Stoner Sets Record in MotoGP Qualifying in Motegi

Henny Ray Abrams | September 30, 2011


 Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner set a pair of records in qualifying for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix on Honda’s home track, the Twin Ring Motegi circuit north of Tokyo.Stoner’s tenth pole was a record for the MotoGP era, breaking a previous tie he’d held with Valentino Rossi. Stoner took nine poles in 2008 in defense of his world championship, while Rossi took nine en route to the 2003 MotoGP World Championship.The other record was the time. Riding a bike tailor-made for the Motegi circuit, Stoner shattered the previous record of 1:45.543 mins. with a lap of 1:45.267 mins with just over two minutes remaining. The new record was impressive because the previous pole record was set on qualifying tires by Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo in 2008.”Yeah, well the first session I thought there was a small chance of the record being broken,” Stoner said. “It is difficult going up against what were qualifying tires. But the way the track’s improved and the new surface; the grip’s fantastic.”So from session one we thought lap times we got to immediately we definitely thought there was a chance of getting there. Slowly but surely, every session everyone’s been getting quicker and quicker and it basically got down to when we put the soft tires on we found huge improvements with the bike.”Stoner set his fast time on Bridgestone’s soft rear tire option, the softest rear they’ve brought to Motegi. With a soft and medium option, the debate over which tire would last race distance was far from settled in qualifying.”It’s going to be a little bit tough tomorrow understanding what tires are going to be best, because there’s obviously a big improvement with the soft rear,” Stoner said. “But with a long hard race here it’s going to be a lot of hard work on the tires. We’ve been doing a lot of work on the hard rear and everything seems to be going well, bike’s working well. We still need to improve a few small things, but we’ve been there or thereabouts. And on this circuit I’m pretty happy with the way things are going.”Stoner’s pole time dropped Yamaha’s Lorenzo to second minutes after he went to the top of the order. With about 5:24 mins. left in the one hour session, Lorenzo turned his fastest lap of 1:45.523 mins. to temporarily set the new pole record.”Well, we changed the bike completely from this morning to his afternoon in the qualifying, so we improved it a lot,” the reigning world champion said. “And it’s unbelievable the lap time I could finally make; β€˜45.5 with these tires is unbelievable lap time. And we are quite close to the Honda. In this track they are so competitive, so for tomorrow is going to be a very tough race for us, for all the Yamaha riders, but we are fighting and with true motivation.”Lorenzo briefly interrupted the Honda parade that continued with Andrea Dovizioso, the Repsol Honda rider who will start on the front row for the second time this season. The first was in the French GP at Le Mans. Dovi was on the pole here last year and fought Stoner most of the race before finishing second. Was he confident he could repeat that performance?”Yeah, really confident, especially to be on the front row, because we made a really good pace about the race, because we try also soft and we were really consistent,” he said. “So I don’t know the tire for tomorrow. I’m really happy about the setup of the bike. This afternoon we improve again. I can brake really hard now, so I think if I will do a good start I can fight for the podium.”Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was the last rider in the β€˜45s at 1:45.966 mins. just behind teammate Stoner on the second row. Next to Pedrosa came Yamaha’s Ben Spies, after a remarkable recovery from severe intestinal distress early in the weekend. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli is the final rider on row three. Simoncelli cut his qualifying time by crashing, then racing back to the pits to get on his second bike.Simoncelli’s final lap dropped fellow Italian Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro) to the third row.

Rossi shared the row with Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera (Mapfre Aspar Ducati).Nicky Hayden, Rossi’s teammate, was back on the fourth row in tenth and about .3 sec. behind Rossi.Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards also crashed, also returned to the pits for his spare bike, then qualified 14th.MotoGP Qualifying: 1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:45.267

2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:45.323

3. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:45.791

4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:45.966

5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:46.042

6. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:46.211

7. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:46.467

8. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:46.586

9. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:46.694

10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:46.763

14. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:47.165


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.