Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner will start Sunday's Catalunya Grand Prix from the pole position after dominating qualifying on a searingly hot day north of Barcelona.
The reigning MotoGP World Champion first moved to the top of the order five minutes into the one-hour session in what would be a brief reign. Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo soon went faster, as did Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Andrea Dovizioso. But 24 seconds after Dovi went to the top, Stoner upped the pace to take the qualifying lead until the 42nd minute. Then it was Dovi again followed by his teammate Cal Crutchlow. Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa ended the Yamaha dominance by setting his fast lap with just over 10 minutes left in the hour. Two minutes later Stoner went back on top with a lap of 1:41.295, a time that would stand up for the final eight and a half minutes.
The pole was Stoner's third in the first five races and the perfect launching pad if he wants to regain control of the championship lead. Yamaha's Lorenzo, who qualified second fastest at .146 of a second to Stoner, leads the title chase by eight points, 90-82.
"I don't know if I'm confident of clawing back some points, but we're definitely in it to win it tomorrow," Stoner said. The 26-year-old Australian spent most of the session on harder option Bridgestone rear, which he sees as the more viable race option, a strategy he thinks will serve him well in Sunday's race.
"Yeah, everything's been not too bad this weekend," he said. "Things look a little worse than what they are through some of the sessions. People throwing in some soft tires to get a lap time and I don't really understand. But, yeah, we did a lot more work on the hard tire than I think everybody this week, which I'm hoping, if the conditions are like this tomorrow, can give us some advantage. Because I know there's a lot of people tossing up between the soft and hard and we've seen a considerable drop in the soft tire, so the hard tire might be able to hold up a little better. But, again, we're going to have to wait and see the conditions tomorrow and see what direction we want to do.
"But we've been slowly working on the bike. We've had some major chatter issues again, especially this morning and this afternoon's session, so pretty much in and out just trying to make some changes and try and see if we can change the frequency a little bit and smoothen it up. But it's been proven to be a little bit more difficult than we expected, and we're just going to have to see what it brings for the race tomorrow. We managed to reduce the chatter slightly towards the end there and get a bit more comfortable, but it all depends on the conditions tomorrow."
Lorenzo was the first of three Yamahas. Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Crutchlow earned his third MotoGP front row start in five races by qualifying third, a 10th behind Lorenzo and only .004 of a second in front of Yamaha's Ben Spies. Spies, fourth fastest and 11th in the championship, has started from the second row in every race this season.
Repsol Honda's Pedrosa qualified next to Spies, with Dovi sixth at a gap of .031 of a second to Pedrosa.
Both Ducati Marlboro machines were on row two, Nicky Hayden in seventh and Valentino Rossi in ninth. In between came LCR Honda MotoGP's Stefan Bradl.
San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alvaro Bautista, who'd been second fastest at the end of Friday practice, qualified tenth.
Texan Colin Edwards returned from his one race absence to qualify the NGM Mobile Forward Racing BMW-Suter 14th fastest, second CRT bike to Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar ART). Edwards was taken out by de Puniet during qualifying in Estoril two races ago, suffering a broken collarbone.
Catalunya MotoGP Qualifying Results:
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:41.295
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:41.441
3. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:41.548
4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:41.552
5. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:41.656
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:41.687
7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:42.029
8. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:42.065
9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:42.175
10. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:42.356
14. Colin Edwards (BMW-Suter) 1:44.024