Álvaro Bautista will start tomorrow’s Catalonian Grand Prix from the third row of the grid after qualifying in ninth place this afternoon.
Bautista (1’43.447, 29 laps) again made solid progress today as he prepared his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R for Sunday’s main event. His lap-times improved throughout the qualifying session as he worked with his team to get the best grid position for tomorrow’s race. Bautista’s ninth place equals his starting position from last year; when he went on to record his equal best season finish of fifth in the race.
Today’s qualifying was held in very overcast conditions, but the threatening rain clouds stayed away enabling the session to go ahead completely dry. Marco Simoncelli on a Honda took a career-first MotoGP pole position, with fellow Honda rider Casey Stoner second and reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo filling the remaining front row berth.
Tomorrow’s 25-lap race is the fifth round of this season and the lights will go out to signal the start at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT), with Bautista aiming to give a competitive performance in front of his fellow countrymen.
“It’s was a good day’s practice because we improved on yesterday’s rhythm and lap-times. I tried a different setting in the shock with the harder tyres this morning, but I didn’t like it too much, so for this afternoon we continued with the same setting as yesterday. I tested the hard front and soft rear tyres, but I didn’t really have a good feeling from the front, especially under hard braking when entering a corner, so I changed to a soft front and was able to get a good feeling and keep my place in the top 10. At the end of the qualifying session we put on a new set of tyres to make a good lap for the best grid position and I did my best lap alone – without following other riders. On this track if you follow someone you can get a good time, but I am happy with my time because in each practice I improved by one second. My feeling with the bike is still not 100%, but it is getting much better. I have a lot more confidence now than the first practice and I am getting more aggressive, so I hope to get the same feeling in the race! The third row is a good position and it is the same as last year and tomorrow – depending on the weather – we will have a good race. I want to say thank-you to my crew because they are working very hard to give me a bike that gives me the confidence I need after my injury. I will try to enjoy tomorrow’s race and hope that they enjoy it too!”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“Álvaro has done a good job to pick up the pace today. His self-confidence is starting to come back, and to qualify the bike only a second from pole – with the intensity at the front of the pack as it is – is definitely a reasonable result. The plan was for the season to really start here after his accident and it’s been difficult to know where we are after the injury in Qatar, so it will be a proper test tomorrow to try and translate the third row start in to a decent result.”
Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya Qualifying Practice Classification:
1. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1’42.413: 2. Casey Stoner (Honda) +0.016: 3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) +0.315: 4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) +0.329: 5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) +0.336: 9. ÁLVARO BAUTISTA (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +1.034: