It should not have surprised anyone to see a wet track for the qualifying session at Donington for the MotoGP British Grand Prix. The weather forecasts predicted it, last year's race was in the wet -- and this is Britain, after...
It should not have surprised anyone to see a wet track for the qualifying session at Donington for the MotoGP British Grand Prix. The weather forecasts predicted it, last year's race was in the wet -- and this is Britain, after all.
What was surprising, though, was the sheer dominance of Casey Stoner. The defending World Champion had set the fastest time in Friday's practice sessions as well, and today there was no touching the Australian's performance. Stoner set a lap time of 1:38.232 on his Ducati, a stunning 0.649 seconds faster than Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi, the fastest of the challengers.
"We've always had a good setting with this bike for wet conditions," Stoner explained. "Obviously I'm happy to have set this pace in the wet and to be on pole position by such a margin but the most pleasing aspect for us so far this weekend has been the bike's performance in the dry yesterday."
Stoner was the class of the field throughout the session, dropping his times ever further, even when his rivals were well behind.
"The work we did at Barcelona has made it a lot easier to ride," he continued. "It's a lot smoother and that gave me confidence to push it in wet conditions, which is important. You can never trust the weather forecast here so we'll just sleep on it and see what we get in the morning."
Stoner needs a strong result in tomorrow's race, as he currently sits in fourth place in the championship standings, well back of Rossi and Dani Pedrosa.
In the meantime, Chris Vermeulen emphasized Suzuki's growing strength, putting his GSV-R on the outside of the first row, 0.137 seconds adrift of the five-time MotoGP champion. Like Stoner and Rossi, Vermeulen rode on Bridgestone tires, giving the Japanese manufacturer a lock of the front row for the first time since 2007.
Nicky Hayden took fourth on the grid for Repsol Honda, taking advantage of his new pneumatic-valve engine to easily beat out Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot Honda), though he was still over a second behind Stoner. Hayden, though, was the class of the Michelin runners.
With Anthony West taking seventh for Kawasaki, it will be seven different teams and five different manufacturers in the top seven spots, with the Tech 3 and JiR Team Scot mixing it up with the works teams.
Eighth was Ben Spies in his first-ever MotoGP qualifying session, on his second day ever at Donington, and on his first day riding a MotoGP bike in the wet. The young American, who is substituting for the injured Loris Capirossi at Rizla Suzuki, was looking to be a second faster today (than yesterday), but his plans were foiled by the rain. Still, eighth on the grid and the fastest of the second riders was an impressive performance in his maiden MotoGP qualifying session.
Pedrosa, who is currently Rossi's leading challenger for the title, was a tenth slower than Spies, and will start from the final third-row spot.
Notably James Toseland fell twice during the session, and the Englishman was unable to do better than sixteenth on the gird for his home Grand Prix.