Moto GP

Pedrosa takes first pole of the year at Brno

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Dani Pedrosa ruled qualifying at Brno overnight, the Spaniard out-pacing his rivals to take pole position for tomorrow's Czech Grand Prix, the first event following MotoGP's brief midseason break.

Pedrosa narrowly defeated reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, with current championship leader Casey Stoner a close third fastest.

Overnight rain and a further downpour this morning changed the track's grip characteristics, with the result that the front-running pace was a few tenths slower than it was yesterday. More rain followed qualifying and forecasts suggest that rain could affect at least some of tomorrow's races.

Pedrosa ‰ÛÒ who used the post-US GP break to rest, reenergise and further recover from the collarbone injury he sustained at May's French GP ‰ÛÒ led both yesterday's sessions, his RC212V immediately working well around this fast, challenging racetrack. Following this morning's rain-hit session he was once again in sparkling form for this afternoon's qualifier, run in fully dry conditions.

Pedrosa's main rivals for pole were Stoner and Lorenzo, who both took their turns out front, but finally Pedrosa prevailed, bettering his compatriot with eight minutes to go. He ended the one-hour outing 0.133s in front of Lorenzo. This was his first pole of 2012 and his 18th in MotoGP. Pedrosa currently lies fourth on points after winning the Portuguese and German GPs, but no-scoring at three other races, due to his shoulder injury.

"It's my first pole of the year and also after a long time, so I'm very happy for that," Pedrosa said.

"The weekend has been pretty good for us so far, the bike is working well and I'm feeling good physically as well. We made only a few small changes on the bike and this allowed me to concentrate more on my riding, so let's hope we are able to keep the pace tomorrow and fight for a good result. This is the most important thing and we need to keep our feet on the ground because the rivals are close. I think we can still improve the bike a little, especially on the chassis side to have better grip, even though I guess that the rain this morning affected the conditions on track which made it more slippery."

Yamaha Factory Racing's Lorenzo led the session for a brief time and at the end of the session had missed pole by just 0.113 seconds.

"Yesterday things weren't like we expected but we made some changes and improved braking to make the bike more stable," Lorenzo explained. "The lap time improved from that and we got a lot closer to Dani today and finished in front of Casey. The pace in the last laps was quite good so we're happy. Big thanks to my team who worked hard to improve the bike. Tomorrow we aim for the podium or if it is possible to win the race."

Casey Stoner wasn't completely happy after recording third-fastest time, 0.269s down on his Repsol Honda team-mate. The Australian, whose confidence may have been slightly dented by a high-speed tumble in the morning rain, had some grip worries yesterday, then ran into some chatter issues in the dry today. He knows he has work to do to improve his RC212V for tomorrow morning's warm-up session.

"We hoped after yesterday that we could improve the feeling in the bike this morning, but unfortunately it was a wet session, so we couldn't use it as we would have liked to," Stoner lamented.

"Also, the session didn't start too well with a fast crash in turn three, which lost us some time and obviously dented my confidence a little. Then this afternoon we started to get a little more feedback from the bike, but all in all we didn't really make a big step forward or improve it significantly from yesterday's first session.

"We seem to be getting more and more chatter as the weekend progresses and the more I push the more it increases and the slower I get, so it's a little frustrating. I felt qualifying could have been better, we almost lapped with the same time on old and new tyres, but in general we have a lot of work to do. We're obviously happy with front row, but we're not really where we want to be with the bike and there is still a lot of work to do. We're looking forward to tomorrow and I'm sure we can find some improvements in time for the race," the Australian concluded.

Ben Spies put in a superhuman effort to secure fourth and a second row start despite suffering a numb arm from a trapped nerve which hampered his ability to brake and turn the bike. The Texan had been running as high as second, just 0.061 from first in the last 15 minutes but was unable to hold on to his front row start at the end. He will continue to work with Clinica Mobile this evening for more physio in advance of tomorrow's race.

"Today honestly went a lot better than expected, we're at least in a good starting position for tomorrow," Spies said.

"I'm not 100% confident about the race and what we can do but we've shown we've got the speed and the bike is good enough for top five. We'll do the best we can, I'm not going to make any promises but I know I've got at least half a good race in me. If we get some good rest tonight then hopefully we'll get lucky and catch a break and be good for it. We're optimistic, the bike is working well and the speed is there, I just hope I can be there too. I need to say a big thank you to all the guys at Clinica Mobile who are working hard this weekend to keep me in the game."

San Carlo Honda Gresini 's Marco Simoncelli was fifth fastest, just behind Spies and just ahead of Valentino Rossi, who scored his best qualifying result of the year. During yesterday's free practice sessions Simoncelli was a close third fastest behind Pedrosa and Stoner, so it's likely his team will take a step backwards with their machine settings for the race.

Main Photo: Dani Pedrosa

Qualifying position
1 Dani Pedrosa 1m56.591s SPA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
2 Jorge Lorenzo +0.113s SPA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
3 Casey Stoner +0.269s AUS HONDA Repsol Honda Team
4 Ben Spies +0.587s USA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
5 Marco Simoncelli +0.760s ITA HONDA Honda Gresini
6 Valentino Rossi +0.776s ITA DUCATI Ducati Team
7 Andrea Dovizioso +0.851s ITA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
8 Colin Edwards +1.085s USA YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
9 Nicky Hayden +1.130s USA DUCATI Ducati Team
10 Hiroshi Aoyama +1.193s JPN HONDA Honda Gresini
11 Cal Crutchlow +1.206s GBR YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
12 Toni Elias +1.654s SPA HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
13 Hector Barbera +1.682s SPA DUCATI Aspar Ducati
14 Alvaro Bautista +1.683s SPA SUZUKI Suzuki MotoGP
15 Randy De Puniet +2.298s FRA DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
16 Loris Capirossi +2.347s ITA DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
17 Karel Abraham +2.355s CZE DUCATI Cardion AB Ducati
18 John Hopkins -- USA SUZUKI Suzuki MotoGP

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