Stoner Steals Pole in Dramatic Assen Qualifying

Henny Ray Abrams | June 29, 2012

ASSEN, HOLLAND, JUNE 29 – Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner stole the pole position with a stunning speed display in the final five minutes of dry track time in an otherwise wet and dry qualifying session for Saturday’s Dutch TT at the Circuit van Drenthe in Assen, Holland.

Stoner was down in ninth when the off and on rain ended with about six minutes left in the hourlong session. Stoner’s first lap at speed put him to third at .100 of a second to teammate Dani Pedrosa, who’d been on top when rain sent everyone to the pits with about 19 minutes remaining. With just over three minutes to go, Stoner had time for two more laps.

Stoner went to the top with a stunning lap of 1:33.713 with 1:33 remaining. The lap was a second faster than anyone had gone all weekend. Soon after Lorenzo was into second, though not for long. Pedrosa took it back and put .173 of a second on Lorenzo.

Stoner sat up and stopped his attack after his best lap and Pedrosa aborted his lap after a slip. Lorenzo was third, putting the three championship leaders back on the front row.

Stoner said he’d spent Thursday trying to improve the chatter, which was especially bothersome in hot conditions. In this morning’s practice, he’d crashed.

“One of the biggest of my career and certainly one of the most painful and knocked ourselves down a little bit,” he said.

Still, he stayed with the hard rear tire, the likely race choice, until the end in order to improve his race set-up. He made the most of the limited dry track time until the end, when he fitted the softer rear tire.

“It was certainly a lap that surprised us as much as anybody else,” he said. “We didn’t realize we had that much pace in us. The pace is there, we just have to make sure we last the race.”

Pedrosa has also been bothered by chatter, though he said the team is making progress.

“We did some changes on the bike since here that’s a little bit better, the feeling is a little bit improved from the last race and we are still trying to fix a lot of the chattering, but it’s a big deal there,” Pedrosa said. “Anyway we are focusing on the race obviously.”

Lorenzo admitted that the rain had made “life difficult in the morning and afternoon. Finally we could make the last five minutes full throttle to make the pole position,” though he came up short.

“Third position is a good place to start tomorrow,” he said. “The important thing is to finish the race, get good points, and have a good feeling on the bike that we have this weekend.”

The pole was the 38th of Stoner’s MotoGP career and third of this season. He was also on pole in Estoril and Catalunya.

LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl had by far his best qualifying effort in fourth. His previous best was eighth.

Next to him are a pair of Yamahas, the still hobbled Cal Crutchlow and his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 and Yamaha factory rider Ben Spies, the 2011 winner here. Crutchlow continues to recover from the ankle he broke in his home Grand Prix 13 days ago.

Andrea Dovizioso made it three Yamahas in a row by slotting his black and green Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 onto the row three pole. Eighth fastest Alvaro Bautista couldn’t replicate his pole performance from Silverstone before his session ended with a crash.

Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden qualified at the end of row three with teammate Valentino Rossi one slot behind on the row four pole in 10th.

Assen MotoGP Qualifying:

1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:33.713

2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:33.828

3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:34.001

4. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:34.035

5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:34.486

6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:34.644

7. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:34.698

8. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:34.722

9. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:34.751

10. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:35.057

21. Colin Edwards (BMW-Suter) 1:38.305

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.