12 June 2015
MotoGP Catalunya: Rossi pushed out of top ten by rivals ‘time attack’
“A lot of riders pushed very hard for a sort of time attack, because the weather forecast is not 100% positive. I'm worried because I'm not in the top ten” – Valentino Rossi.
MotoGP championship leader Valentino Rossi faces an anxious overnight wait after being left just eleventh fastest during day one of the Catalunya round.
Concerns over the possibility of rain on Saturday morning meant the end of Friday practice became a quasi-qualifying session - riders fitting new tyres to try and stake their place in the top ten with a flying lap.
The special soft rear, not available to Yamaha and Honda, helped all six Suzuki and Ducati riders claim a potential direct transfer place into Qualifying 2.
Rossi was the most high profile rider outside of the transfer zone and must now hope that rain stays away if he is to avoid the kind of Qualifying 1 risk that saw Marc Marquez 13th on the grid last time at Mugello.
“A lot of riders pushed very hard for a sort of time attack, because the weather forecast is not 100% positive for tomorrow,” Rossi confirmed. “I'm worried because I'm not in the top ten, so I hope for good conditions tomorrow morning to improve my position and get in the top ten.”
As so often this season Rossi's race pace is looking far more competitive, the Italian setting six sub-1m 43s laps for an average pace comparable to all but Movistar Yamaha team-mate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo (who set twelve sub-1m 43 laps).
“Apart from the position I'm quite satisfied about the day, because especially in the second part of the afternoon we improved a lot the bike,” Rossi said. “I have a good setting. The balance is not so bad. For sure we have to work on small details to try to improve the braking, but I feel good. I think we are on a good way.”
However Rossi knows he will face a repeat of the soft-tyre attack from Suzuki and Ducati in qualifying, already his weakest part of the weekend.
“For sure tomorrow will be very, very hard for us to start in a good grid position," the nine time world champion confessed. "Because have a lot of bikes very fast, especially for one lap and looks like the soft Bridgestone help a lot the Suzukis and Ducatis.”
Rossi also believes the Repsol Hondas of Marquez and Dani Pedrosa are in better one-lap shape than the Yamaha, but well within reach for race pace.
“The Hondas are very fast in the one lap. Especially Marquez but also Pedrosa and Crutchlow is not so bad. And after their pace is similar to us and Jorge for example was a little bit better,” he said.
“The problem [for qualifying] is that Honda are very good over one lap with the medium tyre and you also have the Ducati and Suzuki with the extra-soft that for one lap is a big help. So you put Honda, then Ducati and Suzuki with the extra soft, and we are very behind.
“So we have to give the maximum, also because usually Jorge is a little bit faster than me over one lap with the same bike.”
Fastest on Friday was not a Yamaha, Honda or Ducati but the Suzuki of Aleix Espargaro. The home star made good use of engine upgrades and the soft rear tyre to lap 0.285s clear of Marquez. But Espargaro was also fast on the medium rear, which Rossi expects to use for the race.
“I checked the pace of both the Suzukis, Maverick and especially Espargaro, and also with our tyre - because I think we will race with [the medium rear], the same as the hard option for Suzuki and Ducati - they have a good pace. They go in '42. It is not so bad. It means that also the Suzuki works well here and they improve the engine, bring some new stuff. It is early to say but looks like they made a step. Also the Ducati, apart from the time attack have a not so bad pace.”
Rossi currently holds a six-point lead over Lorenzo, winner of the last three races and seventh fastest on Friday.
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