Stoner takes pole in Spain
With his first pole position since the race at Misano in 2007, World Champion Casey Stoner broke his top spot drought in qualifying for the Gran Premi Cinzano de Catalunya. The Australian did so with a new record time of 1´41.186, preventing a home pole for Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.
Last year’s race winner, Stoner had a spectacular last lap of the Barcelona circuit where he cut his teeth in the Spanish championship, putting behind him any grip problems experienced early on Friday. The 22 year-old had been fastest in the previous two practice sessions.
For Pedrosa, another front row will not come as too much of a disappointment, with his other immediate title contenders either down the order or out of action. The big worry for the home rider will be a breakaway from the man immediately to his left on the grid, and whether the standard Honda RC212V engine still being used by the factory team has the power to stick with the Ducati Desmosedici GP8 over the long home straight. A bike problem early on left him without time to test his race tires, and using his second machine.
The Repsol Honda representation on the front row will be two-strong tomorrow afternoon, Nicky Hayden taking off from the first line of attack for the first time in 2007. He put his cards on the table late on in the session, with only extremely impressive runs from Stoner and Pedrosa ousting him from the top spot.
On the front row last year, Randy de Puniet was using a different machine and tires to those of 2007, taking his Michelin-shod LCR Honda to the head of the second line. The Frenchman is still suffering from a finger injury picked up in Mugello, but showed that he has some serious pace despite the pain.
Tech 3 Yamaha´s Colin Edwards and James Toseland completed the top six, astonishingly all within the pole position record set by Valentino Rossi last season. Edwards in particular is very confident for the race, having worked for distance over the past two days.
Andrea Dovizioso had a lot of work to do in order to correct a rear end problem from Friday, but appeared to have got to the root of the issue as he took seventh spot. The third row also includes Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen and Fiat Yamaha´s World Championship-leading rider Valentino Rossi, who lost his chance of pole when he caught his wheel on the grass late on.
There was a final five minute crash for Marco Melandri in the hour-long session, and also some usage of the newly-asphalted chicane run-off section by Loris Capirossi.
1 C. STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 1'41.186
2 D. PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team + 0.083
3 N. HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team + 0.251
4 R. DE PUNIET FRA LCR Honda MotoGP + 0.385
5 C. EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha + 0.423
6 J. TOSELAND GBR Tech 3 Yamaha + 0.634
7 A. DOVIZIOSO ITA JiR Team Scot MotoGP + 0.867
8 C. VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 1.179
9 V. ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team + 1.241
10 A. DE ANGELIS RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini + 1.394
11 S. NAKANO JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini + 1.457
12 L. CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 1.462
13 T. ELIAS SPA Alice Team + 1.622
14 J. HOPKINS USA Kawasaki Racing Team + 1.633
15 S. GUINTOLI FRA Alice Team + 2.018
16 M. MELANDRI ITA Ducati Marlboro Team + 2.533
17 A. WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team + 3.372