JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, SPAIN, APRIL 28 - Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo endured an hour of constantly changing weather to take the pole position for his home Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuito de Jerez in southern Spain.
The session began in sunshine with ominous clouds moving in from the city. The clouds got close enough to drop rain on parts of the circuit, but the rain was light and dampened enthusiasm as much as the circuit. In time the sun would come out and the final ten minutes would see furious changes at the top.
Lorenzo and Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa were dominant, as was Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow, who was fastest in the dodgiest conditions. Pedrosa went to the top with just under four minutes to go and, half a minute later, Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden jumped to third. Meanwhile, his teammate Valentino Rossi was languishing in 13th.
Pedrosa improved his pole time on the next lap, putting .370 of a second on Lorenzo, who improved his own time seconds later. Lorenzo carried the momentum from that lap into the next one and took over the top position with 25 seconds remaining in the hour. Pedrosa made a strong bid to unseat Lorenzo - he was faster through the first split, but not the second or third - and Lorenzo had the pole for the race which he's won the past two years.
“We are very happy with this pole position because it was a strange session," Lorenzo said. "There were a lot of water patches and it was very dangerous. You had to pay a lot of attention, it would have been easy to crash and get injured. Anyway we start in first position so let’s see what happens in the race. Thank you to the team for working hard to keep giving the right set up in changing conditions.”
Pedrosa will line up second, having missed out on pole by .135 of a second, with Hayden holding onto third. The front row start is Hayden's first since starting second to Lorenzo in the 2010 Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril.
Rossi had a shocking session, lapping 2.3 seconds slower than Hayden and finishing 13th fastest behind Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati) and just in front of Aleix Espargaro on the Power Electronics Aspar ART CRT machine.
Crutchlow held fourth in front of Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner, who was never a serious pole threat. Yamaha's Ben Spies will start Sunday's second race of the season from the end of the second row.
“It was actually a pretty scary session for everybody," Spies said. "The track started out damp and then got better, but there were some damp patches right where you wanted to be. It was the first dry session of the weekend for us so we had to ride hard. We had a setting on the bike we hadn’t tested here but thought on paper it would be better, some things were good and some bad. We mistimed the tires a little bit just because we saw a black cloud coming in so I think we could have been on the front row. I didn’t want to make a mistake though and throw another bike down the track and make the guys rebuild it! We’re pretty much up there; for how bad the conditions were I’m happy to come out unscathed and on the second row.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Andrea Dovizioso is on the third row pole ahead of a pair of satellite Hondas, San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alvaro Bautista and LCR Honda MotoGP's Stefan Bradl.
Randy de Puniet was the first of the CRT machines in 10th aboard the Power Electronics Aspar ART. Then came Abraham and Pramac Racing Team Ducati's Hector Barbera.
Rossi shared the fifth row with Espargaro and Michele Pirro, the Italian in his second MotoGP race on the San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda.
NGM Mobile Forward Racing's Colin Edwards missed most of the session after crashing. He only went back at the end of the hour and didn't improve on his 21st starting position.
MotoGP Qualifying Times:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:39.532
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:39.667
3. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:40.563
4. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:40.570
5. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:40.577
6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:41.090
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:41.180
8. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:4.1447
9. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:41.550
10. Randy de Puniet (ART) 1:41.700
13. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:42.961
21. Colin Edwards (BMW-Suter) 1:46.200