Valentino Rossi has challenged his Ducati team to continue their search for pace after he equalled his best qualifying result of the season at Laguna Seca. The Italian will line up seventh for tonight's United States Grand Prix but commented that he was still struggling for grip on the harder tyre.
With a 20 minute warm-up to come at 5:40pm UK time, Rossi will have one more session to improve the set-up of the GP11.1 ahead of the 32 lap race, due to start at 10pm UK time. Speaking after qualifying, Rossi admits that set-up changes are required if he is to move forward in the race.
“This morning we made a change to the balance that helped me to find more grip with the soft tyre, as well as a feeling that was generally better. In the afternoon though, with the warmer temperature and the hard tyre, I didn't have the same performance and feeling. During the session we were able to change the settings again and make a small step, and when we put on the soft, we did a time that was good enough for the third row. Seventh place actually equals my best qualifying spot of the season. That was our goal, to be able to start further forward than we have lately, but for the race we must improve our pace again with the hard tyres because it's a little too difficult now and the rear is sliding a lot. We're focused and we're working very hard so we'll see tomorrow if we can take another step forward.”
Teammate Nicky Hayden will join Rossi on the third row of the grid after qualifying in ninth place but his session was blighted by a crash. The American continued with the GP11 although he did seem encouraged by the early indications from the 2012 chassis.
“We went back to the standard bike today. I was a little faster on the new one yesterday, but even though it has more potential and I like the gearbox, I don't yet have a great feel for where its limit is. For now, we prefer to go with what we know. This morning I was pretty strong and this afternoon I was consistently in the low-'22 range. I did two longer runs and came in to put in a new soft tyre and was ready to go for it. I felt good and was looking forward to going into qualifying mode.”
Hayden was frustrated by his accident as he had his sights set on the second row, and was especially disappointed by the circumstances of his crash.
“I wasn't pushing really hard on the out-lap, but you have to push this bike to load the front, and in Rainey Curve I skipped across the bumps and went down. It's a shame, because we had a chance to do our best qualifying of the year. I went out on the other bike, but the front tyre was 30 laps old. The team have worked like dogs switching back and forth between bikes. Now they'll have another long night, but I'll try to make up for it tomorrow.”