The top spot on the MotoGP grid will, for the seventh consecutive race, be occupied by reigning World Champion Casey Stoner tomorrow, with the Ducati Marlboro rider completing his clean sweep of practice session outings at Misano.
Stoner had to dig deep for the honor of leading off the Gran Premio Cinzano di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, fighting back against some tough rivals on his final lap of the Saturday afternoon qualifying session. The Australian got back into his stride in the final two splits of the Misano circuit, with his 1´33.378 too much for even his most persistent challengers to match.
Half a second separated Stoner and World Championship leader Valentino Rossi’s fastest times on qualifying rubber, although the latter had been poised for a popular home pole until the last minute of the run. Rossi will start from second on the grid for the third race in a row, an important placing if he is to catch his hitherto uncatchable rival.
Stoner also extends his lead in the BMW M Award, having picked up his latest Tissot watch as a pole position prize. He will not, however, be placing the timepiece on his wrist anytime soon, with his wrist heavily bandaged and braced to protect a scaphoid fracture.
Jorge Lorenzo returns to the front row for the first time since the Portuguese round in Estoril back in April, third on the grid alongside Fiat Yamaha teammate Rossi. The Spaniard had laid down some fierce lap times during the qualifying session, something that will please not just himself and his team but also tire manufacturer Michelin.
Randy de Puniet just missed out on the front row with his LCR Honda RC212V, the fastest rider for the Japanese factory. He is joined by Alice Team’s resurgent Spaniard Toni Elias and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa on the second line.
Chris Vermeulen, Shinya Nakano and James Toseland will be just behind the trio when the lights go out at Misano on Sunday afternoon.
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