By Gordon Hatch - MotoGP correspondent
- Stoner snags pole from teammate
- Pedrosa loses pole by .158 seconds
- Lorenzo keeps Yamaha in the contest
Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa secure first two spots on the grid for MotoGP Round 2 at Jerez, Spain.
Repsol Honda riders Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa have once again left the MotoGP paddock astonished at their out-of-this-world pace after they left the rest of the field behind in a near flawless qualifying session for the second round of the 2011 MotoGP Championship at the Jerez circuit in Spain. The two riders are already under last year's pole position lap of 1m 39.202s - that, in fact, was set by Pedrosa.
We're struggling a little to get the balance of the bike where I want it.
Stoner and Pedrosa battled it out against each other for the hour-long session that saw track temperatures rising and causing an unusual large number of crashes at the Spanish circuit and while Pedrosa leading the majority of the session even with a newly diagnosed problem in his left shoulder, it was Stoner who pushed passed his teammate at the end setting a time of 1m 38.757s against Pedrosa's 1m 38.915s.
Oddly enough, Stoner was not happy with his bike but he was glad he did get the pole. "The qualifying result was good but as for using the rest of the session and setting the bike up, we weren't totally happy with what we achieved and lost some time. We're struggling a little to get the balance of the bike where I want it," said the Aussie.
Pedrosa who looked to be the favorite for the pole at his homeland venue commented, "To be on the front row is always very important and second is a good place to start the race. I would like to improve the bike a little bit, especially on the third section of the track, the only place where I lose some tenths. It would help to have better braking and exit of the corners there. It's been tough with the shoulder - in fact this morning I decided to only do a few laps to not stress the arm so much."
Reigning MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo (1m 38.918s) was chasing the Honda pairing for most of the hour but the No. 1 factory Yamaha rider was able to push harder nearer the end of the session to split the RC212V's but right at the end Pedrosa grabbed second place back from the Mallorcan by just .003.
"I pushed the maximum from the first lap and improved my lap time from this morning. We were one of the few to improve with the tougher conditions when the track was worse," Lorenzo said while continuing, "When we put the soft tyres in we managed to make a 1'38.9 lap which is a good time and we were only some milliseconds from Dani and less than two tenths from Casey. We are confident for tomorrow and we are pushing for a podium, if the opportunity arises then we will go for a victory."
Lorenzo's teammate Ben Spies was experiencing a number of issues with the set up of his YZR-M1 and crashed in the qualifying session but despite being out of the top ten a number of times already this week, the Texan gritted his teeth and with a soft rear tyre at the end of the session he set a time of 1m 39.390s to take fourth place.
The top four were well ahead of the rest of the field as they have been for most of the weekend and chasing the leaders to start in fifth place tomorrow was San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli (1m 39.486s) who continues to heavily impress this week and at round one in Qatar.
Following Simoncelli was the third Repsol Honda rider, Andrea Dovizioso who, like Spies, has been having an off weekend and struggling to set his RC212V like his two teammates. 'Dovi' showed true determination though and saved some face when he set a time of 1m 39.709s to secure the sitch and final spot on the second row.
The best of the Ducatis that did not come in the form of seven-times MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi on the Marlboro Ducati who had a disastrous session when he crashed early on, but by Randy de Puniet on the Pramac Racing Ducati setting a best time of 1m 39.892s to start tomorrow's race in 7th place.
Finishing in eighth place was the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards with a time of 1m 39.895s. Edwards also crashed near the end of the hour but the Texan was his usual jolly self and delighted the crowd with his gestures after dropping the bike at turn three.
Edwards was followed closely by his teammate, rookie Cal Crutchlow who has got to grips with his YZR-M1 quicker this weekend than in Qatar where he was battling with a few injuries. Much to the delight of his whole team and team principal Herve Poncharal, Crutchlow set a time of 1m 40.019s to take ninth spot ahead of a number of highly experienced MotoGP riders.
The British rider finished ahead of the second San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Hiroshi Aoyama (1m 40.168s) who was higher up earlier on in the session after he appeared hurt when the rear Bridgestone of his RC212V hit his left leg when he was at a high rate of speed. The Japanese rider required assistance by the marshals to get lifted out of the gravel.
Starting from 11th place tomorrow will be the first of the Marlboro Ducatis belonging to Nicky Hayden who has continued his form from this time last year where his bike didn't gel with the Jerez tarmac and the GP11 is performing much the same this year with Hayden setting a time of 1m 40.175s.
Hayden finished ahead of his teammate Valentino Rossi who has been pushing harder and harder on his GP11 and while the Italian enjoyed the brief satisfaction of being the third fastest overall rider in Friday's combined practice times, he appeared to punch too hard today and lost the front in a high speed crash that left 'The Doctor' unhurt but unable to get his second bike set up correctly enough to get up to speed once again. Rossi starts tomorrow's race in 12th position with his best time of 1m 40.175s.
Following behind Rossi was fellow Ducati rider Hector Barbera for the Mapfre Aspar team setting a time of 1m 40.217s and he was closely followed by substitute Suzuki rider John Hopkins who is standing in for Alvaro Bautista after breaking his left leg in Qatar. Hopkins has done well to get to grips with the GSV-R and managed to take 14th position with a best time of 1m 40.310s.
Hopkins even managed to get ahead of veteran rider Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing) who has not been able to get his Ducati GP11 up to speed around the Jerez circuit and 'Capirex' will start in 15th with a lap time of 1m 40.523s ahead of Czech rookie Karel Abraham on his Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati who also crashed when he pushed too far halfway through the session. Nevertheless, Abraham kept his head down to set his time of 1m 40.601s to finish ahead of last place man Toni Elias (1m 41.114s) on his LCR Honda who continues to struggle to some to terms with his bike.
Tomorrow is race day and as always, the Spanish riders look to be the favorites but one cannot count out Stoner who admitted, "... we still need to finish the race tomorrow and I will fight for a podium position and hopefully the race victory, but I never underestimate the Spanish riders. They find something extra for this race and they are very hard to beat".