Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner tied the premier class record for most poles in one season by setting the fastest time with a dominant performance in MotoGP qualifying for the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix in Spain.The hourlong session was held under threatening skies with an occasional drizzle, but the final 20 minutes were mostly dry. Stoner sat out the start of the session before running a six-lap streak that put him on top after about 16 minutes. No one else made a serious attack on the time and it would be Stoner who would lower it. He brought it down three more times, with a best of 1:31.861 mins. with just less than four minutes to run.The pole was the 32nd of his MotoGP career 12th of the year, tying fellow Australian for most in one season. More importantly, it was over a second faster than the qualifying lap of runner-up Dani Pedrosa. Stoner's teammate finished with a time of 1:32.875 mins., a gap of 1.014 secs."Yeah, well unfortunately we had two wet bikes at the start of the session," Stoner said. "So I came in and we decided to go for the dry bike and had to change settings around and everything. We were a little late getting out and I was worried, because I thought if the rain started then everybody else was going to get bank lap in and we weren't going to have anything., so we were lucky to get out there and I went and put a reasonably good lap time in straight away, but we thought it was going to be beaten"And then, as the session went on, we saw the conditions; they didn't get better, they didn't get worse. There were some bigger spots, smaller spots. You know, a bit of spray around and it was really difficult to understand how much to push, because the conditions were so bad."And so at the end there we put a new soft rear on with a hard front, which we got a bit more stability out of and just tried to go for it. I didn't really want to push too hard, because those wet conditions were bad. Made sure my tires were warm and the bike worked great around there. So I think we can still go quite a bit faster. I think if everyone had a completely dry session, all the times would have been a lot faster."But anyway, we're very happy to be on pole and best way to start the race tomorrow."

 

Pedrosa is fighting to finish third in the championship; he hasn't finished worse than third every year since 2007. He goes into Sunday's race trailing teammate Andrea Dovizioso by four points, but in better shape. Dovizioso lost the front end and crashed near the end of the session, tumbling through the gravel trap."From the moment, we did two wet practice and two dry practice, so, yeah, pretty much the bike is ready for any condition," Pedrosa said. "We hope to have a dry race, but maybe tomorrow the forecast is not so good."Yamaha's Ben Spies earned his fifth front row spot of the season by qualifying third on the strength of his final lap of 1:33.083 mins. Spies has had a damaging month, with a heavy crash in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix that eventually put him out of the following Malaysian Grand Prix. Then came another crash in Friday afternoon practice in Valencia.The Texan was the senior member of the Yamaha team this weekend, with Japanese test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga riding in place of Jorge Lorenzo, the outgoing world champion who was still recovering from the finger injury suffered in Australia, and who was in attendance in Valencia."It's been a tough month, I think, and I'm just happy to be up on the front row," Spies said. "I didn't think it was going to be possible, obviously, after yesterday and just the way things have been going."You know, it's the last race of the year and there's a lot of people dealing with a lot of different issues, so we're just trying to keep our head clear and go quick and today's session wasn't the best for all the riders. I mean, it was really tricky."And congrats to all the guys that did stay up; it was a hard session. And just happy for Yamaha. And we'll see what we can do tomorrow. Put the best race that we can together and end the season up good."Row two was an eclectic mix, with Pramac Racing Ducati's Randy de Puniet in front of Rizla Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista and Ducati Marlboro's Valentino Rossi. Fourth was de Puniet's best qualifying effort of the season and his first second row start. Bautista only has one other second row start, a fifth in the Australian Grand Prix. And Rossi matched his best qualifying effort of the year, a sixth in qualifying for the Czech Grand Prix in Brno.Nicky Hayden, Rossi's teammate, was seventh fastest ahead of Dovizioso and Hector Barbera. The Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP Ducati rider had a mechanical failure early on and put in his fastest lap near the end of the hour.Two-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes will start his first MotoGP race 16th on the grid after a weekend of difficult conditions. Yesterday's sessions were wet, today's were dry, though not entirely. Hayes had three extended runs, with his best time coming in the middle of his final run of seven laps.Valencia MotoGP Qualifying:1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:31.861

2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:32.875

3. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:33.083

4. Randy de Puniet (Ducati) 1:33.118

5. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:33.443

6. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:33.478

7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:33.656

8. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:33.824

9. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:34.186

10. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1:34.265

16. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:36.042

 

MotoGP Headlines

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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