Casey Stoner overcame a spill to earn Assen's pole - MotoGP photoEnlarge Photo
Thursday's delightful weather changed to intermittent showers for the MotoGP circuit's annual visit to The Netherlands for the Iveco Assen TT Grand Prix. Those difficult shower conditions on Friday caused delays throughout qualifying, but the track dried sufficiently with five minutes remaining to allow reigning champion Casey Stoner of Repsol Honda the opportunity to blast past teammate Dani Pedrosa and set the quickest qualifying time of 1:33.713, a full 0.115 seconds ahead of Pedrosa's 1:33.828. Jorge Lorenzo took the final spot on the front row with his Yamaha Factory Racing's time of 1:34.002, 0.288 seconds behind the Australian.
Stefan Bradl, who hadn't even seen the top 10 on Thursday vaulted to fourth on the LCR Honda at 1:34.035, followed by Thursday's top riders, Monster Tech3 Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow (1:34.486) beating Ben Spies' Yamaha Factory Racing at 1:34.644 to secure a spot on the second row. Row No. 3 consists of Andrea Dovizioso (Monster Tech3 Yamaha), Alvaro Bautista's San Carlo Gresini Honda and Nicky Hayden on the Ducati factory motorcycle. Teammate Valentino Rossi lies tenth on the second Ducati and top CRT qualifier is Power Electronics Aspar's Randy de Puniet, starting on the outside of the fourth row in 12th position.
Randy de Puniet was fastest of the CRT riders - MotoGP photoEnlarge Photo
After crashing heavily in the morning practice, Stoner admitted, "That was probably one of my biggest crashes, which is saying something! It really knocked the wind out of me; I hurt my head, neck, wrist, knee and shoulder. When we came back onto the soft rear tire for the first time since free practice 1, 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 need to work on this and make some decisions before the race," he said.
Pedrosa was pleased with his pace in both the practice and qualifying sessions, despite missing pole 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," he said. Lorenzo "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," he admitted. "Qualifying is one thing but the race is another; tire choice will be important for the race."
Rookie Bradl earned a best spot of fourth in only his seventh career MotoGP start: "Finally we put things together and had a very good qualifying, a very good lap time and a very god placement on the starting grid for tomorrow. I was not expecting this result because yesterday we were struggling a lot, but we remained concentrated," he said. Both Crutchlow and Spies cited traffic problems in the latter stages of qualifying for their performances, as both felt confident of front-row starts.
Will the weather continue to fluctuate in Assen and cause disruptions for Saturday's race? Can a hurt Stoner keep his momentum for an entire MotoGP contest - or for that matter, can Crutchlow? Those questions will be answered in tomorrow's Iveco Assen TT MotoGP.