MotoGP - round 3 qualify

Qualifying for the Grand Prix of Turkey at the circuit of Istanbul Park today saw Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) at the top of the 19-strong MotoGP field of motorcycle riders. His American team-mate Colin Edwards is second and Spanish rider Dani Pedrosa (Honda) is third on the grid. Shaking off the set-up problems that both the Yamaha riders Rossi and Edwards had encountered on yesterday's dirty track, the pair worked steadily on fine-tuning their 800cc YZR-M1s throughout the majority of the hour-long session before posting the best flying laps on qualifying tyres to take the top two spots on the grid for tomorrow's 22-lap race.

With the weather staying dry once again the grip on track was considerably better than yesterday and Rossi's eventual pole time of 1'52.795 was just inside the existing lap record, although still slightly slower than last year's pole time. The Italian moved into pole with eight minutes remaining after his first flying lap before consolidating his position with another even faster lap on his second qualifying tyre soon after. Rossi's second pole of the season and ninth consecutive front row start puts him in a strong position to challenge for a win at one of only three circuits on this year's calendar where he has yet to stand on top of the podium. Edwards' second qualifying lap of 1'52.944 was good enough for second position behind his team-mate and the American will start ahead of Dani Pedrosa, who mounted a strong challenge in the closing stages but finished 0.027 adrift of the American.

In a hard-fought hour of qualifying Dani Pedrosa made sure he gave himself every chance of a strong result in tomorrow’s 22-lap race by staying at the sharp end of the timesheet. And it’s conceivable the Spanish star might have headed the grid had he not run into traffic while on schedule for a possible pole time.

Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) was much less comfortable than Dani in this session and for much of the time he was way off the pace, languishing as far down the order as 19th with just ten minutes to go. But the reigning World Champion showed typical fighting spirit to haul himself up the order to sixth for a second row start.

In sunny conditions with the track at 34 degrees the riders peeled out of pit-lane to tackle this imposing 5.430km track. As has become a regular feature of qualifying Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) was the first to make the early running before Carlos Checa (LCR Honda RC212V) and then Loris Capirossi (Ducati) upped the pace.

Rossi showed he’d be in contention and Dani and Casey Stoner (Ducati) were in the early reckoning too. At the halfway point riders continued to circulate at a likely race pace before the switch to qualifying sticky rubber began and again de Puniet was the first to make the move.

The order was de Puniet, Rossi, Stoner, Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki), then Capirossi and Dani. Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda RC212V) and Nicky lay 15th and 16th at this stage. And with 15 minutes left de Puniet still led the field. But the major runners had yet to perform. Stoner and Rossi then upped the pace, their times dipping into low 1m 53s bracket. Edwards made his bid for the front row elevating himself to third in the order as the final ten minutes of action began to unfold.

The American’s team-mate Rossi then circulated at 1m 52.795s to record the fastest lap shatter Sete Gibernau’s 2005 qualifying record by 0.461 seconds. This was 0.8 seconds faster than Dani’s best so far, but the young Spaniard, who lay second fastest, had more to produce.

Scorching towards a probable pole time, Dani was unintentionally baulked by John Hopkins (Suzuki). The American has a deserved reputation as one of the hardest rider to pass on the brakes and try as Dani did, he could find no way past the Suzuki man despite being visibly faster. But the front row should be good enough for Dani to figure at the front in the early stages of the race.

This track, notoriously hard on front tyres, posed problems for the rest of the Honda riders with only Toni Elias (Gresini Honda RC212V) figuring in the top ten qualifiers and even then only as 10th fastest man. His best time of 1m 53.835s is more than a second shy of the pole mark.

Shinya Nakano (Konica Minolta Honda RC212V) managed the 12th fastest time for a fourth row start, Melandri, who has twice won here in the premier class, could only qualify 14th. Checa ended up 16th, while Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR212V) struggled to 18th.

Valentino Rossi : "I'm very happy to have a pole position at this track, which has never been one of my favourites! I've had some bad moments here in the past but this year it feels like a different track for me and I'm having great fun! My M1 is very competitive, a lot more fun to ride here than in the past and the new modifications we have for our engine have made an important difference to our overall performance. The team has done a great job because we had some problems yesterday but they've found some good solutions and now Colin and I are first and second. My tyres are working well and we've found the right front for tomorrow. We need to make a final decision about the rear in the morning. With the qualifying tyre my bike really flew and I was able to do a very good lap; I started my first lap a few minutes earlier than the others and then I knew that I could improve a little bit more with the second qualifying tyre. Anyway all three of us are very close on the front row so I think it's going to be a tight battle tomorrow. Let's hope for good weather and see what happens."

Colin Edwards : "Well after the problems we had yesterday I've got to say a massive thanks to my team. They looked at the issues, got out their protractors, did their maths and worked their magic like always! The Michelin qualifier really sticks like glue for us this year and I was able to really push it. I thought I was going to run into traffic at one point on my last lap but I just kept my head down and somehow came out the other side in front. It was definitely a mistake-free lap. As for tomorrow, we need to work a little bit on our race pace - two tenths would be good but three would be even better! I think we're losing it in T3 so we need to concentrate on that part of the track. We've moved onto a different front from the 'old faithful' we've been using so far this year because that one was a little bit too close to the limit here, but it's working really well so we just need to make a final decision on the rear. It's a great result for the team to have us both on the front row again so let's hope to make the most of it with a similar result tomorrow!"

Dani Pedrosa : “I think everybody had quite a lot of traffic at the end of the session because there were many riders going for a fast lap, so it wasn't just a problem for me. Without this I think I could have been a little faster, but I’m on the front row which is the important thing for the start of the race. Also, I’m in a much better position than last year when I was right at the back.”

Nicky Hayden : “That's the best I’ve qualified this year so it’s nice to be starting up near the front. It would be good to get one of the starts I had at the last race in Jerez and get stuck in there, though my race pace hasn’t been as fast as I’d like which means it could be a chore tomorrow. We’ve made some changes to the bike to improve things and a big thanks goes to the team because they’ve definitely been working hard this weekend, changing a lot of things and working long hours.”

Circuit Length - 5378
Temp - 22 and dry

2007 MotoGP Turkey - Istanbul 21/04/2007
Qualifying 1
1. Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 1'52.795
2. Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 1'52.944
3. Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1'52.971
4. Casey Stoner Ducati AUS 1'53.375
5. Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 1'53.559
6. Nicky Hayden Honda USA 1'53.613
7. John Hopkins Suzuki USA 1'53.637
8. Randy De Puniet Kawasaki FRA 1'53.706
9. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki AUS 1'53.771
10. Toni Elias Honda ESP 1'53.835
11. Olivier Jacque Kawasaki FRA 1'53.847
12. Shinya Nakano Honda JPN 1'53.988
13. Alex Barros Ducati BRA 1'54.082
14. Marco Melandri Honda ITA 1'54.143
15. Makoto Tamada Yamaha JPN 1'54.206
19. Sylvain Guintoli Yamaha FRA 1'54.845

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