David C. Schilke
Casey Stoner completely dominated today’s qualifying at the historic Indianapolis circuit with a new record laptime of 1.38.850, almost a full second quicker than the standing record set by Dani Pedrosa in 2009. The 2.621 mile course was resurfaced for the 2011 Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, smoothing out key bumps that slowed the riders down last year. While the track is certainly faster this year the surface is still green and hasn’t settled in with a good layer of rubber, leaving the field still uncertain if their qualifying setting will be any good for tomorrow's race. “I think there’s going to be a lot different race than what we’ve seen in qualifying,” said Stoner.
"I'm very happy with Pole here in Indy," smiled Stoner, "the team have been doing a great job under difficult conditions this weekend, but the race is tomorrow and we will keep working right up until the last moment to try and get the set up right. Obviously without the bumps from previous years the track is performing a lot better, but the lack of consistency in the grip levels are causing issues, everyone is loosing the front and it doesn't give you a lot of confidence, when you hit these patches the bike just seems to drop away from you."
Yet the new surface is only part of the story to Stoner’s pace, as the Australian is over half a second ahead of second placed qualifier Ben Spies. The American was the biggest threat to the Honda of Stoner yet in the end a front row start is the best Spies could manage for his home crowd. “We have a chance but we have to be perfect and not make any mistakes,” said Spies on tomorrow’s race.
"The last couple of laps we tried our hardest to catch Casey but with five minutes to go I think I ripped my tank spacer off that holds me back on the bike which didn’t help. I wasn’t disappointed as I knew we had a gap to fourth so we’d be on the front row. It wasn’t the perfect session and Casey was just too fast, added the Tennessean.
Jorge Lorenzo managed to push his way into third in the closing quarter of the qualifying session. For much of the weekend the Spaniard had been playing catch up to the Hondas and his Yamaha teammate Spies. Yet when it counted the reigning champ made his way onto the first row, pushing Dani Pedrosa to fourth.
“Qualifying was much better than the other three practices so far this weekend," commented Lorenzo. "I improved a lot and had a lot more confidence with the front, we changed one bike completely which worked. We are much more confident for tomorrow now. I would like to be closer to Casey, but seven tenths is better than one second and a half. It’s going to be a very tough race for everybody. The front tyre, especially on the left side is graining from the fourth lap so it’s going to be a complicated ride. Let’s see what happens.”
Along with Pedrosa is Andrea Dovizioso and American rider Colin Edwards, just edging Marco Simoncelli from the sixth spot. It was a much more disappointing day for Ducati as Nicky Hayden could only hold eighth on the third row while Valentino Rossi settled for 14th after having an early spill on his primary bike.
"We took a nice step forward this morning that we hoped to confirm in qualifying, and instead I fell right away," explained Rossi. "We really could have done without that crash, but the front closed right when I touched the brake. From there, the whole session was difficult because the second bike had a slightly different setup. I lost one pair of new tyres and I had to start with a set of used ones. I wasn’t able to get back the feeling from this morning, when the bike felt better and I could push harder. It’s really a shame because we wanted to try to start from the second row again, like at Brno, and instead we’ll have to work hard tomorrow. Anyway, we’ll give our best effort in the race because we weren’t so far off this morning.”