Flashbacks of last weekend’s weather in Jerez loomed over the Circuito Estoril as Qualifying got under way for Round 3 of the MotoGP calendar. We skies threatened to let loose, but only a few drops fell to the racing surface. It was enough to slow the pace midway through the session, but the racers rallied on and put down their best laps in the last minutes available to them.
Casey Stoner turned the fastest lap in Estoril Qualifying right at the end of the session.
Casey Stoner took his first pole of 2012, cracking off his quickest time on Lap 22 with a 1’37.188. At just over 2-tenths slower than the lap record, Stoner seemed disappointed in the set-up of his Respol Honda.
“The bike was working so well in Free Practice 3, and we just wanted to improve in some small areas that weren’t working well. But we actually made the areas that were working well not work so well.” Said the reigning champ. “The strong points we had this morning were the weak points this afternoon. We weren’t really going in the right direction; we weren’t happy with the bike. I wasn’t confident half way through the session to be fighting for pole.”
Stoner’s teammate Dani Pedrosa knocked out his fastest lap right at the end of the qualifying session to claim the second spot on the front row. Pedrosa struggled a bit in the first half of the time allotted, but came on strong during the second half. His 1’37.201 came with just minutes left on the clock.
For a short time, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow sat on pole with a 1’37.289 lap time that stunned all those that were in attendance. The lap looked like it might stick until the Honda duo jumped to the front in the waning
Monster Energy Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow has been putting up impressive results so far this season.
moments. Crutchlow once again starts from the first row in the third position.
“It’s going to be difficult to be up on the podium,” admitted Crutchlow. “But I think we’ve done a good job. It’s nice to be the top Yamaha. We’re working hard and hopefully we can be up there soon.”
Jorge Lorenzo sat atop the leaderboard the majority of the session, but was relegated to the second row by Crutchlow. The Factory Yamaha rider was obviously frustrated by his performance as he struggled to match the pace at the end with troubles with slower traffic.
The biggest improvement from the start to the finish came from American rider Ben Spies, who ended up with the fifth fastest lap time. During the majority of qualifying, he was the fastest rider through the first three splits, but he struggled with the final split, consistently giving up over a second in the final corners. At the end however Spies made it click and jumped up the board with a 1’37.723.
Ben Spies had a tough go of it early in qualifying, but he found his pace in time to grab fifth place on the grid.
Team Ducati continues to stuggle to find a way to the front. Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden narrowly finished up the session in ninth and tenth place respectively. Neither rider was reached above sixth place throughout qualifying.
With 11 minutes left on the clock, Randy de Puniet lost the front end and collided with Collin Edwards. Edwards was not on a flying lap and was sitting relaxed on his bike when de Puniet’s bike clipped his front tire. The Texan slammed hard to the tarmac on his shoulder and slid to a stop on the outside of a corner motionless. The session was red flagged as the NGM Mobile Forward CRT racer was hauled off on a stretcher. Word is Edwards has suffered a broken collarbone; while de Puniet looks to be unscathed and will start from his 14th position on the grid tomorrow.
MotoGP Estoril Qualifying Results
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’37.188
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’37.201
3. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’37.289
4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’37.466
5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’37.723
6. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1’37.917
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1’37.943
8. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’38.006
9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’38.059
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’38.253
11. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1’38.265
12. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 1’39.353
13. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’39.398
14. Rndy de Puniet (ART) 1’39.586
15. Yonny Hernandez (BQR) 1’40.029
16. Michele Pirro (FTR) 1’40.225
17. Mattia Pasini (ART) 1’40.387
18. Colin Edwards (Suter) 1’40.964
19. James Ellison (ART) 1’41.394
20. Danilo Petrucci (Loda) 1’41.486
21. Ivan Siva (BQR) 1’41.490