PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREA WILSON
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl pulled off the surprise of surprises today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the German earning the first MotoGP pole position of his career on sunny afternoon on the Monterey Peninsula.
As is always the case, the final qualifying session was full of drama. For starters, Marc Marquez had troubles after being the pace setter prior to the final session. He ran off in the Corkscrew near the end of the session, then followed that with a crash in turn six. Fortunately for him it wasn’t a bad one as he tucked the front in turn six and although it was at high speed, it wasn’t a highside and he escaped injury and was able to ride back to the pits. But it was too late for him to give it another go and he could only watch as Bradl shot past him with his 1:21.176 lap.
Marquez ended up with the second best time, his 1:21.193 putting him on the front row next to Bradl.
“It’s really nice to be on pole for sure,” Bradl said. “It was one of my best laps I did ever. I mean I put a lot of effort in this qualifying because I knew it was going to be tough and all these guys can make another step going fast in the qualifying. I had a clear track with my second tire and then I just go for it. I was really happy and especially my last section I think I was doing really, really fast. Yes, it’s nice to be here and I will enjoy it. For sure it will be a little bit different for tomorrow, but we know we have the pace and we will keep going.”
The man who will line up third on the front row was also a surprise – Alvaro Bautista. The Go & Fun Honda rider went to second behind Marquez, but slipped back to third when Bradl put in his flyer. But it was still his best effort of the season.
Valentino Rossi will lead row two after putting in a 1:21.418, just a fraction quicker than Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow, the Brit getting a late start in the session when he had a problem with his first bike.
The battle of the walking wounded went to Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, the Spaniard making it to the second row with the sixth best time – a mark that puts him just in front of one of his championship rivals, Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa sat out the morning practice session, made it through to Q1 by setting the fastest time in Q2 and then ended the day with the seventh best time. He will joined on row three by Marlboro Ducati’s Andrea Doviziso and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith.
Nicky Hayden will lead row four after qualifying 10th on the factory Ducati.
Marquez was still all smiles after the session as he described his crash.
“On the first tire maybe I was able to be a little bit faster but when I tried I lose the front on turn eight. On the second tire I pushed, but maybe too early. Already on the first lap I tried to push because I felt it was quite good. In turn eight I go in a little bit faster and immediately I touch the gas and I lose the front. Anyway I am happy because the rhythm is so good. I feel so good on the bike and we are working well. Tomorrow is the race and I think we can do good.”
1. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:21.176
2. Marc Marquez (Honda) 1:21.193
3. Alvaro Baustista (Honda) 1:21.373
4. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:21.418
5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:21.420
6. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:21.453
7. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:21.728
8. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 1:22.026
9. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 1:22.075
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:22.090