By: Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Reigning MotoGP Champion heads front row despite massive crash this morning
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo blitzed the opposition in today’s qualifying session for round ten of this year’s MotoGP Championship at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California. The Spaniard set his fastest time of 1m 21.202s on his last lap during the hour-long session and was also sitting on top of the timing sheets for the majority of the session.
Lorenzo had a major crash in this morning’s third free practice session where he suffered a massive highside after a practice start. Nevertheless Lorenzo left Clinica Mobilé after receiving treatment for his injuries, none of which serious enough to count him out of the session, and went on to dominate the qualifying hour with a superhuman effort to top the timing sheets ahead of Repsol Honda teammates Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
Following the crash this morning Lorenzo was surprised with his pace in qulifying but was equally happy with the pole position. “This pole position was unexpected for us after this morning, but thankfully I feel more pain walking than I do riding the bike. Of course I’m not in perfect condition on the bike and for sure I have to put more pressure on my arms and will get more tired. I think I was very lucky this morning that I had no big injuries. I think this pole position is for us an impressive result,” he said.
This pole position was unexpected for us after this morning.
While Lorenzo pushed through the pain barrier to position his YZR-M1 onto the top spot, Stoner was struggling with the set up of his RC212V despite finishing second with a 1m 21.274s lap. The Australian was playing catch-up for the majority of the session and swapped places a number of times with teammate Pedrosa (1m 21.385s) who sits in third after a good qualifying session for the Spaniard who is coming off the back of a win last time out at the Sachsenring in the German GP.
Stoner spoke about his machines set-up and the work he and his team had to do to catch up with Lorenzo. “For the whole session we were trying to find the right set up. All weekend we've been struggling a little and we've not found anything I'm comfortable with, I've closed the front many times and we're still looking to find some balance on the bike to get it working on this track, where we expected it to work well. On my first soft tyre I encountered some traffic and was held up, also there was a crash and a yellow flag so I lost my chance on that tyre.
“Then on the next soft tyre we had one lap to find some pace and we managed front row which is important for tomorrow. I don't feel we're running with the pace of Dani and Jorge, they seem to be constantly one to two tenths quicker but we have warm up tomorrow morning to find something in time for the race so we'll see what we can do,” Stoner added.
Pedrosa was also chasing set-up in today’s qualifying session and is hoping to find something extra ahead of the race saying, “We couldn't improve as much as I'd like to in the final part of the practice, we tried some different settings and unfortunately we didn't find a good one, but to start from the front row is always important and here we are again. I felt more comfortable with the hard tyres, which it's positive because they will be the ones used for the race, but we still need to make another step forward tomorrow and hopefully find a little more grip in the rear.”
Pedrosa admitted his fellow countryman is the man to best this weekend, “Lorenzo seems very stable and fast, so I hope to find something else with my mechanics tonight and to be able to fight for a great result tomorrow. The race will be very fast, there are many laps here, so it will be important to be focus on every lap and stay strong until the end. I know the race distance will be hard for me physically, you have to work a lot in this track, there are a lot of bumps and you need to be very focused not to make any mistakes. But I will try my best and I hope to stay strong and consistent until the end.”
Joining the battle for the top spot was American Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) who sat in provisional pole for a short time before the top three riders managed to stretch out a small gap to Spies, who will have to be content with fourth and the bragging rights of being the top home rider. Pushing hard for pole position in front of his home fans, Spies was on mission, only to crash near the end of the session but his time of 1m 21.578s was still enough to give him a 4th place start tomorrow.
Spies starts tomorrow’s race ahead of Italian rider Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) who set a best time of 1m 21.696s to sit in the middle of the second row and just ahead of 6th position man Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honnda) who was solid throughout the hour and setting a best time of 1m 21.731s. The third row will be headed by seven time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi on his Ducati Marlboro and the Italian only set his best time of 1m 22.235s on his final attempt after spending most of the session out of the top ten.
Rossi grabs back the bragging rights of top Ducati rider but only just after Mapfre Aspar rider Barbera put his GP11 in 8th position on a time of 1m 22.238s to start tomorrow’s race ahead of Nicky Hayden on his Ducati Marlboro machine. Hayden could only manage a best time of 1m 22.271s to finish 9th fastest on front of his home fans. The final spot in the top ten went to Cal Crutchlow who had a small return to form on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 with a time of 1m 22.385s and ahead of his teammate Colin Edwards who was also looking for a strong performance on front of the partisan crowd but Edwards couldn’t achieve better than a time of 1m 22.520s to sit in 11th.
Rizla Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista starts tomorrow’s race in 12th after a tough qualfying session that saw the Spanish rider crash out in the session while pushing for a faster time than what turned out to be his best of 1m 22.669s. Bautista starts the race ahead of Cardion AB Motoracing rider Karel Abraham with his best time of 1m 22.893s. Hiroshi Aoyama continues his woes on the San Carlo Honda Gresini machine and starts tomorrow’s race in 14th with a time of 1m 22.937s to finish the session just ahead of Randy de Puniet (1m 22.961s) on the Pramac Racing Ducati.
Loris Capirossi returns to action this weekend but only managed to finish in the lowly position of 16th on a best time of 1m 23.876s. The veteran Italian rider finished ahead of Toni Elias (1m 24.156s) on his LCR Honda while Elias’s teammate for this weekend, wildcard entry Ben Bostrom, starts his first ever MotoGP race in 18th spot.