Dorna press release:
Heavy lunchtime rain at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit led to the cancellation of all qualifying sessions for the Polini Grand Prix of Japan, leaving grid positions in all three World Championship categories to be decided according to Free Practice positions.
Valentino Rossi will thus start from pole position at Motegi for the first time in his career, courtesy of his late time on Friday afternoon. All MotoGP times were faster in the first free practice session, the only dry run that the riders have had in preparation for the 2009 race.
Rossi will line up alongside series leader Casey Stoner and Fiat Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo on Sunday, the same three riders making up the front row as at the first race of the year in Qatar. The 2008 World Champion is in a prime position to avoid a breakaway by Stoner, the rider who took victory so comprehensively less than two weeks ago.
Rizla Suzuki rider Chris Vermeulen is joined by Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Colin Edwards – the fastest rider in the wet FP2 session on Saturday morning – and three-time Motegi racewinner Loris Capirossi on the second line, whilst the highest placing Honda comes on the third row. Andrea Dovizioso leads the Japanese company’s charge in his first home race for the Repsol Honda factory squad, with Hayate Racing man Marco Melandri and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Toni Elias by his side.
Grid positions in the 250cc class were, prior to this season, decided on the basis of combined times from two qualifying sessions. On Saturday at Motegi the starting places for the category were once again based on Friday times, as their crucial session was cancelled due to excessive rain.
With the time schedules for the day only useful for origami practice, Marco Simoncelli was awarded pole position for his full race return. The Metis Gilera rider had been fastest in the dry on Friday afternoon, some six-tenths of a second quicker than any other rider. The quarter-litre category’s reigning titlist missed the opening round of the season with a hand injury.
Hiroshi Aoyama starts from the front row at his and Honda’s home race, placing second ahead of Mapfre Aspar’s Álvaro Bautista and Team Toth rider Mattia Pasini.
Andrea Iannone was the principal beneficiary of rain for the third time in his 125cc career, as the heavy downfalls led to him being awarded the pole position spot. Having won his first race in a restarted Chinese round in 2008, and most recently taking victory in the rain-affected opening round of the 2009 season in Qatar, the Ongetta I.S.PA. Team rider reaped the rewards of the regulations and a speedy Friday time.
With all times in the opening session quicker than a wet second run, Iannone’s 2’00.685 lap was enough to take him to his second Grand Prix pole.
The series leader will be racing against Bancaja Aspar rival Julián Simon, 2008 racewinner Stefan Bradl and Blusens Aprilia’s Esteve Rabat – on the front row for the first time – to take the Motegi 125cc holeshot.
The Sunday warm-up sessions will be extended for all three classes, with 125cc running from 8.35-9.05am local time, 250cc from 9.15-9.45am, and MotoGP from 9.55-10.35am.