Set to run a tribute livery to Lupin III, `the Gentleman Thief´ on Sunday, Jorge Lorenzo stole the show at Motegi with a new pole position record. When all eyes were on Fiat Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi and reigning World Champion Casey Stoner at the A-Style Grand Prix of Japan, Lorenzo tore up the script in qualifying for a fourth pole position of his rookie MotoGP season.
On course for pole in the final minutes of the Saturday afternoon session, the Spaniard pulled another hot lap from up his sleeve to record a blistering 1´45.543 time in the final seconds of the afternoon run. Having stepped onto the podium every time that he has taken off from the front row –including at the last two races- Lorenzo is a favorite for a spot on the rostrum at the track where he has only finished in the top three on one occasion.
Ducati rider Stoner will start from the front row for the ninth consecutive race, knowing that he could lose the title on Sunday afternoon. The Australian elected against a late attempt at beating Lorenzo’s marker, not emerging from his garage in the final minutes of the session.
Stoner’s future Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden was the highest qualifying Honda rider for his Japanese manufacturer’s home race, completing the frontline. The American made it two Michelin riders on the front row at a track singled out as a Bridgestone track.
World Championship leader Rossi was the first rider outside half a second of teammate Lorenzo’s time, and will start from the head of the second row. The Italian could be crowned 2008 titlist tomorrow with a podium finish, whatever happens to his rivals.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, another rider with a mathematical possibility of taking the title, will line up alongside Rossi, with the race winner from the past three years at Motegi –Loris Capirossi- rounding off a star-studded second line. Colin Edwards, Randy de Puniet and Shinya Nakano make up the third row for the A-Style Grand Prix of Japan.
Alex de Angelis had a late crash in the session, leaving his bike on the racing line, but it was quickly removed and both he and his fellow riders were unaffected by the incident.
QUALIFYING 1 Jorge LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha Team Yamaha 1'45.543 2 Casey STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team Ducati 1'45.831 3 Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1'45.971 4 Valentino ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team Yamaha 1'46.060 5 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1'46.303 6 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Suzuki 1'46.450 7 Colin EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha Yamaha 1'46.496 8 Randy DE PUNIET FRA LCR Honda MotoGP Honda 1'46.554 9 Shinya NAKANO JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda 1'46.616 3 10 James TOSELAND GBR Tech 3 Yamaha Yamaha 1'46.863 11 John HOPKINS USA Kawasaki Racing Team Kawasaki 1'46.888 12 Chris VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Suzuki 1'46.904 13 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA JiR Team Scot MotoGP Honda 1'46.907 14 Toni ELIAS SPA Alice Team Ducati 1'46.958 15 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA Alice Team Ducati 1'47.400 16 Marco MELANDRI ITA Ducati Marlboro Team Ducati 1'47.475 17 Anthony WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team Kawasaki 1'47.669 18 Alex DE ANGELIS RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda 1'47.680 19 Kousuke AKIYOSHI JPN Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Suzuki 1'48.671
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