Moto GP

Stoner secures final 800cc pole in Valencia


Casey Stoner scored a brilliant pole position in tricky, drizzly conditions at Valencia overnight.

It was the recently crowned World Champion's 12th pole of the year, which equals the record established by Mick Doohan (Repsol Honda NSR500). Stoner's team-mate Dani Pedrosa was second quickest to give the Repsol Honda team yet another one-two on the grid.
Dani Pedrosa made it a Repsol Honda 1-2
Conditions were cold, damp and grey, fitting the sombre mood of the MotoGP paddock following the tragic loss of Italian Marco Simoncelli at the Malaysian Grand Prix on October 23. Simoncelli is in everyone's minds here and indeed the event seems more like a memorial to the much-loved former 250 World Champion than a normal Grand Prix.

There are tributes throughout the paddock and pit lane, with riders carrying his number 58 on their bikes, leathers and helmets. Three-time World Champion Loris Capirossi (Ducati) ‰ÛÒ who retires from the sport after tomorrow's season-ending race ‰ÛÒ has replaced his usual number 65 with Simoncelli's 58 as a way of honouring his fallen compatriot.

Following tomorrow morning's warm-up sessions all three classes will congregate together to ride a lap on their MotoGP, Moto2 and 125 machines led by former 500 World Champion Kevin Schwantz who will ride Simoncelli's San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V. Schwantz was a childhood hero of Simoncelli's and in recent years the pair had become great friends.

Despite the mournful mood, Stoner put on another bravura qualifying performance around this short, tight racetrack. Undeterred by the intermittent drizzle that fell throughout the qualifying session, the Australian was in glorious form, painting long black lines through turn 13, the fast, curving penultimate corner. Stoner didn't even join the session until it was already ten minutes old ‰ÛÒ his mechanics had been adjusting his motorcycle to suit the conditions ‰ÛÒ and yet within five minutes he was already the fastest man on the track. He kept increasing his pace to end the hour 1.014s ahead of local hero Pedrosa.

"Of course I'm really happy with pole position today. I'm still hungry to win and get pole positions, after all this is why I line up to go racing," Stoner siad.

"Winning the Championship is the bonus at the end of the season, but I still try my best in every session and every race. I took less risks yesterday in the wet as I didn't feel we were making any progress in the conditions. Today was also difficult, there was a little rain in all the sessions, this morning there were some wet patches on the track and it was hard to know where to push, then the same this afternoon with some rain on the track, you're never 100% sure how far you can push. We felt comfortable though and the feeling in the bike was pretty good, with a similar setup to the test we had here last year and we put in a good lap. Now we'll have to see what the weather does tomorrow and take it from there, but we remain confident."

Pedrosa maintained a fast and consistent pace during the session, which saw several riders falling due to the treacherous conditions. Tomorrow's weather forecast suggests the race may also be run in the rain, but Pedrosa worked hard during the two wet and one dry free practice sessions to ensure that he is ready whatever the weather brings. He is joined on the front row by Ben Spies (Yamaha) who missed the previous two races through injury.

"It was tricky out there because we had a little rain by the middle of the session, we were lucky because the track stayed dry and we were able to do one more practice on slick tyres," the Spaniard said. "Casey was very fast and consistent. I'm happy with second position on the grid, it's a good place to start, but I'm not totally satisfied with the setup of the bike yet. We need to improve the front tonight with the mechanics. I want to have a good race tomorrow, it's the last one and in front on my fans, so I'll do my best to finish the season in the best way."
Ben Spies came good for third at the end of the session. Photo: Yamaha Racing
Yamaha Factory rider Ben Spies made it count this afternoon, the Texan completed his fastest lap on a used set of tyres having patiently circled waiting for a gap in the changing weather to put in a qualifying time.

"Qualifying was really hectic today for all the riders," Spies said. "There was a sprinkling of rain all the way through which makes you very nervous about how much to push. I have to say thank you Yamaha for a great bike. It's working great here so we just need to pray for some dry time for the race. We're going to get some rest tonight and try to make sure we end the season on a high tomorrow."

Pramac Raing's Randy De Puniet finished with the fourth-best time, his best for the year. The Frenchman stopped the clock with a time of 1:33.118, just a few thousandths from the third position of Ben Spies. De Puniet held the number three spot for most of the session until the closing minutes when Spies displaced him.

