By: Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
- Repsol Honda 1-2 in qualifying
- Stoner on pole, Pedrosa 2nd
- Yamaha's Lorenzo on front row
- Rossi has a bad day in Germany
Stoner tops stunning Sachsenring qualifying for German Grand Prix pole
Repsol Honda claims one, two ahead of reigning champion Lorenzo
Casey Stoner claimed his sixth pole position of this year’s MotoGP Championship at today’s qualifying session for the eni Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland after a simply stunning, and somewhat shocking hour-long session at the Sachsenring circuit that saw an unprecedented event in the form of seven time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi qualifying second last on his Ducati Marlboro GP11.1.
Stoner once again left his rivals in his wake as he set consecutive fastest laps in his typical, short-bust qualifying tactics and all Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo could do was to secure a front row start alongside the Australian ahead of tomorrow’s race.
I'm very happy and positive...
The session started under warm conditions that would prove to change riding conditions somewhat with more grip coming from the rear Bridgestone tyres today than that of yesterday where Stoner and other frontrunners were calling for more grip from the Japanese tyre manufacturer. Today’s conditions definitely suited Stoner more as he proved on track to set a pole topping time of 1m 21.681s.
Despite claiming pole Stoner was calculating in his post-qualifying press briefing, “After the crash on Friday my confidence was dented a little and we struggled to get enough data, so we've been playing catch up all day today. This morning we made a few small steps forward but not really enough, the guys in front of us were just consistently that little bit faster and we were finding it hard to match their pace. We completed a lot of laps on one tyre this morning, in fact over race distance on a tyre I did one of my fastest laps on so this was certainly positive.
“Then this afternoon we kept trying different directions on both bikes and every step we made on each bike, we took big steps forward so we're pretty happy with the set up we have now. The lap times are very close here so it will be a tough race and hard to take any real advantage. However, I'm very happy and positive we can still slightly improve tomorrow morning so thanks to all my team for a great job,” Stoner added.
Pedrosa was looking more like his old self today after having a long lay-off after double surgery on his collarbone following his tangle with San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli at the French GP in Le Mans earlier in the year. The Spaniard put in a Trojan effort to come away with second position after registering his fastest time of 1m 21.933s.
“It's great to be on the front row again, to be honest I didn't expect it. But we've done a good job and it's important to start in front here because the first corner is very tight and it's better to avoid being immersed in the group at the start,” said a content Pedrosa while continuing, “For the race, we still need to improve the bike a little, so we will work on that with the mechanics this evening. It would be nice to have a little more traction. I think we will need to pay attention to Yamaha at the end of the race because the riding is smoother and they can save the tyres better.”
Speaking about his fitness level Pedrosa added, “As for my condition, right now the races are physically hard for me, but it's also true that with more left hand corners in this circuit I don't suffer as in Mugello and I can concentrate on my riding. More than pain, I feel weak from lack of training, but we will give our maximum hoping to get a good result.”
Lorenzo was stalking Stoner during the session and led the 2007 champion for a period before falling behind in the latter stages and it wasn’t until in the dying seconds that he crossed the line to grab third position away from Simoncelli with the defending champion setting a time of 1m 21.944s.
Speaking about his last gasp effort to get onto the front row Lorenzo said, “It’s been a strong weekend so far. I’ve never felt great on this track but this weekend I’m riding fast and feeling comfortable. It was a pity at the end of qualifying that the soft tyre didn’t improve anything so much. In the end I couldn’t make pole position but I think third position on the front row is a good place to start tomorrow for the race; I got it by just 0.010! Casey is very strong but I hope to be ready to fight for the victory with him. I think the fans will see a great race as there are a lot of riders who can fight for the win.”
Simoncelli shows no signs of losing his super pace on his Honda RC212V and led the session in the early stages ahead of the Repsol Hondas. The Italian rider looked to be on target for another front row start with his time of 1m 21.954s only to see it snatched away from him by bitter rival Lorenzo. Simoncelli heads the second row ahead of Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies who had one or two scares in today’s session but nevertheless the American held his nerve to seal 5th spot with his time of 1m 22.056s.
Third of the Repsol Honda riders Andrea Dovizioso claimed the last spot on the second row after being near the top three riders during qualifying and despite pushing his RC212V to the limit he couldn’t do better than a time of 1m 22.157s. Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards put in a great effort to seal 7th on his YZR-M1 with a time of 1m 22.368s ahead of his fellow countryman Nicky Hayden on his Ducati Marlboro GP11. Hayden once again is flying the flag for his Ducati team and starts in the middle of the third row with a time of 1m 22.388s.
Sitting in 9th position is another Ducati rider Frenchman Randy de Puniet on his Pramac Racing GP11 with a time of 1m 22.503s. De Puniet starts just ahead of Rizla Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista who performed brilliantly today on his GSV-R and at one stage the Spaniard was as high as sixth spot. Bautista’s time of 1m 22.604s was enough to seal 10th spot on the grid. Following Bautista into 11th was Hector Barbera on his Mapfre Aspar Ducati GP11, the Spaniard clearly being motivated by his countryman’s pace eventually set a best time of 1m 22.676s.
Next up in 12th position is British rookie Cal Crutchlow on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 who was very brave in his pursuit of a quick time and after crashing out at the bottom of the infamous Waterfall turn, Crutchlow, had to be content with his best time 1m 22.676s. Crutchlow was uninjured in the crash but is still recovering from a broken collarbone.
Cardion AB Motoracing rider Karel Abraham starts tomorrow’s race in 13th position on a time of 1m 23.164s and the Czech Republic rider gains in confidence with ever session and performance today saw him as high as 7th at one stage. LCR Honda’s Toni Elias starts in 14th place after registering his best time of 1m 23.201s ahead of San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Hiroshi Aoyama who set a best time of 1m 23.248s.
All but one of the names at the bottom of the list caused a surprise today, a big surprise. Valentino Rossi had the worst qualifying session of his year so far today with the Italian seemingly lost in not knowing what to day to make the hybrid GP11.1 to go any faster around the German track. Rossi, who is without his Crew Chief Jeremy Burgess this weekend as like last time out at Mugello, will start from a shocking 16th place after setting a time of 1m 23.320s. Sylvain Guintoli who is deputising for injured Loris Capirossi and the Pramac Racing team starts tomorrow’s race in last and 17th position with a time of 1m 24.707s.