Fiat Yamaha Team rider Jorge Lorenzo made it an incredible three poles from three MotoGP starts with another masterful qualifying display in Portugal this afternoon. Estoril was one of only two circuits on the calendar at which the outstanding rookie had never before claimed a pole position, but he put that behind him in impressive style today to smash the previous record by nearly half a second.
After changeable weather conditions yesterday, today was a much more settled affair and the sunny conditions allowed the riders to vastly improve on yesterday's lap times this morning, with Lorenzo finishing second fastest. Towards the end of this afternoon's session the chase for qualifying times got underway and the Spaniard's first Michelin qualifying tyre saw him take provisional pole. He then went on to improve on both of his next qualifying runs, despite dropping time in the middle section on his second tyre when briefly caught behind a slower rider. On his final soft tyre he produced an inch-perfect lap of 1'35.715 to seal a hat-trick of MotoGP pole positions and the 29th of his Grand Prix career in total.Lorenzo's team-mate Valentino Rossi also had a good afternoon and will line up on the outside of the front row tomorrow, with Dani Pedrosa in between the Fiat Yamaha pair, whilst Yamaha Tech 3 riders Colin Edwards and James Toseland, on his first visit to the track, take fifth and sixth spots to make it four Yamaha riders in the top six.
Jorge Lorenzo 1st 1.35.715 - 26 laps, "Each pole position has felt like a dream and I can't believe I am here again! I am very proud to have a record like this and in fact I'm especially happy to have qualified in front here because this track has always been quite difficult for me and I've never been on pole at it before. Our race pace is quite good and now the aim for tomorrow will be to make the most of my starting position, stay at the front and hopefully fight for the win. It's going to be a hard race and there are many strong riders, but I am looking forward to it. Our aim is to try to win but if that's not possible then the podium will be okay; it's still only my third race and I am still learning all the time! Anyway, I feel good on my bike and tyres, the team have done a great job and now we just have to cross our fingers for good weather tomorrow!"
Danielle Romagnoli - Team Manager, "Once again it's been another very exciting qualifying session to watch this afternoon and Jorge has done another fantastic job. We made some small changes from yesterday to improve our base set-up and today we've had a fast and consistent race pace. Then this afternoon Michelin gave Jorge the chance to fly and he took full advantage! It's great to be on pole as it gives us the best chance at the start and we will do our very best to maximize this chance to produce a good result tomorrow."
Valentino Rossi made a welcome return to the front row of the grid for the first time this year in Portugal this afternoon, qualifying third aboard his Fiat Yamaha M1. It was the first time the 29-year-old has qualified on the front row since making the switch to Bridgestone tyres and it puts him in a good position from which to attempt a repeat of his victory here five months ago.
Times tumbled in this morning's free practice and Rossi continued to improve his race setting, finishing the morning's work in fourth position. This afternoon he continued in the same fashion, topping the time sheets for the first half of the session. In the later battle for qualifying tyres Rossi set his best time of 1'36.199 with ten minutes still on the clock and, with his young team-mate Jorge Lorenzo on pole it looked like being a Fiat Yamaha one-two before the party was spoiled by Dani Pedrosa pipping Rossi to second in the closing minutes.
Valentino Rossi 3rd 1.36.199 - 27 laps, "I'm really happy! It's very important to be on the first row here and now we can think about trying to win tomorrow. We've made some big steps forward with Bridgestone and considering that every time we use the qualifying tyre it's still a bit like a test, it's a great achievement to be here. Today my bike and tyres worked very well and I felt confident and strong. We have a good setting and I can ride how I want to, which is great fun as well! Now I really hope that we can have a good race tomorrow. The weather is a worry and we will have to wait until last thing to make our final tyre choice, but we have some good ideas.
Lorenzo and Pedrosa are looking very strong but I think we are not so far and we have a chance to be there tomorrow. There is a great atmosphere in our box and everyone is looking forward to tomorrow's challenge."