Stoner on Pole in Aragon

Cycle News Staff | September 17, 2011

Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner sped to his ninth pole position of the season with the fastest ever lap by a motorcycle around the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain. Teammate Dani Pedrosa was second at .296 sec. with Yamaha’s Ben Spies in third and on the front row for the fourth time this season.Stoner, who won last year’s inaugural race here from the pole, was half a second under his 2010 time. Today he was the first rider into the 1:48s, finishing with a best of 1:48.451 mins. on his final lap of the 3.155-mile track. His 2010 pole time was 1:48.942. Stoner might have been faster but for a mostly harmless tip-over after running off the track with about 15 minutes remaining. The Honda RC212V wouldn’t fire, forcing Stoner onto his backup bike, which he used to shatter the previous lap record.”Yeah, everything has gone almost perfectly this weekend,” Stoner said. “I’ve been really happy from the start. The bike setting’s been very close to what we want. We had to move a few things this afternoon, because the temperature’s went up from this morning and yesterday and it was our first chance to run in the hot conditions, so we had to move the bike around a little bit to change the transfer and get a little more comfortable. But in general everything’s been working really well.”We’re good on old tires, new tires and the bike in general just seems to be flowing in this circuit. We had a little bit of a mishap my first qualifying tire or soft tire. We did the first lap and I was a little bit cautious in the first sector, just basically to get the tire warmed. But the next lap I went to push a little harder and I was going a lot quicker and I had a lot more grip than I had the laps before. So when I went to go on the brakes I felt I had too much lean angle, and so I picked the bike up, but I didn’t really find any more grip once I went off over the astroturf on the tarmac. It just kept locking the front and I couldn’t really get the brakes on. So I had to lay it down before it hit the barriers. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get bike one started. But we came back got bike two, still went faster and we’re pretty happy with this weekend.”The whole bike, package, everything is working well. Hopefully we can have a good result tomorrow.”Stoner had also been fastest in the morning, but only by .062 sec. over Pedrosa. In qualifying, Pedrosa made a final run at the Australian and closed the gap to .296 sec., then ran off the track on his final lap.Asked if he could challenge Stoner for the win, Pedrosa said, “Yeah, well I will try, of course. I think he’s going very good here. He’s doing a good job.”We are trying to set up the bike, but still having some issues, not really, really good setting. But I hope we can do some improvement for tomorrow and get a little bit more feeling so we can improve our pace and lap times and get closer to him. But, yeah, trying to do the best job as we can and hopefully tomorrow we can do it. So just try to make it happen tomorrow and hopefully we can get a good result.”Pedrosa finished .408 sec. up on Spies, who was unhurt after crashing in turn two in the extended morning practice session. The Texan admitted that being .704 sec. behind Stoner would make it difficult to challenge for the win. Spies also felt disadvantaged by the time lost in Friday’s canceled practice session. Friday’s second free practice was scrapped after a transformer failure left much of the track without power. Some of the time was made up in Saturday morning’s final free practice session.”Yeah, you know, it was a mishap with all the power stuff yesterday and we missed out on some time,” Spies said. “But I’m happy. The bike’s working good. There’s a gap to the first two; we know that. Obviously, between me and Jorge too.”But I was happy. I think we got the most out of what we could today. We were quick on the hard tire, we were third quickest with kinda the race setup and everything. And then we put on the soft tire and we were able to go faster again, which everybody else did. So, yeah it seems to be that we’ve got a good bike. Hopefully a challenge for the podium in race conditions. So we’ll just try the best we can.”And I gotta thank the team too. We had a weekend at Misano and I never got feeling good on the bike. Now I’m feeling pretty good here; we’re just lacking a little bit of speed to the front two. So we’ll try as hard as we can tomorrow and see what we can do.”Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo did his championship hopes no favors in qualifying. Trailing Stoner by 35 points with five races to go, the reigning world champion wasn’t a factor during the session and only made an impression at the very end. With eight minutes remaining the Majorcan jumped up to fifth after being down in 12th. His qualifying fight would be with Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso, who he’d edge out for fourth with his final lap of 1:49.270 mins.Dovizioso was a tenth back in fifth and a little more than that up on San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli in sixth, the final rider on row two.Nicky Hayden was again the first Ducati. The Ducati Marlboro rider was seventh fastest, six spots higher than teammate Valentino Rossi, who was riding the GP11.1 with a partial aluminum chassis for the first time. Rossi crashed early in the qualifying session and never really got going.In order to prepare his second bike with the new front chassis part, Rossi has been forced to exceed his allocation of six engines. By using his seventh engine, he’ll have to start from pit lane. Hayden is in a similarly precarious situation, though he believes he may get through the season on his original allocation.

Next to Hayden on row three are Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham (Duc) and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Hiroshi Aoyama.In his 100th MotoGP appearance, Pramac Racing Team’s Randy de Puniet (Duc) had been on the provisional front row for much of the session. It wasn’t until there were about 13 minutes remaining that he got bumped off the front row, then continued to drop, landing in 10th. Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista sits next to him, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow 12th fastest in his first visit to Aragon.Crutchlow’s teammate Colin Edwards had a subpar qualifying session, finishing 15th of 17. He’s third on the fifth row behind Rossi and Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP’s Hector Barbera (Duc).MotoGP Qualifying:1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:48.451

2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:48.747

3. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:49.155

4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:49.270

5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:49.372

6. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:49.528

7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:49.752

8. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1:49.777

9. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1:49.813

10. Randy de Puniet (Ducati) 1:49.826

11. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:49.883

12. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:49.893

13. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:49.960

14. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:49.976

15. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:50.105