Hayden to '07, Pedrosa '08.
Saturday, 8th March 2008
Repsol Honda riders Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa qualified sixth and eighth fastest during Saturday night's floodlit qualifying session for the Qatar season opener - riding two very different RC212Vs.
HRC's factory racers were each handed a 2007 spec RCV each - in addition to the '07 engine/'08 chassis hybrid they had been expecting to race - to try and cure the grip problems experienced during last week's Losail test session.
Hayden is now running only the 2007 machine, and produced a typically solid qualifying performance to secure the last spot on row two - a welcome reward after a tough weekend.
"We improved a lot this afternoon... heck, it's the middle of the night!" said Hayden, caught out by the unique time schedule of the inaugural night event. "My first two runs on race tyres I improved quite a bit and in the end I was able to get a respectable lap on qualifies, nothing great, but I was able to give ourselves a decent chance.
"The big thing around here for us is the straightaway, we're losing quite a bit of time, the bike I'm using is what I had at Valencia," he confirmed.
"I'm really excited to be going racing. I'd like to have a better race pace and all that but it is what it is and it's time to line up and go for it. I'm enjoying riding at night, I think it's cool, I hope some more tracks decide to get some lighting systems going.
"A big thanks to my team and to HRC, these guys have worked so hard, it's silly how hard they have worked over the last week to get more bikes here, get more options for us, build a different chassis for Dani's bike which seems to be a good step so I'm sure the next time I get on the 08 I'll try one of those," he concluded.
As Hayden mentioned, Pedrosa has a new chassis for his 2008 machine, and will be racing the 'new' bike on Sunday.
"[Dani] is using the new chassis we brought here and he made some more progress with setup for that chassis, it gives him better front feeling," confirmed Repsol Honda team manager Kazuhiko Yamano.
"We struggled with qualifying tyres and we couldn't improve my times so much, so we will start from the third row," explained Pedrosa. "We haven't tested so much with qualifying tyres so we need more testing to improve our qualifying setup. I'm not happy about my grid position but I'm better off than I was during last week's tests here.
"I am happy about how the bike has improved in such a short time. Now we have another 20 minutes during warm-up to further improve it," he continued. "As for race pace, we are not at the level of the fastest riders but we have improved. And if we consider the fact that we didn't so much testing during the winter, that I've had a bad hand injury and that we had problems in testing here, I think the situation isn't so bad.
"After yesterday's crash the hand was very painful. I've had some treatment on the hand and we will work some more on it tomorrow morning. I'm looking forward to the race, the only problem could be the strength of my right arm over full-race distance," Pedrosa concluded.
Despite improving their positions compared with Friday, helped in part by a Michelin qualifying-tyre advantage, both factory
Honda riders were again outpaced by satellite rider Randy de Puniet, who will start fifth on the grid.
Rookie Andrea Dovizioso, the fourth Michelin-shod Honda rider, was just 0.015secs slower than Pedrosa for JiR Team Scot.