SPEEDWAY, IN, AUG 18 - Any hope that Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner could retain his world championship likely ended with a spectacular high-side early in a MotoGP qualifying session that included three of the worst crashes seen this season.
Stoner was exiting the Turn 13 left at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) when the rear of the Repsol Honda RC213V came around and launched him straight up in the air. The Australian landed on his toes and knees then struggled to get to his feet. As soon as he put pressure on his right foot, his legs buckled.
Stoner was stretchered away and taken by ambulance to the infield care center for x-rays of a suspected right ankle fracture. The ankle wasn't broken; instead Stoner suffered a torn ligament of the right ankle. His day was over.
At the time of his fall, just about 12 minutes into the hour, Stoner was at the top of the order. But it wouldn't be long before he began moving down the order. The first rider to drop him was teammate Dani Pedrosa, who took over the top spot with about 40 minutes to run. Yamaha's Ben Spies quickly moved into second with third being taken over by LCR Honda MotoGP's Stefan Bradl, the German who was looking for his first front row MotoGP start.
The fitting of soft tires would produce drama at the end of the session, not all of it intentional.
Spies was half a second up on the fastest time, and about to smash the pole position record late in his lap, when he had a high-side almost as vicious as Stoner's in almost the same place. The difference was Spies was able to walk away under his own power. Seconds later, Pedrosa improved his time to 1:39.036.
Lorenzo had been languishing down in fifth and sixth until his soft tire was fitted. With about 11:30 remaining the Spaniard took over second and only .081 sec. to Pedrosa. The next lap he didn't improve.
Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden brought out the red flag with 8:38 to go. Hayden was coming out of Turn 13 and going into 14 when the bike went sideways-the front went first, then the rear-launching him into the air. Hayden was on the ground for an extended period of time, with many fearing serious injury. But he sat up as he was being put into the ambulance to be taken to the infield care center, drawing applause from the crowd. Nothing was broken, it was later reported, but he was taken to a local hospital for a thorough examination.
Just before the Hayden incident Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Andrea Dovizioso snuck onto the front row, dropping Spies down to fourth in front of Bradl and Stoner.
The session would conclude with a final eight minute session, but without Stoner or Hayden. Spies, however, was able to return to the track.
Ducati Marlboro's Valentino Rossi had a pair of moments soon into the final session, the first in almost an identical spot to Hayden's crash and the second as he came onto the front straight.
Pedrosa wasn't bothered by the crashes. He was in control of the pole when he unleashed his best lap of the weekend, a 1:38.813 that was the fastest ever lap by a motorcycle at IMS and a new pole position record.
Lorenzo started his final lap just before the checkered flag and after clocking his best lap of the day, a 1:38.913 that was a tenth slower than Pedrosa's, who was done for the session. Only Lorenzo could dethrone him. The Majorcan was ahead of Pedrosa's times at the first two splits, but not the third.
So Pedrosa had only his third pole of the season with Lorenzo and Dovi filling out the front row. It was Dovi's second front row start of the year.
Spies finished fourth fastest, and only .044 sec. behind Dovi, with Bradl fifth and Stoner sixth.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow was .084 sec. behind Stoner in seventh and sharing row three with Hayden and San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alvaro Bautista.
Power Electronics Aspar's Randy de Puniet was the first CRT bike in tenth at the head of row four. Next to him were Ducati Marlboro's Valentino Rossi and de Puniet's teammate Aleix Espargaro.
NGM Mobile Forward Racing's Colin Edwards was 20th in the middle of row seven. The row behind was filled with Attack Performance's Steve Rapp and GPTech's Aaron Yates.
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:38.813
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:38.913
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:39.235
4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:39.279
5. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:39.747
6. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:39.465
7. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:39.549
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:3.748
9. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:40.072
10. Randy de Puniet (ART) 1:1:40.437
11. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:40.763
20. Colin Edwards (BMW Suter) 1:42.599
22. Steve Rapp (APR) 1:43.673
23. Aaron yates (BCL) 1:44.312