by Matt Shine |
Yamaha Factory Racing riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo battled through one of the most hectic qualifying sessions of the season today to take fourth and sixth respectively on the grid for tomorrow’s US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.
The quick fire qualifying heat gathered pace as the clock wound down, with the top five positions constantly changing as the fast times came in. Rossi’s first flying lap put him initially in third before a burst of activity saw him drop several places. The Italian came in to pit for fresh rubber with eight minutes remaining then re-joined the time attack, climbing to second place with just over three minutes to go with a 1’21.418. The times then dropped a little more, leaving the nine-time champion on the second row in fourth, just 0.045 seconds from the front row and 0.242 from pole.
Lorenzo continued his careful approach to the weekend today, gradually building speed whilst focusing on minimising any risk of damage to his freshly broken collarbone. The world champion was one of the first riders out in qualifying, recording a 1’22.589 before dropping down the timesheets a little as the lap times tumbled. He dropped under the 1’22 mark with his second lap before returning to the pits for fresh rubber. He returned to the track with just over six minutes to go and joined the fight for the front row. He was able to improve again, recording a 1’21.453 to take sixth on the grid just 0.277 seconds from pole.
4th | 1'21.418 | 9 Laps
“I’m quite happy about my position on the grid because I did quite a good lap. Unfortunately I lost the first row but I’m fourth and not so far. We worked a lot on the bike, especially after some laps when the tyre starts to slide. We made some improvements but it’s not enough. I’m quite worried as we have to find a way tomorrow to be a bit stronger and a bit faster, especially after some laps. We have to work to improve, so we have something to do, but starting in the top four is good as starting in the front is important here.”
6th | 1'21.453 | 9 Laps
“I felt better physically in qualifying than in the last free practice so I pushed a lot and made some good laps. Maybe I could do one or two tenths faster with a perfect lap and be in the first row but the position is ok. When I saw my lap times I hoped to stay third or fourth but the other riders improved their lap times from the free practice. They are so close, if I could improve one tenth I could be on the front row and with two tenths I could be in pole position. The important thing is I didn't crash and maybe tomorrow will be even better. It's a very hard track, almost all the braking zones are not completely straight so I struggle on the shoulder. It's a very long race with 32 laps so maybe with some painkillers I can be better than at Assen."
“We are pleased with the result from today, second row was our target. It’s very tight, one tenth more and Jorge would have been on the first row. Tomorrow is a very long race. It was important to be on the second row to have a good start and be with the front guys in the beginning so there is no hassle in the first coupe of laps. He’s feeling better and better so let's see tomorrow if he can resist the pain for 32 laps.”
“I think overall we did a good job today, we were able to improve our package and the pace was not so bad. For me the time attack also went quite ok. This is not a circuit where it is easy to overtake so starting from the second row is good. For sure it's going to be a tough race, it’s long and physical so we will try to make something again for tomorrow to close the gap to our competitors, I’m expecting a good race for both riders. For sure for Vale it will be a bit easier because physically he is ok, for Jorge I’m expecting a really tough race. He will take some painkillers to try to have less pain but he will do his best to finish as high as possible.”