Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Rain affected qualifying session plays havoc with teams and bike set up
Casey Stoner grabbed pole position in the dying minutes of today’s qualifying session ahead of the Iveco TT of Assen in Holland that takes place tomorrow in its traditional Saturday slot. Stoner stormed into the top spot following an hour of stop start riding at the iconic Dutch circuit that saw light rain falling on track at various times throughout. With the rain not heavy enough to justify wet tires but just dry enough for slicks, the riders weren’t able to get a good rhythm going in the session as was the same this morning.
“The team did a really great job, they kept their heads down even when I wasn't riding to my full potential.
Despite a big highside crash this morning after apparently being caught out by rain on the track, Stoner recorded a blinding lap of 1m 33.713s on his Repsol Honda RC213V giving him his third pole position this year while his teammate Dani Pedrosa ended the day in second place with a best of 1m 33.828s and current championship leader Jorge Lorenzo in third for the Yamaha Factory Racing team with his best lap of 1m 34.001s.
LCR Honda rider and MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl put in a very strong performance to set the 4th fastest time of 1m 34.035s ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow in 5th with his best of 1m 34.486s while Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies securing the last place on the second row with his best time of 1m 34.644s after being in third place for some time. Starting from 7th tomorrow will be Andrea Dovizioso for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team (1'34.698s) with San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista in 8th on a time of 1m 34.722s despite a small crash.
The top Ducati comes in the form of Nicky Hayden for the Ducati Team with a best lap of 1m 34.751s and starting just behind his teammate is Valentino Rossi who wasn’t able to register a faster lap than that of 1m 35.057s with satellite Ducati rider Hector Barbera snapping at his heels in 11th on his Pramac Racing bike with a best lap of 1m 35.289s. Randy de Puniet was the top CRT qualifier on the day in 12th after setting a best time of 1m 35.830s with his Power Electronics Aspar teammate Aleix Espargaro in 13th on a time of 1m 36.007s.
Starting from 14th tomorrow will be Michele Pirro for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team (1m 36.647s) and rounding out row 5 is Mattia Pasini and the Speed Master team with a time of 1m 36.943s. Sitting in 16th on the starting positions is Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci on a best lap of 1m 36.967s. Karel Abraham (1m 37.110s) ended the day in 17th with the Cardion AB Motoracing rider still nursing his fingers that he broke testing at Aragon just under four weeks ago. Yonny Hernandez starts in 18th tomorrow for his Avintia Blusens team with a best of 1m 37.191s with James Ellison in 19th for the Paul Bird Motorsport team with a best lap of 1m 37.281s while Ivan Silva starts from 20th for the Avintia Blusens team (1m 37.554s) with Colin Edwards in 21st for the NGM Forward Racing team setting a best time of 1m 38.305s
Stoner was very happy with his pole position despite being a little worse for wear following his heavy crash this morning. “This morning was probably one of my biggest crashes, which is saying something! The crash really knocked the wind out of me, I hurt my head, neck, wrist, knee and shoulder, it was a bad one for sure. The shoulder isn't too bad, in some of the faster corners it's tricky but my knee is the worst on the change of direction in the chicane and a few other places.
“The team did a really great job, they kept their heads down even when I wasn't riding to my full potential or the bike's full potential and when we were struggling to get the rear tire to work, they didn't give up. Then when we came back onto the soft rear tire for the first time since FP1, the bike had much more feeling and we were able to put together a fantastic lap and put it on pole. As far as race pace goes, we're still struggling and we need to work on this and make some decisions before the race. It's been a really strange day for us but hopefully we can be competitive tomorrow,” the reigning MotoGP Champion added.
Pedrosa ran on during his final lap ruining his chances of pole but remained upbeat with a second place start. He said, “We did a very good job in all the practice sessions and I'm happy with qualifying, even though I missed the pole position at the very end. The target was to be on the front row because the first corner here is very close and tight, and to work hard to get a good race pace, I think we did everything well. We improved the feeling with the front tyre a little and I'm really looking forward to confirm this in the race tomorrow. The times are very close again but the key point will be the race pace.
I feel good, the bike is working well and we just need to make the correct tyre choice, because the weather can be uncertain like it was in Silverstone. It looks like the soft tyre gives you a lot of potential but for the race distance we are not 100% sure, especially on the left side, which is softer. Here it is important to have good stability out of the corner and with the hard compound you get it, so we will need to wait and see what the conditions are like tomorrow and do the best in the race,” Pedrosa added.
Lorenzo was content with his front row lap time saying, “I tried my best in the last lap of qualifying but I made a little mistake in the last chicane on braking and lost a few tenths. I was surprised at Casey’s last lap; it was fantastic and so fast and Dani was also very close to him. We have a good position for tomorrow on the front row and we have a good race pace and I’m confident with the bike so I’m happy. Qualifying is one thing but the race is another, tyre choice will be important for the race.”