Lorenzo Gets First Pole of 2011 in Estoril

Henny Ray Abrams | April 30, 2011

ESTORIL, PORTUGAL, APRIL 30 – World Champion Jorge Lorenzo took his first pole of the season on a track where he’s reigned supreme for the past three years.The Yamaha rider took advantage of a late spill by San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli to move to the top near the end of the hour, held under cloudy bright conditions on the Estoril Circuit in Portugal.With the 26th of his 29 laps, Lorenzo lapped the 2.60-mile track in 1:37.161. The time came with about 4:30 minutes left in the session and just seconds before Simoncelli, who’d dominated the session from the start, tucked the front end in the downhill, left-hand seventh turn. With so little time remaining, there was no chance for Simoncelli to get pack to the pits and on his spare bike to improve his time. Instead he missed out on his first pole position by .133 of a second.”Well, we all know could be a difficult practice, difficult qualifying, because the track was with a lot of patch, water patch,” said Lorenzo, the winner here since 2008. “So we must pay attention all the session. And at the end with the soft tire I try to make a good pace. It was important to make a good lap time, but also to prepare the tomorrow race. I think it’s going to be quite close, but we are prepared.”Simoncelli was disappointed to see his progress come to a halt after an encouraging weekend. The Italian had been fastest on Friday in both sessions, something he’d never before done. (Saturday morning’s practice, held on a wet/dry course, produced unrepresentative results.) And he was on pace to take his first MotoGP pole. Still, he was hopeful of earning his first MotoGP podium.”I hope so, because for all the practice I was so fast in these three days,” he said. “Also for the rhythm I’m fast and I’m so confident for tomorrow.”I’m disappointed for the crash, because after the first part of the practice today I think that it could be possible do the pole position. But, anyway, the important is have a good rhythm for tomorrow. In this way I’m alright.”The best of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa came on the final lap. The Spaniard lapped .030 of a second slower than Simoncelli to fill out the front row and drop teammate Casey Stoner to fourth. Pedrosa was returning to action less than four weeks after an operation to relieve pressure on his left shoulder and collarbone. Following Friday practice, he said the muscles were tight and painful, and that the real test would come once he’d ridden for at least 30 minutes consecutively, which he wasn’t planning on during qualifying.”Actually I think the physical condition is pretty much improved, because I have a little better feeling,” Pedrosa said. “So until I don’t do the full distance I will not be sure, but quite happy right now. Some pain set in around the shoulder. Quite normal, also. But I think I’m going to maybe, sure will have some problem, not 100%, but I will try my best and with the bike just trying to improve a little bit more. Trying to be quicker. Also we have to wait for the weather to expect what kind of race we will have tomorrow and just try to be focused for the whole race.”Stoner made a late run for a front row start that came up short by .060 of a second. Stoner was on pace to take the pole through the first three splits, but the fourth sector was his undoing. The Australian lost enough time that not only couldn’t he take the pole, but his time wasn’t good enough to keep him on the front row.Yamaha’s Ben Spies had been on the front row late in the session until, in short order, Pedrosa pushed him to fourth and Stoner push him to fifth. That was as far as he’d fall, finishing in the middle of row two.Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso qualified at the end of row two.Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammates Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow led off row three. For Edwards it was a season best; his previous best was eighth in Jerez. Crutchlow equaled his career MotoGP best of eighth in Qatar.Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi was a disappointing ninth at the end of row three. Rossi had had an encouraging first day of practice, improving from the morning to the afternoon and finishing fourth on the day. Today, in slightly cooler conditions, Rossi couldn’t replicate his Friday time. Neither could teammate Nicky Hayden, who finished qualifying in 13th place.

MotoGP Qualifying:

1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:37.161

2. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:37.294

3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:37.324

4. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:37.384

5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:37.866

6. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:38.073

7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:38.080

8. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:38.189

9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:38.271

10. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:38.363

13. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:38.922


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.