Brno: Stoner wins pole
Despite feeling less than 100% with a fever, there was no stopping Casey Stoner from taking a sixth successive pole position for the Cardion ab Grand Prix Ceske republiky, as the Australian imposed his will on his rivals in a wet qualifying session.
Stoner recorded a fastest time of 2´11.657 in the soaking session, giving him the longest pole streak since fellow countryman Mick Doohan´s twelve-in-a-row from 1997. In doing so, he relegated MotoGP’s self-styled `Doctor´ -World Championship leader Valentino Rossi- down to second on the grid.
Rossi was suffering his own ailment on Saturday, with an ear and sinus infection posing him problems. Even with their respective medical woes, both Stoner and Rossi can be expected to battle against each other once more in Brno when the red light goes out on Sunday.
The front row will be completed by last year’s runner-up at Brno, Kawasaki’s John Hopkins, as the Anglo-American lines up for his first MotoGP race since the June visit to Donington Park. A first front row for `Team Green´ marked an ideal return for Hopkins, who will be out for a maiden podium to salvage something from his 2008 campaign.
Out to stop him is former teammate Chris Vermeulen, the Rizla Suzuki rider who heads the second row. Vermeulen has been on the rostrum at the last two races, and conditions were favorable for the wet weather specialist to classify himself ahead of Alex de Angelis and Anthony West –the remaining duo on the second line as both had their best qualifying sessions of the year.
Randy De Puniet ran off track after recording his fastest time of the qualifying period, and elected against another attempt at bettering his marker. His LCR Honda bike fell in the gravel as it came to the end of its trajectory, with some minor repairs made as the Frenchman returned to the garage. De Puniet was the highest placing Michelin rider in seventh, and the only non-Bridgestone representative in the top ten.
San Carlo Honda Grissini’s Shinya Nakano was getting used to the factory spec RC212V that he will race for the first time, a task made more difficult by the drenched track. He starts from row three, a line concluded by Loris Capirossi, who ran off in the early going.
Crashing at the midway point of the session was Tech 3 Yamahas James Toseland, who avoided lowsiding his M1 but was unable to avoid a tumble.
1 C. STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 2'11.657
2 V. ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team + 1.189
3 J. HOPKINS USA Kawasaki Racing Team + 1.302
4 C. VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 1.345
5 A. DE ANGELIS RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini + 1.695
6 A. WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team + 2.407
7 R. DE PUNIET FRA LCR Honda MotoGP + 2.878
8 S. NAKANO JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini + 3.061
9 L. CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 3.148
10 S. GUINTOLI FRA Alice Team + 3.204
11 M. MELANDRI ITA Ducati Marlboro Team + 4.223
12 D. PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team + 4.375
13 T. ELIAS SPA Alice Team + 4.853
14 A. DOVIZIOSO ITA JiR Team Scot MotoGP + 5.975
15 C. EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha + 8.417
Out of limit time
J. TOSELAND GBR Tech 3 Yamaha
J. LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha Team