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USGP: Stoner on pole, Hayden 4th
World Championship leader Casey Stoner secured his third pole start of the 2007 season today at Laguna Seca, topping the timesheet in Saturday’s qualifying session by 0.209s ahead of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.

Stoner held his concentration during a pause in the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix qualifying run, when a red flag brought proceedings to a halt as Honda Gresini’s Marco Melandri suffered a high speed crash ten minutes in. The Italian skidded across the gravel at high velocity after clipping Kurtis Roberts, but after a brief assessment at Clinica Mobile he returned to the re-started session to remarkably qualify tenth despite his bumps and bruises.

Predrosa and Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen both topped the timesheets at certain points, but eventually had to settle for second and third grid positions respectively as Stoner put in two consecutive hot laps at the death to earn another pole start.

However, 21 year-old Ducati rider Stoner has to break the current MotoGP pole jinx to take victory in Sunday’s race – his two previous pole starts in 2007 resulting in a fourth place finish at Mugello and a fifth at Sachsenring.

Starting at the head of the second row meanwhile, World Champion Nicky Hayden will be hoping that the pole jinx continues, having qualified 0.332s behind Stoner – as he goes in search of what would be a glorious hat-trick of home wins in front of the American fans.

In addition to Melandri, there is another bashed and bruised Italian in the MotoGP paddock, but Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi still qualified fifth in spite of his accident earlier in the day in FP3 which left him with shoulder and finger injuries.

The Doctor’s other premier class compatriot Loris Capirossi completes the second row, while John Hopkins would have expected to do better than seventh following his pace in free practice – the Anglo-American venting his anger on Honda LCR’s Carlos Checa when the Spaniard appeared to impede him late in the session.

Rossi’s team-mate Colin Edwards, Konica Minolta Honda’s Shinya Nakano and the brave Melandri completed the top ten, with Nakano’s fellow Japanese rider Makoto Tamada (Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3) finishing 11th and Anthony West 12th – as the quickest of the three participating Kawasaki riders.

West’s regular team-mate Randy de Puniet was 13th and the ‘Team Green’ wildcard Roger Lee Hayden was 16th, while Pramac d’Antin stand-in Chaz Davies was the slowest rider taking part and will therefore start in the 20th slot on the grid – though the Welshman did well to lap just 1.806s off Stoner’s  pole time.

Pos  Rider             Bike      Time      Behind
 1.  Casey Stoner      Ducati    1:22.292
 2.  Daniel Pedrosa    Honda     1:22.501  + 0.209
 3.  Chris Vermeulen   Suzuki    1:22.590  + 0.298
 4.  Nicky Hayden      Honda     1:22.624  + 0.332
 5.  Valentino Rossi   Yamaha    1:22.683  + 0.391
 6.  Loris Capirossi   Ducati    1:22.914  + 0.622
 7.  John Hopkins      Suzuki    1:22.933  + 0.641
 8.  Colin Edwards     Yamaha    1:22.943  + 0.651
 9.  Shinya Nakano     Honda     1:23.006  + 0.714
10.  Marco Melandri    Honda     1:23.018  + 0.726
11.  Makoto Tamada     Yamaha    1:23.036  + 0.744
12.  Anthony West      Kawasaki  1:23.091  + 0.799
13.  Randy de Puniet   Kawasaki  1:23.113  + 0.821
14.  Sylvain Guintoli  Yamaha    1:23.207  + 0.915
15.  Carlos Checa      Honda     1:23.263  + 0.971
16.  Roger Lee Hayden  Kawasaki  1:23.425  + 1.133
17.  Alex Barros       Ducati    1:23.557  + 1.265
18.  Kurtis Roberts    KR        1:23.662  + 1.370
19.  Miguel Duhamel    Honda     1:23.923  + 1.631
20.  Chaz Davies       Ducati    1:24.098  + 1.806

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