Vermeulen takes first pole in drenched MotoGP
Riders, teams and spectators were joined this morning by the
unwelcome presence of rain at the Istanbul Park Circuit in
Turkey. Almost simultaneously starting to fall as the 125cc
riders took to the track, the rain guaranteed that the day would
be unpredictable as the wet weather served as the great
equaliser between bikes.
MotoGP rookie Chris Vermeulen used the adverse conditions to
his advantage, putting in fast laps at the midway stage and
riding with control and poise for his first ever MotoGP pole
position. After a problematic race in Qatar, the Rizla Suzuki
rider is in a strong position to place well in Sunday’s race. His
quickest lap of 2’04.617 was slower than yesterday’s free
practice leading riders in the dry.
The young Australian didn’t have it easy though. In front of a
respectable audience in the Turkish grandstand, American Nicky
Hayden battled for the top spot throughout the last half hour. In
the closing moments of the session, the Repsol Honda rider was
seemingly on course to take the lead with both he and
Vermeulen on hot laps. However it wasn’t to be for the
Kentucky kid, as he went offroad to his obvious annoyance.
Sete Gibernau also made a late surge. His final lap of the
Istanbul Park track resulted in his demoting team-mate Loris
Capirossi to fourth, with both Ducatis having opened the day
well as the two fastest riders in free practice.
To add to Suzuki’s joy, John Hopkins’ steady run ensured that
both of their riders will start tomorrow on the front two rows.
Randy de Puniet, one of the few riders to remain without points
so far this season, put in the sixth fastest time of the session,
ahead of Casey Stoner. LCR Honda’s sole rider suffered two
crashes during free practice as the weather hindered his final
chance of becoming MotoGP’s youngest race winner tomorrow.
Shinya Nakano clocked the eighth fastest time of the qualifying
session, ahead of Americans Colin Edwards and Kenny Roberts
Jr. Edwards suffered a contusion of his left shoulder after falling
in the morning.
World Champion Valentino Rossi is still yet to earn a pole
position in 2006, and as in Jerez will start the race off the front
two rows of the grid having qualified eleventh.