MONTEREY, CA, JULY 23 - Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo rebounded from a vicious high-side in this morning's practice to take the pole position for Sunday's Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The World Champion crashed after executing a practice start at the end of the morning session. He later explained that the traction control wasn't activated - it doesn't activate until the first downshift - and the rear tire slid, caught, then launched him into the air before he came down to earth on his back and leg. Initially it appeared he'd hurt his left leg, which was hit by the sliding motorcycle, but Lorenzo struggled to get to his feet and was helped out of the gravel trap by corner workers.
If Lorenzo was hurt it didn't show in qualifying. Lorenzo was not only the fastest for a single lap, but he was easily the most consistent rider in the field of 18. His first run was a series of eight laps, all but one in the 1:21s. Then, at the end of the session with the softer option Bridgestone rear, Lorenzo unleashed a fury of fast laps that solidified his second pole position of the season.
"Yeah, was a very ugly crash this morning and when I hit the ground I was full of pain and I was thinking that the race was over for me," Lorenzo said. "Fortunately, after some minutes the pain has gone little by little. But you know, to be in the first position this afternoon is a thing that I didn't expect. But on the bike I didn't feel so much pain, so I could go fast from the beginning and then make a very good lap time with the soft tire, so we are very proud of ourselves and we have a good bike."
Lorenzo's last and best flying lap was a 1:21.202, which put him just .072 of a second clear of Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner, the Australian who wasn't nearly as consistent as Lorenzo and lamenting it.
"After the way this afternoon was going and we tried so many different things on the bike and went from one step bad to another step worse and couldn't really get any direction with the bike all weekend, to be honest," Stoner said. "We haven't been able to find one good thing in it, whether it be traction or the way the bike's turning. We're struggling to get any one particular good point we can sort of go in that direction. And been struggling a bit.
"So this afternoon was no different. We weren't really on the pace. We've been consistently, very consistently, two-tenths of a second slower than Dani [Pedrosa] and Jorge [Lorenzo]. And we're not there for race pace. So my first soft tire I got held up and things didn't go right, but my second one I managed to get one lap out and that's about it for us this afternoon. All weekend we seem to be able to pull one or two laps, but not consistently enough. So we need to do a lot of work tomorrow and see if we can do something extra, but, yeah, we're a little bit off the pace at this moment."
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa finished third - .183 sec. behind Lorenzo.
"Well, yeah, front row is always good,:" Pedrosa said. "I think it's one of the goals of the weekend. Of course, we have to try to set up a little bit better the bike for tomorrow in the race. There are many laps here. So it's important to have good stability of the bike. There are a lot of bumps on the track. So we have to set up really well the bike. But so far we did a good job and I hope we can improve tonight a little bit more the bike and we can do a good race tomorrow."
Yamaha's Ben Spies had the partisan crowd cheering when he went to the top of the time sheets. Then Lorenzo struck, taking pole back. With six minutes to go in the session, Spies crashed the M1 in turn 3, escaping without injury. He would drop to fourth when Stoner and Pedrosa improved at the end."Yeah, that one, definitely I left some talent somewhere before I got there," Spies said. "Honestly, it was my mistake in the end. Me and Bautista, he definitely, he had crashed earlier there and he was just on the same part of the track as me at that last ten minutes and he wanted a tow. I didn't really want to help anybody out, so there was a little bit of games being played and I think I just let the front tire cool down a little bit too much."Spies will head row two for tomorrow's grand prix where he'll be joined by San Carlo Honda's Marco Simoncelli and Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso.With a fast lap late in the session, Valentino Rossi improved to seventh-tying his best of he season-where he leads an all-Ducati third row with Hector Barbera and Nicky Hayden. Hayden crashed in Rainey Curve with 18 minutes left in the hour-long session. He ran across the track and back to the pits, where his team had prepared a second GP11. Hayden was lucky to finish ninth fastest."I was happy I wasn't 13th or 14th, so my team has worked extremely hard this week, last week, building new bikes and I kinda felt like I let ‘em down today," Hayden said. "Did a pretty silly mistake."Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow ended the session 10th - surprisingly quicker than his teammate Colin Edwards in his first trip to the Monterey Peninsula.The fourth American in the field, Ben Bostrom, ended up 18th on the LCR Honda - 4.089 seconds behind Lorenzo, but improving with every session.
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:21.202
2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:21.274
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:21.385
4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:21.578
5. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:21.
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:21.371
7. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:22.235
8. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:22.238
9. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:22.271
10. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:22.385
11. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:22.520
18. Ben Bostrom (Honda) 1:25.291