Simoncelli Gets First Pole in Catalunya

Henny Ray Abrams | June 4, 2011

Eight minutes into qualifying for the Catalunya Grand Prix, Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner sat atop the order waiting for a challenge that never came. Not for the next nearly 40 minutes, when Stoner lowered his lap time to further solidify his position. He seemed set to take the pole until the final minute when everything changed.With a scintillating penultimate lap of the 2.94-mile circuit north of Barcelona, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli, easily the most despised rider at the track for his incident two weeks ago in France with Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, shaded Stoner’s time by a scant .016 sec. Stoner was hopeful of hanging on for his fourth pole in five races, but said he had problems with edge grip after fitting the softer rear Bridgestone option. Simoncelli used the soft Bridgestone rear and harder Bridgestone front.So Simoncelli had the first pole of his career at a track not far from Sabadell, where Pedrosa is recovering with a broken right collarbone after being taken out by the Italian in Le Mans.Simoncelli’s lap of 1:42.413 mins. was narrowly ahead of Stoner, who kept second on the grid in front of Jorge Lorenzo, the first Yamaha. The Majorcan Lorenzo, who considers this his home track, knocked teammate Ben Spies back to row two by .014 sec.Spies had earlier pushed Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso, fifth fastest, off the front row by only .007 sec. The final rider on row two was Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s lone representative Cal Crutchlow. Crutchlow equaled his career best qualifying mark from Le Mans with the sixth fastest time.

Teammate Colin Edwards continues to recover in a hospital in Barcelona after Saturday surgery to repair the collarbone he broke in Friday afternoon practice. Edwards’ injury ended his consecutive starts streak at 141, dating back to his MotoGP debut in 2003. Team owner Herve Poncharal said that no plans had been made to replace Edwards for next weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, nor did he rule out Edwards riding.Ducati Marlboro teammates Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden sat together on row three separated by only .005 sec. Spaniard Alvaro Bautista put the lone Rizla Suzuki at the end of the row.The fourth row begins with another Spaniard, Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP’s Hector Barbera (Duc), ahead of San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Hiroshi Aoyama and Pramac Racing Team’s Randy de Puniet (Duc).MotoGP Qualifying:1. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:42.413

2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:42.429

3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:42.728

4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:42.742

5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:42.749

6. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:43.202

7. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:43.223

8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:43.228

9. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:43.447

10. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:43.656

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.