Nancy Knapp Schilke
On his final hot lap, Jorge Lorenzo grabbed the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix out of the hands of Casey Stoner by a mere 0.074 seconds breaking the MotoGP record with a time of 1:20.554. It was the Yamaha Factory Team’s rider fourth consecutive pole at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The usual free practice before qualifying saw little activity due to the fog that rolls in due to the proximity of the Pacific Ocean. The wet thick fog did not burn off as fast as it usually does. Thus the teams’ usual setup for qualifying, and the race, was hindered.
"I knew Casey and Dani were going to try and take pole but I really wanted it here in America so I tried my best for Yamaha. I pushed to the limit, especially in the last corner, I was at full lean and opened the throttle really soon. In my first two tries for a perfect lap there was a lot of traffic so I had to wait for the right moment. The important thing is tomorrow, pole position is nice but anyway the race is what counts,” Lorenzo said.
Repsol Honda’s Stoner nearly had the pole sewn up when he laid down a flying lap at 1:20.628 on the circuit near Monterey, California. The Australian’s teammate who was the star on Friday was not able to pull out the magic today with his best time of 1:20.90; 0.352 adrift of Lorenzo’s record setting hot lap.
"I'm disappointed as I think we definitely had the potential for pole position,” said Stoner who first was out on the hard tyre before switching to the soft ones. He added, “There was always a CRT bike in the way and considering we're 3-4 seconds a lap quicker than them, you come up on them pretty quick, no matter how big a gap you give them. Every lap was spoiled which is very frustrating as I really feel we could have been on pole but we'll have to settle for where we are.”
The standing start at the home of the famous corkscrew turn will be interesting as the three on the front row lead the championship points: Lorenzo, Pedrosa, and Stoner.
Pedrosa said, “We did a big job this afternoon, considering this morning, in my opinion, there was no meaning to go out with such track and weather conditions. I was a little upset at the end of the session as I wasn't able to improve my lap time, but happy anyway with another front row. The bike is working well and I'm pretty confident for the race.”
Yamaha rider Ben Spies was in the hunt for the pole when he crashed out of the action with at least 11 minutes on the clock. To the delight and surprise of the crowd, Spies checked his bike and himself before climbing back on his Yamaha to return to the circuit. He lost time, but the American rider finished the session. Spies will start on the second row with a lap time of 1:21.094; fourth on the grid.
Spies explained what went wrong: "I was feeling really good I just maybe didn’t let the right side of the tyre heat up to quite the right temperature and had a pretty big high side. Anyway we got back out and were able to do the same times as before the crash. I need to get some x-rays to check my heel as I took a big hit on it in the crash."
After his heavy crash on Friday, Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow was back up and running today and he too put on a performance. With his hot lap of 1:21.268, he slots fifth on his Yamaha.
Andrea Dovizioso did not have any drama today or yesterday, and again he put on a solid lap time to land his Tech 3 Yamaha on the second row with a time of 1:21.539.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista was seventh fastest followed by Nicky Hayden. The American placed his Ducati in the middle of the third row. Stefan Bradl was the surprise of the day by ending up ninth fastest after an opening lap that saw the LCR Honda rider go off the track into the gravel at the corkscrew.
While the Italian and American fans cheered him on, Valentino Rossi just barely made it into the top 10 on his Ducati.