Round 7 of the MotoGP world championship in the Assen, Netherlands, an early weekend schedule began on Thursday. In wet and dry, Marco Simoncelli (#58) set the top lap times in free practices on Thursday and dominated in qualifying practice on Friday. By the end, under mostly cloudy skies, Simoncelli would take the pole position for the second time this season with a top lap time of 1’34.718.
In Yamaha’s 50th anniversary livery of classic white with red strips, Ben Spies (#11) also ran well, followed closely by Casey Stoner (#27), Andrea Dovizioso (#4) and Jorge Lorenzo (#1). After struggling much of this season with incidents that can only be described as “bad luck,” Spies appears poised for a great performance at Assen; with 23 minutes remaining in qualifying, taking the provisional pole from Simoncelli with a rocketing lap of 1’34.940, and later, a follow-up just thousands off Simoncelli’s new provisional-pole pace.
Valentino Rossi (#46) ran a new Ducati chassis – a critical test for the team hoping to regain some degree of control over their 2011 season. After Rossi’s widely celebrated move to Ducati last year, this season’s performance of the bike relative to the Hondas and Yamahas has made it unusually difficult for the nine-time world champion. Starting 11th on the grid, with a qualifying time of 1’36.564, it’ll take a miracle to get Rossi out in front again.
But, in spite of being consistently out front, with pole at Catalunya and front-row starts at Estoril, Le Mans, and Silverstone, the real question for Simoncelli is whether he can finally capitalize on his position. Although phenomenally talented, consistently beating the top riders’ best performances this season, Marco has also demonstrated a consistent lack of the discipline; riding at the limits and beyond, he has stacked up crashes and DNFs in his rookie season in the Premier Class.
Full qualifying results are available on MotoGP.com. Subscribers can catch the practice and race videos on the MotoGP Videos No-Spoiler page. The race airs again 6/27 at 12:00pm EDT, and 7/3 at 4:00am and 8:00am EDT on Speed.
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