LOSAIL, QATAR, MARCH 19 – Repsol Hondas will sit on the first two places on the grid after teammates Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa dominated Saturday night qualifying at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
The fight for the pole was waged between the teammates, newcomer Stoner and Pedrosa, now in his sixth year with the team. The Australian and the Spaniard motivated each other, with each one-upping the other during the one hour session. Finally it was Stoner who was the best with a sizzling time of 1:54.137 mins. on the 20th of his 23 laps.
The lap time wasn’t far off the 1:53.927 mins. pole record held by Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo from the qualifying tire era and earned Stoner a pole in his first race with the team.
The pole was the 27th of Stoner’s career and 23rd in the MotoGP class. His first pole came here in 2006, aboard the LCR Honda RC211V, in only his second MotoGP race.”I think the season’s the biggest thing I’m looking forward to,” Stoner said. “Just the consistency we’ve shown in pre-season testing is something that’s really given us a lot of confidence. And this weekend we’ve made small steps, but it is a track that we’ve done very well in the past, so we’re not holding too much on this circuit, for sure.”But no, the team’s done a fantastic job. They’ve done everything right. We’ve made small steps in every session and slowly got the bike to a place where we really enjoy it. We were basically doing 54.8s consistently with race distance on the tires, on a hard set of tires. So I’m very happy with that. We thought we might’ve been able to get a little bit more out of the soft tires, we thought we should’ve got a bit more grip out of them, but we were struggling to get those tires working quite as well as what we’d like. But we did enough today in this session and can’t start the season in a much better way. We’ve got to look forward from here and see what we can do tomorrow.”The pole continued Honda’s total dominance of the season. Honda riders have led all eight test sessions, as well as the three practice sessions and qualifying, and the man at the top most of the time was Stoner.
Pedrosa finished .205 sec. back with his best lap as the two riders went after each other’s times late in the hour.
World champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) filled out the front row after passing teammate Ben Spies with just over 13 minutes to go. Lorenzo would improve on that time by a a few tenths and he’d never ever bit of it if he was to start the defense of his title on the first row. Late in the session Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) ran his fastest lap of the weekend to come within .041 sec. of Lorenzo. But the Italian didn’t improve on his next lap and Lorenzo was safe.
Simoncelli is on the second row pole in front of Yamaha’s Ben Spies and Hector Barbera, the Mapfre Aspar rider who’s again the surprise fast Ducati pilot. Neither of the Ducati Marlboro bikes had a very good session. In his first race with the team, Valentino Rossi will start ninth on the grid, at the end of the third row, while teammate Nicky Hayden is on row five, 13th of 16 riders.
Spies was on pace for a front row spot for much of the session. It wasn’t until there were just over 13 mins. remaining that Lorenzo dropped him to fourth, after which Simoncelli put in his flyer. Still, Spies would have to be happy to start fifth, knowing that his strength isn’t in qualifying, but later in the race.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards was as high as fourth in the session before dropping down the order to qualify tenth. Teammate Cal Crutchlow qualified eighth in his MotoGP debut.
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:54.137
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:54.342
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:54.947
4. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:54.988
5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:55.095
6. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:55.223
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:55.229
8. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:55.578
9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:55.637
10. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:55.647
13. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 1:55.881