Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo stole the pole position from Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner with a new absolute motorcycle lap record in MotoGP qualifying at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Lorenzo was on pole from the start of the session, with no one making a serious run at him until the very end. That's when Stoner unleashed his fastest lap of 1:20.628 mins. to take over the top spot with less than two minutes to go. Stoner was still on top when the checkered flag came out. But 25 secs. after the end of the session Lorenzo stopped the clocks with a lap of 1:20.554 mins.
The pole was Lorenzo's fourth in a row at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and third of this season. Lorenzo's last pole came in the second race of the season in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
More impressive was Lorenzo's pace. The world championship leader had by far the most laps in the 1:21s, making him the favorite for Sunday's 10th round of the MotoGP World Championship.
"Well, this morning we have some things to try that we couldn't because we only could make ten minutes or 15 minutes, because the weather was foggy, no," he said. Fog kept most of the riders off the track until the final 11 minutes."So this afternoon the qualifying has been completely good weather and we could make try with the soft tire on the rear, hard one also. So it's going to be difficult to choose the tire for tomorrow.
"And finally I make almost a perfect lap to be honest, to get the pole position, because I knew Casey (Stoner) and Dani (Pedrosa) wanted to get it. So I think we have the pole position and we have good pace for tomorrow."
Stoner was denied his fourth pole of the season by a mere .074 sec. His gap to his third fastest teammate Dani Pedrosa was .278 secs. Stoner blamed his inability to battle for the pole to traffic on what should have been his fastest lap. The reigning world champion said the decision on whether to use the soft or hard Bridgestone rear hadn't been made, which would make the race a toss-up.
"To be honest, it depends on the temperature," he said. "We worked pretty much this whole weekend on the hard tire, other than the first session. And, you know, we've been trying to improve that and we've made some small steps. We still need a couple tenths before we feel really comfortable for the race tomorrow. But if it's cooler temperatures we've got the pace with the soft tire.
"So it was just more than disappointing this session. We made some pretty good progress with the hard tire. When I went to the soft tire I never got one clean lap. There was always someone in the way either cruising around or backing off in the middle of the corner and just more than frustrating, to be honest. We knew our potential was a lot higher than that and we weren't able to show it today. So extremely disappointed with that, but the race is tomorrow and we'll see how we go."
Pedrosa spent the session trying different set-ups and tires, like Lorenzo and the others making up for the time lost in morning practice, "so it was quite a busy time. But towards the end I wasn't able to improve my lap time from the beginning.
"But, yeah, quite confident anyway. I think we did quite a good job this afternoon. And just hope to get a good start tomorrow and a good race."
Yamaha's Ben Spies crashed heavily in the right hand Turn 3 just after setting his fastest time of 1:21.906. He returned to the pits, his leathers covered in dust, and went back out for the final few minutes. Spies improved his time, but not his position.
Spies shares the second row of the grid with fellow Yamaha riders Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammates.
San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alvaro Bautista dropped to seventh to the third row pole in front of Nicky Hayden on the first Ducati and Stefan Bradl, the German MotoGP rookie taking part in his first qualifying session at Laguna Seca.
Hayden's teammate Valentino Rossi is on the third row pole and nearly two seconds behind Lorenzo. Next to him are a pair of CRT machines, Power Electronics Aspar teammates Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro.
Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Suter BMW) is on the row five pole ahead of Cardion AB Motoracing's Karel Abraham, the Czech rider returning to the track after a lengthy injury absence. Colombian Yonny Hernandez (Avintia Blusens BQR) is at the end of row five.
Attack Performance's Steve Rapp failed to meet the cut-off of 107% of the fastest time. Rapp's best lap was 1:26.887 mins., the qualifying mark was 1:26.192 mins. Despite missing the qualifying mark, Rapp could be allowed onto the grid by race officials.
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:20.554
2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:20.628
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:20.906
4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:21.094
5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:21.268
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:21.539
7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:21.732
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:21.734
9. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:21.753
10. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:22.544