Stoner Gets First Pole of Season in Estoril

Cycle News Staff | May 5, 2012

Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner took his first pole of the season in qualifying for Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril, ending the pole streak of Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo at four.

The one hour session was stopped with 11:39 minutes to run when Randy de Puniet took out Colin Edwards, sending the Texan to the medical center with a ractured left collarbone. The pole would be fought in the final 11 minutes and Stoner made the most of it.

The reigning World Champion first went to the top with over seven minutes to run, only to be knocked off his perch by Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow. But Stoner wasn’t done. With 2:39 remaining he wrested back the pole with a lap of 1:37.188. Teammate Dani Pedrosa ran his best lap 34 secs. later to take second with a lap of 1:37.201.

Stoner’s been on the Estoril podium multiple times in the MotoGP class, but he’s never won here. How confident was he that he could change that in Sunday’s third round of the MotoGP World Championship?

“This morning I was probably a little bit more confident,” Stoner said after his first Estoril pole. “The bike was working so well in free practice three and we just wanted to sort of improve some small areas that weren’t working well. But we actually sort of made the areas that were working well not work so well, and the strong points we had this morning were the weak points we had this afternoon, so we weren’t really going in the right direction, we weren’t happy with the bike and I wasn’t confident.

“Then halfway through the session to be fighting for pole we thought we needed something extra like we had this morning and we just needed a little bit more rear grip, but we created a little bit more rear grip and then the turning just went; we just had nothing in that last corner, long last sector. And we were losing a lot of time there. So hopefully we can do something in the morning and make this pole worthwhile, because it’s been a good weekend for us here and it’d be lovely if we can finish. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

Lorenzo was in fourth at the time – he’d set his fast time on his 10th lap – and had a few chances at the end to move onto the front row and keep alive his record of being on the pole in Portugal in all five of his MotoGP races. But the Majorcan couldn’t improve on the run to the flag and once time was out he sat up, knowing the streak was over. Lorenzo pinpointed the problem to his entry in the first two turns.

Not only did Lorenzo fail to take pole, but he was off the front row. Crutchlow’s flyer with five-plus minutes remaining didn’t stand up for pole, but it kept him on the front row as the first Yamaha. It was Crutchlow’s second front-row start in three races this season.

Yamaha’s Ben Spies starts from the middle of the second row after struggling in the final sector and getting balked by slower riders on three of his faster laps. Spies was on the front row in last weekend’s race in Jerez. Next to him is San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso was seventh in front of the first Ducati of Hector Barbera (Pramac Racing Team). Barbera was the first of three Ducatis in a row, with Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro) ninth fastest, at the end of row three and .871 of a second from pole, and teammate Nicky Hayden on the row four pole and .194 of a second down on Rossi.

The session ended badly for NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Edwards (Suter-BMW). Edwards was the unsuspecting victim of de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar ART), the Frenchman who lost the front end going into the left hand fourth turn. De Puniet’s Aprilia slid across the track, taking the wheels out from under the Texan and tossing him hard to the ground on his left shoulder. Edwards was momentarily motionless before being stretchered away.

Edwards was in 18th place at the time, which is where he would qualify.

MotoGP Qualifying:

1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:37.188

2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:37.201

3. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:37.289

4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:37.466

5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:37.723

6. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:37.917

7. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:37.943

8. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:38.006

9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:38.059

10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:38.253