I'm happy to end the season, at times unfortunate, so well. In these days my team worked so well," De Puniet said. "I found an excellent feeling with the bike and tires. I feel confident in both the wet and the dry. It?s been an up-and-down season, and I want to finish it as well as possible, as a way to thank the team."

Another home town rider in Alvaro Bautista clocked the fifth fastest time and will start from the middle of the second row for the final race of the season.

"In qualifying it was very tough, because we had rain before the session and the track was a bit wet in some parts. I pushed hard from the beginning, but it was raining in some parts of the track and it made it even harder because when you see drops of rain on the visor it's always against logical thinking to push even more," the Spaniard explained.

"At the end I did some good laps and got a good rhythm despite the strange weather and made my way to fifth on the grid. I'm quite happy with that because this track is not one of the best for Suzuki and we are all looking forward to tomorrow no matter what the conditions are."
Valentino Rossi wore a special Marco Simoncelli inspired helmet to hinir his good friend
Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden posted the sixth- and seventh-best times, respectively, and they'll start tomorrow's race from the second and third rows of the grid. Weather forecasts for the race are still uncertain, but both riders were fast in the wet on the first day, and they also have decent setups for the dry.

"Today was decent. This afternoon's session was complicated because the conditions were mixed, making grip tricky, but in the end, I was able to do some good laps and improve my time, which isn't bad," Rossi explained.

"I'm on the second row, and apart from Stoner, we're not so far from the others. I'm quite fast in T2 and T3, which are twisty, but I lose a lot in T1 and T4, where I have a hard time braking like I should, and where the bike tends to wheelie too much on acceleration. Honestly, T1 has always been difficult for me, through all the years that I've raced here. We'll see for tomorrow, especially concerning the weather. For now, the forecasts say it will rain, and if that's the case we could be competitive, but I think we could even do okay in the dry," the Italian concluded.

Hayden added, "The target was the second row, which we achieved at the last couple of races, but although we stayed in the top five for the first 20 minutes, we didn't go fast enough in the end. For tomorrow, we need to try to get more confidence in the front, to be able to attack the corners. It will be tough for the last race, like all of them, but we'll try to get a good, solid result."

Andrea Dovizioso was doing everything he could to get to the front during his last qualifying session on a Honda ‰ÛÒ he will ride a Yamaha in 2012 ‰ÛÒ but his efforts were thwarted during the final moments when he lost the front at turn four and took a heavy tumble. The Italian had been as high as fourth fastest, but ended the day in eighth position and will start tomorrow's race from the third row of the grid.

"It was a strange session, complicated by the wind and the difficult track conditions. Towards the end of the session the conditions improved and I was fourth and not pushing because I didn't want to take too many risks, but then when the other riders began to improve their lap times I saw that I needed to push. Unfortunately at turn four I lost the front and crashed," Dovizioso explained.

"It was my mistake as the tyre was cold and turn four is the first right turn. Thankfully I haven't broken anything, I dislocated my thumb and have heavy bruising, it is quite painful but I will have some treatment to reduce the pain. I didn't have the perfect qualifying for the race. We are fighting for third position in the championship and starting from the third row is not ideal, but I will rest tonight and tomorrow start over and super-determined. The weather is uncertain but we will be prepared for every condition."

The Ducati's of Hector Barbera and Karel Abraham rounded out the top ten
Marco was not far away and tomorrow will be full of tributes for the fallen Italian

Main Photo: Casey Stoner
Credit: HRC

Qualifying position
1 Casey Stoner 1m31.861s AUS HONDA Repsol Honda Team
2 Dani Pedrosa +1.014s SPA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
3 Ben Spies +1.196s USA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
4 Randy De Puniet +1.257s FRA DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
5 Alvaro Bautista +1.582s SPA SUZUKI Suzuki MotoGP
6 Valentino Rossi +1.617s ITA DUCATI Ducati Team
7 Nicky Hayden +1.795s USA DUCATI Ducati Team
8 Andrea Dovizioso +1.963s ITA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
9 Hector Barbera +2.325s SPA DUCATI Aspar Ducati
10 Karel Abraham +2.404s CZE DUCATI Cardion AB Ducati
11 Cal Crutchlow +2.468s GBR YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
12 Loris Capirossi +2.810s ITA DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
13 Toni Elias +2.819s SPA HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
14 Hiroshi Aoyama +2.977s JPN HONDA Honda Gresini
15 Katsuyuki Nakasuga +4.138s JPN YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
16 Josh Hayes +4.181s YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3

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