All eyes were on Yamaha Factory riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi ahead of tomorrow’s title decider and Lorenzo went balls out in Q2, setting a truly sensational lap to secure pole position for the last race of the year.
It wasn’t such a successful session for teammate Rossi, who free of the pressure of qualifying, concentrated instead on his race pace. However, the Italian, who has a slender seen point lead but who is starting to tomorrow’s race from the very back of the grid, suffered a small crash at the final stages and ended the day having set the twelfth fastest time.
Fully focused on the task ahead, Lorenzo was calm and collected as he emerged from pit lane as the last rider to head out in the last 15-minute Q2 of the season. Once out on the relatively empty track, he stayed true to usual form and immediately dropped under the 1’31s mark with a 1’30.996s for provisional third position.
With a little less than nine minutes of the session remaining, he hurried back to the pits to start his second time attack a minute later. His next flying lap was a sensational 1’30,011s for pole position, enough to break the circuit best lap record, creating nearly half a second margin to his closest rival.
Lorenzo quickly headed back to box for a second stop, but neither he nor any of his competitors were able to come close to his superb lap time.
The Spaniard was clearly elated and described his pole lap as the best of his career. He said: “Today’s goal was to qualify on first row, but there was a lot of tension. I expected that Andrea Iannone’s bike with the soft tyre could steal the first row, so I put in the maximum effort at the track with the three tyres and that is what I did.
“I wasn’t very satisfied with the first one, 1’30.9s wasn’t the lap time I expected, but with the second one the bike worked perfectly with the grip, the braking, the corner speed and the acceleration. I rode better than on the previous lap and I got pole. It probably was my best lap in all my life and I’m very proud, but the important thing is to start from front row, make a good start tomorrow, don’t make any mistakes and avoid problems on the first laps and try to get the World Title. Today they didn’t give out points, the contest is tomorrow and it’s going to be a difficult, long and stressful race.
Team-mate Rossi took a moment at the start of the session before he mounted his Yamaha YZR-M1 and had his first attempt of setting a hot lap. The Doctor clocked a 1’32.840s on his first try and bettered his time to 1’31.471s in the second before returning to the pits for a fresh rear tyre.
Back on track with five minutes remaining, he used his third flying lap to warm up his tyres to be able to push to the maximum on the next lap. Having picked up the pace, the nine-time World Champion had set a new personal best time for the first two sectors, but a small slide down the track meant the end of his session.
Though he set the twelfth fastest time, Rossi will be starting the race from last place on the grid, having collected a total of four penalty points on his racing license.
An ever optimistic Rossi said: “I’m OK, this is the most important thing. The day was not so bad, especially in the morning I was strong, but in the afternoon I suffered a bit more with the grip and I struggled a little bit more with a higher temperature.
“After, in qualifying, we didn’t have the pressure to try to set the best lap so we tried something else. Some modifications I didn’t like so I came back in and on my last lap it wasn’t so bad, my first sections were quite fast, but unfortunately after that I made a mistake and I crashed, but this doesn’t make a big difference for tomorrow because I will start last. We have to improve the grip to improve the race pace.
“If it’s cool, lower degrees can change a lot of things about the grip in comparison between a Yamaha and a competing bike. Maybe, if the temperature is a little bit less, I can go a bit faster. It will be very hard, the bad news for the race is that Jorge rode to pole position, because we hoped he wouldn’t start first, but fortunately we don’t have to think about that, it’s not our problem, I just have to recover as much as possible.”