Casey Stoner photo courtesy BridgestoneEnlarge Photo
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner continues to conquer Spain, earning pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix of Catalunya, round No. 5 in the MotoGP championship. Reigning (and soon to be retiring) world champ Stoner has won every Spanish race over the past 12 months and secured his second pole of the season and 40th of his career (36 in MotoGP) with his final lap of 1:41.295.
On a sweltering Saturday afternoon he beat Spain's own Jorge Lorenzo to the top spot, the Yamaha Factory Racing rider just more than a tenth down (1:41.441) from the Australian, who said he'd likely revert to a hard tire for wear purposes during the Sunday race. Rounding out the front row is Monster Tech3 Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow (1:41.548), equaling his best MotoGP start and hoping to convert into his first MotoGP podium. Nearly every rider opted for Bridgestone's soft tire for qualifying.
The second row belongs to Yamaha Factory Racing's Ben Spies, the American showing renewed form in fourth place, Dani Pedrosa's Repsol Honda and the second Monster Tech3 Yamaha of Andrea Dovizioso. Nicky Hayden's Ducati Team motorcycle, the LCR Honda of Stefan Bradl and Valentino Ross's Ducati take up the third row. Tenth on the grid belongs to a disappointed Alvaro Bautista, who was second-quick in Friday practice and slowed by an electronic issue. Randy de Puniet is the quickest of the CRT riders on the Power Electronics Aspar in 13th place, one ahead of Colin Edwards' NGM Mobile Forward Racing Suter.
Using qualifying as an extended practice session Stoner noted following the qualifying session, "In these hot conditions we worked more with the softer tire to get a clearer understanding if we can run with it for race distance. I think we need to make another step before the race," he said. "Tomorrow, for sure tire degradation is going to play a role so we're going to have to wait and see, but I'm happy to start from pole."
As might be expected for his home race, "It was very important to finish on the front row today because I knew all the riders would be pushing to the limit in qualifying," Lorenzo admitted. "The lap times were very close but I managed to make a good lap. We still need a little good feeling on the front; we are struggling on some corners so we need to improve the feeling or it's going to be difficult in the race."
Crutchlow, too, used a soft Bridgestone to set his quick time on only his second trip to the Catalunya racetrack. "I expected to be up there challenging but wasn't sure where, and my crew did another fantastic job with the bike today. It proves again," the Brit stated, "that I've got the raw speed and consistency and now I am really looking forward to the race. It will be really tough if the conditions are the same but I am ready for it!"