I love good, happy surprises that come all tied up in a neat, little box with a silky, soft red bow. Attached the words Grand Prix to the surprise, and it becomes even more special.
I always knew Silverstone was special. Then, Valentino Rossi set the fastest pace in the wet during the first practice session. Teammate Nicky Hayden came close too. But in dry conditions it was almost back to square one. Later though, Crash.net quoted Rossi as saying: “Here, it’s the dry conditions that are the unknown, because it always rains!”
But Qualifying was a different story – for everyone. I tried describing the Qualifying today as eventful, but somehow, it seemed an understatement. It was enough though to give me a ray of hope – the Silverstone GP will be exciting.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista scored a pole position – his first in the premier class. Yamaha’s Ben Spies, who has been struggling most of this season, often plagued by plain old bad luck, clocked in a second position on the grid. Podium regulars Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo came third and fourth.
But the Ducati boys gave me quite the scare. One minute Rossi was taking the corners beautifully, the next he crash at the Vale corner. He skidded across the gravel even as his bike and its fairing somersaulted out of the way. A little while though, he was back on the track, with a new bike and fresh leathers, trying to set a good time. Towards the latter half of the Qualifying though, Hayden, set his fastest lap and then crashed, at the same spot as Rossi. It was almost like watching a re-run of Rossi’s crash. He walked away unhurt. Rossi, placed 10th on the grid, later said in a press release: “…I crashed when approaching the last chicane, a tricky part of the track where you brake hard and where there’s a small crest and a depression. The bike unweights there and you can lose the front. We struggle there because we don’t have much grip on the front, so tomorrow we’ll have to be particularly careful.” Hayden, at 7th, added, “…I lost the front without much warning. I don’t really have an excuse. I was in there hot, but it felt good when I first got on the brakes. Crashing is part of motorcycle racing, but I just wish I could have finished that lap. It’s a bit strange that Valentino and I did the exact same crash, but maybe we can understand something from the data.”
The rain however, finally decided to make an appearance in the last five minutes. It prevented the Ducati boys from hitting the track once again to improve their times. But, the rain was enough to put a damper on Stoner’s plans to beat Bautista’s time. Team manager Fausto Gresini later said in a press release, “This pole position was unexpected, but it is wonderful and exciting…It is a little over a year since Marco Simoncelli set pole for the first time at Catalunya and I want to dedicate this moment to him because it is nice to be able to smile again after so many sad days.”
Ben Spies, too finally got his moment in the sun, despite, running off the track and into the gravel a couple of times. But I missed Cal Crutchlow. I was waiting to see him race on home ground. But he injured his ankle after a crash during morning practice. Last year, he broke his collarbone during Qualifying at Silverstone and missed the race. We still don’t know if he’ll race tomorrow. Karel Abraham will be missing the race tomorrow after breaking two fingers during a testing accident.
Qualifying was a beautiful surprise. Now, the players are set as is Silverstone. What will tomorrow bring? I will be counting down the minutes to race start. Oh, I will also be doing a rain dance. A little Rossi magic will make the Silverstone GP perfect.
All images used courtesy Motorsport X-Press