Stoner celebrates his pole position victory alongside fellow ‘aliens’ and front-row starters, Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo.
Rain interrupted the MotoGP qualifying action at the Assen TT, but it didn’t slow Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner. The reigning champ returned his name to the top of the timesheet on Friday, seizing pole position for tomorrow’s race. The Australian is joined on the front row by teammate Dani Pedrosa and the current points leader, Yamaha Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo.
Stoner earned pole position the hard way, having taken a nasty spill in the morning practice session. The two-time MotoGP champion high-sided on his third lap in Free Practice 3. Rain halted the final qualifying session twice, with Stoner going out in the final minutes and claiming pole position lap on his hot lap.
“This morning was probably one of my biggest crashes, which is saying something! The crash really knocked the wind out of me, I hurt my head, neck, wrist, knee and shoulder, it was a bad one for sure,” said Stoner on his morning get-off in a Repsol team statement. Finding fast laps with the soft tire, the pole setter continued: “As far as race pace goes, we’re still struggling and we need to work on this and make some decisions before the race. It’s been a really strange day for us but hopefully we can be competitive tomorrow”.
Stoner supplanted his teammate, Pedrosa, who had been leading much of the session. The Repsol riders outpaced Lorenzo and were the only riders to dip under the 1’34 mark. The Mallorcan reckons a mistake on final lap cost him a better position, but Lorenzo, who was the fastest rider yesterday on the hard compound tire, seems confident of his chances Saturday.
“I tried my best in the last lap of qualifying but I made a little mistake in the last chicane on braking and lost a few tenths,” said Lorenzo, who is aiming for his fourth consecutive MotoGP tomorrow. “I was surprised at Casey’s last lap; it was fantastic and so fast and Dani was also very close to him. We have a good position for tomorrow on the front row and we have a good race pace and I’m confident with the bike so I’m happy. Qualifying is one thing but the race is another, tyre choice will be important for the race.”
MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl heads Row 2 aboard the LCR Honda. The German rider is followed by a pair of Yamahas, with Tech 3 satellite rider Cal Crutchlow one-upping factory rider Ben Spies. The British rider, who is still recovering from a broken ankle, figures fifth could have been better had he not gotten caught up in qualifying shenanigans.
Said Crutchlow on his Row 2 start: “I’m happy on one side because to be fifth fastest and on the second row is a good result considering my physical condition and how much pain I have from the left ankle. But I’m upset a little bit too because I’m sure I could have been into the 33s and on the front row, but (Hector) Barbera got in my way on my final lap and cost me some crucial tenths. He was looking for a tow again to improve his lap time like he always does and unfortunately it was me that got caught up with him this time.”
Crutchlow’s Tech 3 paddockmate, Andrea Dovizioso, took seventh behind Spies. All three men are battling for the factory Yamaha seat in 2013, so the 5-6-7 starters should provide a terrific battle for position on Saturday. The Yamahas are followed by the final Honda, Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista. Fourth-fastest yesterday, the Spaniard crashed in qualifying – spoiling chances of a Row 2 grid position.
More disappointment for the Ducatis in qualifying, who were slower than all the entries from Honda and Yamaha. Nicky Hayden outpaced teammate Valentino Rossi, earning a Row 3 position while The Doctor leads Row 4. The Ducati factory riders position themselves just ahead of Crutchlow BFF Hector Barbera. Ducati’s final entry, Karel Abraham, is listed in 17th – though the Cardion AB team reports the injured rider’s participation in the Assen TT will be made after the Warm-up session.
In the CRT ranks, Randy de Puniet leads aboard the Power Electronics Aspar entry in 12th. The French rider paced within a second of Rossi and is followed by teammate Aleix Espargaro. The two ART-equipped riders are well over a half-second ahead of the next tier of CRT bikes, led by Gresini’s Michele Pirro.
2012 MotoGP Assen TT Qualifying:
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’33.713
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’33.828
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’34.001
4. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1’34.035
5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’34.486
6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’34.644
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1’34.698
8. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1’34.722
9. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’34.751
10. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’35.057
11. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’35.289
12. Randy de Puniet (Aspar) 1’35.830
13. Aleix Espargaro (Aspar) 1’36.007
14. Michele Pirro (Gresini) 1’36.647
15. Mattia Pasini (Speed Master) 1’36.943
16. Danilo Petrucci (IodaRacing) 1’36.967
17. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’37.110
18. Yonny Hernandez (Avintia) 1’37.191
19. James Ellison (PBM) 1’37.281
20. Ivan Silva (Avintia) 1’37.554
21. Colin Edwards (Forward Racing) 1’38.305