Stoner lays claim to US GP pole

The "Corkscrew" didn't even stop Casey Stoner at the Laguna Seca circuit, home of the famous unique downhill run. Stoner continues on his good way in the the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) after claiming this afternoon ...

The "Corkscrew" didn't even stop Casey Stoner at the Laguna Seca circuit, home of the famous unique downhill run.

Stoner continues on his good way in the the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) after claiming this afternoon his second pole position in a row and looks like he is on a straight path to break the the jinx that has haunted the polesitters in the last 12 races.

The Australian set, onboard his Marlboro Ducati, a lap time of 1.22:292 to finish once again at the top of the times table. The four on-track activities that the MotoGP bikes have had so far, Stoner always ended as the fastest.

About what might happen on Sunday`s race, Stoner commented "We basically did at least race distance this morning, then we were pretty much using all the old tyres we had to get a better set-up for the last part of the race. We were still doing high 1m 22s on tyres with 32 or 33 laps on them, which isn't too bad, so I'm feeling pretty confident for tomorrow".

"On my out lap with my first qualifier I held up Dani [Pedrosa], I looked behind me and there were a bunch of riders waiting to get a tow, I didn't know who was going fast or slow, so my apologies. Then I made a big mistake going into turn six, I went up too many gears and ran in there with a little bit too much pace, so that run didn't really go to plan. I came back out with a second qualifying tyre, I wasn't feeling too confident because I'd had a couple of front tucks on the run before, but we managed to pull it off. The qualifying tyre was pretty good for two laps. I'm really happy", the standings leader added.

Second place belonged to Dani Pedrosa, who after winning last week the German Grand Prix in Sachsenring is in a great shape and with his seat almost confirmed for him to continue with Repsol Honda for 2008 is a plus for him.

"Today we improved the set-up a lot, which was the most important target of the day," Pedrosa mentioned.. "I'm also happy to be starting from the front row of the grid again because that's always an advantage and gives you a chance of getting in front in the first few laps".

"The race set-up we've found is not bad and we've got a good idea on the race tyres too so we'll just be making a few minor adjustments according to what we've learned today. Casey is looking very fast again so we'll just have to aim for a good start and see how the race runs - it should be exciting again", declared the Spaniard..

Pedrosa set 1.22:501 to complete the session at 0.209 from the pole position after 34 laps used during the qualifying.

Once again Suzuki is in good position with Chris Vermeulen taking third place with a time of 1.22:590 in the track known by it famous "Corkscrew".

"It's great to be on the front row of the grid again at Laguna. Like I've said before this is a circuit I really enjoy and the fans were great again here today. The team has done a fantastic job here all weekend and the bike and tyres are working really well", Vermeulen said.

"Unfortunately in the session I couldn't come to grips with the qualifying tyre and I did my quickest time on a race tyre. That is not good for qualifying, but good for the race that we have the pace in the tyres. I am really looking forward to the race tomorrow and we will go and give it 100% out there and see what we can do!"

The current World Champion, Nicky Hayden, showed good shape in his home Grand Prix clocking 1.22:624 to notch fourth place on the grid. This is a circuit the American knows very well and where he won two of his three victories in MotoGP.

"In the morning we made quite a lot of progress and put in some decent lap times. Thanks to Pete and the boys because they did an awesome job to improve things this morning. When the conditions change in the afternoon it seems to go away from me though and I'm a little way off with the race set-up," he revealed. "I really wanted to get a little higher in qualifying today and I think we had the bike and the tyres to do it - I just didn't get the most out of the package. I'm a little worried about the race because I seem to be struggling in the afternoons", Hayden commented.

Fifth spot was for Valentino Rossi and the Fiat Yamaha M1 in another qualifying in which the Italian finished far away from the fight to the pole position. Rossi comes from a retirement in Sachsenring after a fall, so has urgency to get a good result tomorrow, or at least cut some points with Stoner in the fight for the championship.

The session was red flagged after a high speed crash that had Italian Marco Melandri as the protagonist. The Gresini Honda rider clipped a slowing Kurtis Roberts after taking a corner with just over ten minutes gone in the qualifying session, when in second position on the timesheet behind Stoner.

Melandri veered off track at high speed before tumbling across the gravel violently - while his 800cc Honda RC212V smashed into the nearby safety barriers.

At first Melandri looked to be in considerable discomfort but after being taken to Clinica Mobile for assessment, he was cleared to continue participating in the Grand Prix weekend and was back on track on a replacement bike with 25 minutes of the re-started qualifying practice still remaining.

In a different order of things, the confirmed entrance for MotoGP of a Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has left Turkey off the calendar for 2008 season.

The race at the Brickyard will be the second event of the year held in US for MotoGP, adding to the one in Laguna Seca.

For the fans in the States, they should know that -- even though the calendar is still provisional -- the race in Laguna Seca will be on July 20th and the MotoGP debut at IMS has September 14th as date.

The start of the season of 18 Grand Prix events will be on March 9th at Qatar and the season close in Valencia, Spain, on November 2nd.

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Kurtis Roberts , Nicky Hayden , Valentino Rossi , Chris Vermeulen , Marco Melandri , Casey Stoner , Dani Pedrosa