at Silverstone. Jorge Martin was alongside, then runaway points leader Joan Mir.

DAY TWO NEWS ROUND-UP

Marquez Down But Not Out

Blame the bike? Marc Marquez (above) shouldered most of the responsibility for having already broken his own crash record this year but allowed that this year’s Honda might be particularly crash-prone, compared with its rivals.

Of course I don’t want to crash, but it is a bit my style, and I always like to find the limit in practice,” he said, after two more crashes so far this weekend brought his season total to 19, two more than his personal record of 17 last season.

“I think there is also something on our bike – it is more unstable. I think it is harder to crash on the Yamaha or the Ducati.”

Only the misfortunate Aprilia rider Sam Lowes had crashed more often, with four more this weekend bringing his season total to 22.

Newer is Better for Yamaha

The cat is out of the bag – Yamaha has dumped the 2017 chassis that had proved so erratic for both Rossi and Vinales (above) in the factory Movistar team.

While Vinales won the first two races and again in France and Rossi won in Assen, at low-grip tracks, and in hot conditions both had struggled badly with wheelspin and rear adhesion, dropping back in the later laps. At the same time, Johann Zarco and latterly Jonas Folger tested the 2018 chassis at Misano tests before the British GP two weeks ago and gave it a nod of approval. At the British round, Vinales finished a challenging second and said he was now “comfortable” and able to ride as he likes; while Rossi led until there were three laps to go, and was third.

Asked whether they had used the new chassis, Yamaha remained tight-lipped; but at Misano, where the injured Rossi was absent, Vinales owned up. He was now riding the 2018 bike full time and had raced it in Britain.

He felt “more relaxed”, he said; and had been able to make a long run on used tires to verify that the new unit is an improvement in terms of rear tire degradation.

Rossi’s absence was at least a blessing for Vinales – it meant he could have two of the new chassis, rather than having one new and one old, sharing with his teammate.

Aero All Round For Aprilia

With Aleix Espargaro (above) full of praise for Aprilia’s new Ducati-style aero bodywork, ducted fairings were the rule rather than the exception at Misano, where low-gear corners lead to wheelie problems all round.

By mid-Saturday, of the factory riders, only points leader Andrea Dovizioso and the two Suzuki riders were not using a ducted fairing; and the latter switched for the afternoon qualifying.

Dovizioso had arrived at his conclusion after studying data from the day before, after admitting that the cowled bikes were faster on corner entry. It was a matter of compromise, he said.

“At this track, the new fairing works well, but it’s just about positive and negative things.

“Sometimes I followed other Ducatis, and they were faster in some sections but I was faster in other places. I think I’m quite good now at getting the maximum from the old fairing.”

His advantage would be in top speed and fuel consumption … born out in that he was not just the fastest through the speed gun in qualifying, at 296.0 km/h against 294.5 for Pedrosa’s Honda; but faster than bewinged team-mate Lorenzo, at 292.5.

Rossi Back For Aragon?

Valentino Rossi could be back on track for the next round in a fortnight at Aragon, but more likely at Motegi three weeks later, missing only two GPs, according to a pledge he made in an interview for the Dorna web-site.

The injured 38-year-old looked pale but determinedly cheerful in the short clip, in which he repeated how he had lost the steering after hitting a rock, put his foot down to avoid crashing, but the weight of the bike had given him a double fracture.

He was on a cross-country ride with friends, “in the hills behind Urbino”, on a route he has been riding for 20 years.

Rossi was shown wearing a surgical stocking on his right leg, but no plaster cast, with his crutches, kept well off camera.

“At this point of recovery you must live day by day,” he said. Aragon will be very, very hard. Last time I came back after 40 days. This time the fracture is better … less painful. But it is very early to say.

If I am not able to come back for Aragon, I will try for Motegi.”

Practice for Aragon begins 21 days after his crash and surgery that night; for Motegi, it is 42 days.

Rossi also said he would have to find another way” to train, after two off-road injuries this season.

“We are motorcycle riders,” he said; “and the best training is to ride motorcycles, but sometimes this can be dangerous. Unfortunately this year it happened two times to me, so we need to make in another way.

Yamaha racing chief Lin Jarvis would not be drawn on who would replace Rossi at Aragon, should he not be fit to ride himself … the team is obliged by the rules to field a replacement after a ten-day period of grace.

There were four candidates, he said: both of Yamahas official test riders, Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kouta Nozane, and both SBK riders, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark. As reported yesterday, the last-named is the odds-on favorite

Should rules preventing MotoGP riders from testing at Grand Prix circuits and riding their MotoGP bikes be eased?

Many think so, with riders themselves complaining, and team managers finding their hands tied in preventing their prized sportsmen from clearly risky off-road riding.

Yamaha’s Lin Jarvis told the press that it was difficult to criticise the injured Rossi for riding enduro, though he clearly thought there were safer and more predictable ways of keeping reactions sharp than long cross-country rides.

“But you can’t wrap riders in cotton wool,” he said. “So what do you do? They can’t test riding MotoGP bikes; they can’t test on regular race tracks.” They had to find other ways. “The common denominator these days is most of them ride in the dirt.

Interwetten to KTM for 2018

The well-respected Interwetten Moto2 team (above, with Thomas Luthi) will switch from Kalex to KTM next season when their current star rider Thomas Luthi will be replaced by former Moto2 title challenger Sam Lowes.

The Swiss-based team currently runs three riders – Luthi, plus Lecuona and Raffin – on Kalex chassis, having switched from Suter in 2014.

They will become the first satellite team to use the heretical steel-tube Kalex chassis, with the Austrian marque already challenging for top positions with rider Miguel Oliveira in 2017, its first season.

Loi Out of Misano

After Moto2’s Alex Marquez was eliminated in a Friday accident, Moto3 former race winner Livio Loi was an innocent victim on Saturday, also out of the race.

The Belgian racer was sent looping high in the air after his Leopard Honda hit the sliding KTM of faller Gabriel Rodrigo at the end of qualifying.

Rodrigo seemed set for another pole position before slipping off on the exit from the last corner – but his bike gripped and speared back across the track, right under Loi’s wheels.

Thieves Raid the Keifer Pit

Light-fingered fans at Misano did nothing to enhance their national reputation after a casual thief struck the Kiefer Racing Moto2 pit. Both riders, Domi Aegerter (above) and Tarran Mackenzie, lost their helmets in the theft.

Misano MotoGP qualifying

Michael Scott | MotoGP Editor Scott has been covering MotoGP since long before it was MotoGP. Remember two-strokes? Scott does. He’s also a best-selling author of biographies on the lives of legendary racers such as Wayne Rainey and Barry Sheene.

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