DERBY, ENGLAND, JUNE 21: Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner stormed to the pole position in the rain-sodden MotoGP qualifying session at Donington Park in Derby, England.
Stoner controlled the session for almost the entire hour, with his times falling as the session ran out. It was in the final minutes that he was at his best, setting his three fastest laps in a row with the quickest coming on his final tour of the 2.5-mile circuit in the British East Midlands.
The lap time that gave the world champion his second pole of the season was a 1:38.232, a time that was best by .559 seconds.
“Yeah, well, we’ve always had a reasonably good set-up for the wet conditions, so we’ve found a little bit extra today and we were able to get a really good rhythm and really good feeling,” Stoner said. “In the dry, it’s the biggest surprise for myself and I think for everybody is that we’ve really we made a big step forward in the Catalunya test and we’re able to run a lot faster times now. So the bike’s a lot easier to ride, it’s a lot smoother and we can sort of ride how we want it to now. So they’re very, very comfortable at the moment.”
Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi stole second from Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen with his final lap. Vermeulen was among the many crashers in the morning session on a track he says is “really, really slippery in the wet.” The Australian crashed in turn one and he didn’t return to the track, “So I missed a lot of wet time. These two guys were a bit too quick for us today.”
Rossi said he was happy to be on the front row with Stoner and Vermeulen who “are very fast in these conditions. And also because we improve a lot compared to this morning, that we had some problems. We know that the Bridgestone tires have a great potential in the wet, but this morning I was not able to ride like I want. And together with the team, we set our Yamaha better and this afternoon I have a good feeling with the bike, flowing in to the corners.
“And I have also fun, because coming better and better. I stay always in front, but especially near the end I was able to do a good lap. And the second position is crucial for the race of tomorrow. Now we are just to wait for the weather conditions.”
The current forecast for Sunday’s British Grand Prix is partly cloudy, with moderate winds, and temperatures in the mid-60’s.
Bridgestone riders took the top three spots, a complete turn-around from this morning’s wet session when Michelin riders were one-two-three.
In the afternoon the Michelin men were relegated to the second row. Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden was the fastest among them with a best lap of 1:39.270 on the pneumatic valve Honda RC212V. Hayden was second into the final three minutes before Rossi and Vermeulen set him back.
Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards was fifth, with JiR Team Scot MotoGP’s Andrea Dovizioso sixth.
Row three was led off by Kawasaki’s rain master Anthony West. Next came MotoGP debutante Ben Spies (Rizla Suzuki), who will start his first MotoGP race from a very creditable eighth place. Spies ran as high as third in the morning session and was mostly in the top ten in the afternoon.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa qualified ninth.
The afternoon session claimed far less riders than the morning session, though one rider fell in both. Tech 3 Yamaha’s James Toseland added to his morning misery with a second crash coming onto the front straight late in qualifying. He was quickly up and going before a much more violent high-side exiting the Old Hairpin. The M-1 bucked him off the right side, sending England’s best hope to the wet tarmac while the bike ghost rode to an ungentle landing.
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:38.232
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:38.881
3. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 1:39.018
4. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 1:39.270
5. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:39.601
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:39.783
7. Anthony West (Kawasaki) 1:39.995
8. Ben Spies (Suzuki) 1:40.244
9. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:40.350
10. Shinya Nakano (Honda) 1:40.417
11. John Hopkins (Kawasaki) 1:40.539
12. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 1:40.595
13. Alex de Angelis (Honda) 1:40.667
14. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 1:41.110
15. Marco Melandri (Ducati) 1;41.379
16. James Toseland (Yamaha) 1:41.751
17. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:41.873
18. Toni Elias (Ducati) 1:42.933