Rossi edges closer to taking title
Lorenzo sets the pace before slipping to second on the grid
VALENTINO Rossi edged closer to winning his seventh premier class championship yesterday by breaking his own pole record in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Italian, who leads by 38 points from Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo, needs only to finish in the top four in today’s race to successfully defend his championship.
Yamaha rider Rossi’s lap of 2:00.518 seconds beat his previous mark set in 2006 at the Sepang circuit by 0.087 seconds and was more than half a second faster than Lorenzo, who clocked 2:01.087.
“My target was go under 01.0 (2.01.00) but on the last lap I was able to go faster,” a beaming Rossi told reporters after his ride.
“I see on the board 00.5 and I say ‘agh!’ – somebody beat me. But it was mine. So it’s great to start from the pole position tomorrow.”
Honda rider Dani Pedrosa of Spain secured a front-row spot with the third fastest time, relegating Australian Casey Stoner to the second row in fourth position.
Suzuki rider Loris Capirossi of Italy qualified fifth and Spaniard Toni Elias sixth on a Honda.
Lorenzo, whose championship hopes were all but dashed after he crashed out at the Australian Grand Prix, was disappointed with second place on the grid after setting the pace during free practice on Friday.
“For sure this day is not the happiest day of my life, but tomorrow is the race and we try to do the best we can,” he said.
Japan’s Hiroshi Aoyama also set a pole record of 2:06.767 in the 250cc category to put the Honda rider in prime position to seal the championship today.
Aoyama, who leads champion Marco Simoncelli of Italy by 12 points, was joined on the front row by a pair of French- men in second-placed Jules Cluzel and Mike Di Meglio in third.
In the 125cc category, 16year-old Spaniard Marc Marquez took his second pole of the season and his career ahead of second-placed compatriot Julian Simon, who secured the championship with victory at the Australian Grand Prix last Sunday. – Reuters