Gordon Hatch, MotoGP correspondent
Yamaha Factory Racing star heads the front row for season opener
Jorge Lorenzo stormed to the top under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit tonight and secured the first pole position of the new 1000cc MotoGP season for the Yamaha Factory Racing team ahead of reigning World Champion Casey Stoner on his Repsol Honda RC213V with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow having a stellar session and securing the final place on the front row.
I am really happy with tonight’s result.
Lorenzo and Stoner were the early pace setters and remained at the top of the timings and while Stoner was fastest for the first half of the hour-long session it was the Spaniard who went fastest in the final ten minutes and now sits in pole position for tomorrow’s Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar with a best lap of 1m 54.634s.
Lorenzo was very happy with his pole position and how his YZR-M1is working around the Losail circuit. "I am really happy with tonight’s result. I had to push more than 100% to make pole position but I pushed to the limit and managed to make a perfect lap. We still have to improve the power on the straight and our maximum speed but in the rest of the track the bike is working really well. Tomorrow will be a tough race and tyres will be very important I think. A big thank you to Yamaha and my team for giving me such a good bike!" Lorenzo said.
Stoner worked hard on set up for the race tomorrow and while being fastest for half of the session, he wasn’t able to better Lorenzo’s time and had to settle for second place with his best lap of 1m 54.855s. Crutchlow continued on his strong vein of form and at one stage he leaped ten places in one lap from 12th to 2nd only for Stoner to relegate him to the final place on the front row with a best lap of 1m 55.022s.
Stoner wasn't pleased with how his qualifying session worked out despite a front row start saying, "I'm not really happy with how qualifying went for us, it should have been a lot better especially on the soft tyre which we hadn't used all weekend. Last night we were happy with what we had improved and with the set up in general. Then tonight we tried to improve that set up and we just made it worse and worse. In the end we did a full circle and came back to what we had on Thursday night and we have huge chattering problems again.
"Now we have a lot of work to do to understand what's gone wrong and where the problem is before tomorrow. If we can make a big step forward in warm up then we can challenge for a podium and maybe fight for the win, but if the bike remains as it is at the moment, then we were going to be in for a long hard race," Stoner added.
Crutchlow had a huge grin on his face while speaking about his first ever front row start, "I'm really happy and I think we can go into the race now with a lot more confidence. It is a great feeling to be on the front row with Casey and Jorge because everybody is aware of how fast they are. It has felt like a long time coming to get a result like this but this is a fantastic reward for all the effort my Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew put in over the winter. They worked with me a lot to help me learn how to ride in MotoGP and tonight is a great pay-off. I'm happy with my performance but fair play to Jorge because he did a phenomenal job and that's an awesome lap time. But I always knew what I could do once we started putting the soft tyres in and I thought I'd have a crack at the front row.
"The big positive aside from my first front row in MotoGP is my race pace is going to be good enough to finish in the top six and that remains my goal. There's no doubt we are getting the absolute maximum out of the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 package and all I will do tomorrow night is try my best. I'd say per lap I am three or four-tenths off the pace Casey and Jorge are capable of, but that's a lot better than what it was last year," Crutchlow said.
Ben Spies starts tomorrow’s race from 4th position despite another crash during qualifying, but nevertheless the American rider set a best time of 1m 55.512s and heads the second row ahead of his fellow countryman Nicky Hayden for the Ducati Team on his best lap of 1m 55.637s with Andrea Dovizioso (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in 6th place with a best lap of 1m 55.858s.
Dani Pedrosa wasn’t his usual self during the qualifying session and was languishing outside the top ten for some time until recording a fastest lap of 1m 55.905s to start from 7th place tomorrow with fellow Spaniard Hector Barbera putting his Pramac Ducati machine in 8th place (1m 55.983s) and MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl starting his first ever MotoGP race in 9th place after setting a best lap of 1m 56.063s.
Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) set a best time of 1m 56.198s and starts from 10th place despite a small crash at the end of the session. Alvaro Bautista will start from 11th tomorrow with a lap of 1m 56.521s and one place ahead of Valentino Rossi for the Ducati Team with a best lap of 1m 56.813s and just ahead of the first Claiming Rule Team (CRT) bike in the hands of Colin Edwards for the NGM Forward Racing team on a lap of 1m 57.644s. Randy De Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) also crashed during qualifying but the Frenchman seemed unhurt and starts from 14th place with a best lap time of 1m 58.266s ahead of his teammate Aleix Espargaro on a best lap of 1m 58.520s with Yonny Hernandez Avintia Blusens close behind (1m 58.795s).
Michele Pirro set a time of 1m 59.085s on his San Carlo Honda Gresini machine ahead of Mattia Pasini (Speed Master) with a best lap of 1m 59.195s with the Italian also crashing out followed by Danilo Petrucci for the Came IodaRacing team with a lap of 1m 59.664s and the Italian lucky to walk away from a hard crash. James Ellison (Paul Bird Motorsport) also had a crash and starts from last place tomorrow with a best lap of 2m 0.757s.