INDIANAPOLIS, IN, AUG 28 – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookie Ben Spies took his first ever pole position with a sizzling lap of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while fellow American Nicky Hayden earned his first front row start of the season, and first front row ever on the Ducati Marlboro Desmosedici, by qualifying third.”To be pole, the first pole for me in front of the American crowd and here in Indy with all the history, it’s great,” Spies said. “And I’m glad for the Monster Tech 3 team. We made the announcement, obviously, Friday,” that he’d be moving to the Fiat Yamaha team next year, “so it’s kind of a monkey off my back and I feel a little bit more comfortable for the rest of the year, but also I’m trying to give as much as I can to them because they helped catapult me into that position.”We put it on the line, that last bit, and got it. To have, Nicky (Hayden) said, two Americans on the front row here is pretty incredible. I wouldn’t have thought it coming into the weekend, but to be able to do it. Now we just get a good start and give it everything we got and see what we can do, but I’ll enjoy today right now.”The lanky Texan was in the mix from the start, but saved his best for last. Spies took over the top spot with just under 13 minutes to run, with Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo moving into second seconds later, and at a gap of only .012 secs.Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden dropped Spies to second with his fast lap at the 7:30 mark, making it an American one-two.With just under three minutes to run Lorenzo took over, dropping Hayden to second. Spies was fastest through the early splits and stole the pole from Lorenzo with just over two minutes to go.The final two minutes were nail-biting for the home crowd, but nothing would change. Spies, who had his first ever front row at the previous Czech Grand Prix, now had his first pole. Lorenzo was second and Hayden third.”Yeah, it’s actually my first front row on Ducati period, so I mean, only took a year and half,” Hayden quipped. “You know, I’m happy for it. It’s really important here for the race. My race pace, if I’m going to try fight in the lead group, I’m not going to start seventh or eighth and start picking them off. I’ve got to be there at the start.”Soft tires, we put them in and it was a big jump. It was almost kinda like going to real qualifiers on the track. And the bike worked good and just thanks to the team. And two Americans on the front row is great for MotoGP in America and everybody who supports it and hopefully bring a big crowd tomorrow and put on a good show, so we’ll go for it.”Lorenzo admitted he was holding nothing back and that Spies was simply faster on the day.”Yeah, I pushed so hard to improve my lap time to get the pole position, but I couldn’t because the lap time of Ben (Spies) was amazing,” Lorenzo said. “He’s doing great things this year in MotoGP.”The Repsol Honda team of Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa were fourth and fifth, respectively, with Hayden’s teammate Casey Stoner sixth fastest.Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi’s qualifying session ended early when he crashed for the second time. He’d earlier crashed in the morning free practice. The problem both times were front fork compliance over the bumpy IMS surface. The qualifying crash came in turn six, the same corner that had claimed Stoner in the morning and Spies on Friday.Next to Rossi were Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards.The session began with the usual quick changes for the opening minutes until Lorenzo went to the top five minutes in, soon to be taken down by Aleix Espargaro, with Randy de Puniet moving into second.Then it was Simoncelli’s turn to go to the top as the riders completed their third flying lap and got up to speed. Still, there were a few seconds to be had.Stoner had a much better beginning to qualifying than he’d had in morning practice. Stoner took over the top spot, but quite briefly before Lorenzo reclaimed the position, then bettered his time on the next lap, the fourth.Stoner took it back near the 12 minute mark with Lorenzo taking it back seconds later. It was the sixth lap for both and they were still a second off the pace.Next to the front was Pedrosa, the first rider into the 1:40’s on his eighth lap near the 15 minute mark.The Americans weren’t on the pace in the early going. Spies was eighth, Hayden ninth, and Edwards 11th.The midpoint passed with Pedrosa in front of Lorenzo and Stoner, the latter two on a second strong run. Pedrosa’s time came from his eighth lap, while Lorenzo and Stoner had just done their fastest. Dovizioso was fourth in front of Rossi, Espargaro, Spies, and Edwards. Hayden was tenth.With 27 minutes to go, the hard, rather than the extra-hard, tires were coming off the warmers. The extra-hard would likely be the consensus race choice, but the slightly softer hard would be the one for the fast time.Rossi was among the first out on the softer option and moved from fifth to third. He was ahead of Pedrosa’s benchmark, but lost time in the final sector.Hayden moved into second with just over 20 minutes to run with a lap of 1:40.929 mins. The gap to Pedrosa was .055 secs., but Pedrosa had yet to go out on the softer tire. That would change within a minute. Both he and Lorenzo went out for the final third of the hour with the softer rear.Dovizioso went to the top with his lap of 1:40.559 mins. the fastest of the weekend. But there were more than 16 minutes remaining and the time was certain to come down.Pedrosa was second at the time until Lorenzo put himself between the Repsol Honda riders a few minutes later. Hayden was now back on the second row.Everyone was on the softer tires now and one rider after another took a shot at Dovizioso. Spies took over at the top at the 12:52 mark with a lap of 1:40.465 mins. Lorenzo crossed the line seconds later and came close, but couldn’t match the Texan’s time. The difference was only .012 secs.Rossi’s crew was making major changes to the front end for the final 10 minutes. The Ohlins technician was sent away to collect a new set of forks, while Rossi went out on his other bike.Meanwhile, Stoner turned his best lap, but it was only good for sixth fastest behind Hayden.With ten minutes to go the order was Spies, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, then Pedrosa, Hayden, Stoner, Rossi and Edwards.Hayden set the fastest time at the 7:30 mark, a lap of 1:40.336 mins. that put Spies to second. For the first time in anyone’s memory, Americans were one-two in qualifying, if only temporarily.Rossi’s hope of a front row start were shot when he lost the front end in turn six with just over six minutes remaining. It was his second crash in the same day and reconfirmed his struggles with the front end on the bumpy Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuit.With four minutes remaining, Hayden was still in control and still lapping quickly. The time to come in and change tires was quickly running out and the local crowd were hopeful of a one-two finish on the front end.Stoner was setting his fastest times, but his best was only good for sixth fastest.The fairy tale came to an end with 2:48 mins. remaining, his 1:40.325 taking Hayden down to second. But Spies was on the boil and if he could finish it strong he’d move from third to first, which he did, with 2:06 to go.Now there were two minutes to go and only Lorenzo had a chance to fight back. Pedrosa was well off the pace and Stoner wasn’t approaching the time of the front-runners.Lorenzo crossed the “Yard of Bricks” with just under a minute to go. He’d have one more lap, but it wouldn’t be enough. Spies had his first MotoGP pole.MotoGP Qualifying:1. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:40.1052. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:40.3253. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:40.3364. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:40.5595. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:40.6376. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:40.6647. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:41.0058. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:41.0929. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:41.23210. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:41.512
Spies Gets First Pole; Hayden Third
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.