MotoGP: Privateer Honda Rider Randy de Puniet Scores Second Consecutive Front Row Start

Today’s success came during the one hour qualifying session for Saturday’s 80th Dutch TT, held under warm, sunny skies at the circuit known for its inclement weather.  De Puniet held the fastest time well into the hour before eventually being displaced by championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha). Lorenzo would have to be at his best to beat De Puniet’s time of 1m, 34.797s, and he was. But, other than Lorenzo, whose fastest lap was his last, no one could match de Puniet’s pace. And de Puniet proved his race pace was strong by starting his final run with two laps in the 1m, 34’s.

Because the track had been slightly shortened, Lorenzo’s final lap of 1m, 34.515s  would stand as a new circuit fastest lap.  The lap was over a full second faster than the previous circuit best lap of 1m, 35.520s set by Casey Stoner in 2008.  The new length of 4.542k was achieved by taking 13 meters out at the Ruskenhoek left hander near the end of the track’s longest (560m) straightaway. Though it’s a minor modification, the adjustment transformed the track and brought back some of the speed it had lost in recent modifications.

Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda RC212V: 2nd – 1m 34.797s
“Everything is going in the right direction for us and we completely deserved this second consecutive front row. I am still the Honda fastest rider and the top privateer rider in the classification, so this is not just luck! The guys made an excellent job on the bike and I felt more comfortable in this morning second session. Then in the afternoon we took another step forward working on suspension set-up and the bike was close to perfection. We have got the pace to run in top five on race tyres, but we need to confirm our mapping for the end of the race when the tyres will drop. Want to thank everybody in the team for their great job.”

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) finished the session at the end of the second row. The Italian spent much of the hour in the top three by setting his fastest time on the 11th of his 30 total laps. But he wasn’t able to improve on his lap of 1m, 35.105s and found himself slowly slipping down the order. Still, starting from the second row puts him in perfect position to protect his second place in the MotoGP World Championship.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) sits third in the championship, only five points behind his team-mate, and certain to further secure the position. Pedrosa finished the session just behind Dovizioso with the seventh fastest time at a gap of .147s. Pedrosa said he needed to improve his braking performance and also had to choose between the two Bridgestone rear tire options.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) had a career best MotoGP qualifying effort. The MotoGP rookie finished the session with the eighth fastest time, right behind the veteran Pedrosa. The qualifying performance left Simoncelli confident that he could also achieve a career best MotoGP race finish.

Simoncelli will likely be the lone flag-bearer for the Gresini Honda team after team-mate Marco Melandri dislocated his left shoulder in a Friday morning high-side. Melandri, who didn’t take part in qualifying, said he would test the shoulder in Saturday morning warm-up, but wasn’t hopeful of racing. He expects to be ready for next week’s race in Barcelona.

Kousuke Akiyoshi  (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) qualified 15th in place of the injured Hiroshi Aoyama, the winner of the 250cc race here last year. The 35-year-old Japanese test rider will replace Aoyama at Assen and next week in Catalunya. Aoyama broke his back at the previous week’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone and is expected to be out for a few months. A more permanent replacement is expected during the one week break between Catalunya and the German round at the Sachsenring.

The races in Assen are traditionally held on Saturday, a custom that is unique to the Dutch TT.

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