Moto GP

Stoner takes record tenth pole at Motegi

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Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner shattered the lap record for the Twin Ring Motegi circuit while scoring a new record of ten MotoGP poles in one season in qualifying for Sunday?s Japanese Grand Prix.

The runaway world championship leader will start the 15th round of the MotoGP World Championship on the front row ahead of Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.

Row two has a similar makeup, with Honda riders on either end and a Yamaha rider in between. Dani Pedrosa qualified fourth fastest in front of Ben Spies (Yamaha) and Marco Simoncelli, the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider who rebounded from a mid-session spill to steal the second row with his final lap of Honda?s home circuit.

From this weekend?s earliest laps of the 4801m circuit north of Tokyo, Stoner felt confident that lowering the existing qualifying record was achievable. The Honda RC212V was developed at Motegi and its braking stability and strong acceleration make it the perfect choice for the stop-and-go course.

Lowering the record would take a sterling performance since the existing lap record of 1m, 45.543s was set by Lorenzo on qualifying tyres in 2008. To get there would mean knocking more than 1.5s off last year?s pole time of 1m, 47.001s set by Dovizioso.

With just under 13 minutes remaining in the one hour session, held under cloudy skies, Stoner dipped down into the 1m, 45s lap times. His next lap would approach the previous lap record, but the new record wouldn?t come on that tyre.

With just over five minutes to go in the session, Lorenzo would be the one to eclipse the old mark and temporarily hold custody of the pole. Two minutes from the end of the session Stoner shattered the mark by clocking a lap of 1m, 45.267s, a time that was 1.7s faster than last year?s pole mark.

The pole was Stoner?s tenth of the season, setting a new record for the MotoGP era and breaking a tie he?d held with Valentino Rossi.

Rossi secured nine poles en route to winning the 2003 MotoGP World Championship for the Repsol Honda team. Stoner had nine poles in 2008 in defence of his 2007 MotoGP World Championship. It was also Stoner?s 14th front row start in 15 races this season; he qualified fourth in Portugal.

?Everything has gone very well so far this weekend." Stoner said.

"We've been fastest in all but one session, so it's been fantastic. We tried a few different settings this afternoon and didn't really improve, so we'll probably go back to this morning's setting for tomorrow. We'll have to watch the weather as this will affect the setup; there's also a chance of rain so it could get complicated.

"Jorge (Lorenzo) has been riding fantastic, as has Dovi and Dani (Pedrosa), but there is no doubt that the Honda suits this track. I've been looking forward to riding it here for a while now and I'm not disappointed! Tomorrow will be a tough race, but the team is working hard and we'll do our best.?

After struggling in the previous sessions for braking stability and maximum lean grip, Lorenzo's crew made key set up changes which transformed the Mallorcan's YZR-M1 for the final session.

"We tried something different this afternoon and our lap times were unbelievable, we almost got pole! Lorenzo said.

"The most important thing is the first row because there are riders like Casey who find it easy to escape so I want to be right there. We have improved today but Motegi is still a tough track for Yamaha riders. If the other riders do a perfect race it is almost impossible to win, but anything can happen. Now I can say I am ready for the battle and we will put on a good show for all the Japanese fans who have come to see us race!"

Main Photo: Casey Stoner

Qualifying position
1 Casey Stoner 1m45.267s AUS HONDA Repsol Honda Team
2 Jorge Lorenzo +0.256s SPA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
3 Andrea Dovizioso +0.524s ITA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
4 Dani Pedrosa +0.699s SPA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
5 Ben Spies +0.775s USA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
6 Marco Simoncelli +0.944s ITA HONDA Honda Gresini
7 Valentino Rossi +1.200s ITA DUCATI Ducati Team
8 Alvaro Bautista +1.319s SPA SUZUKI Suzuki MotoGP
9 Hector Barbera +1.427s SPA DUCATI Aspar Ducati
10 Nicky Hayden +1.496s USA DUCATI Ducati Team
11 Hiroshi Aoyama +1.544s JPN HONDA Honda Gresini
12 Cal Crutchlow +1.551s GBR YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
13 Randy De Puniet +1.650s FRA DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
14 Colin Edwards +1.898s USA YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
15 Karel Abraham +2.655s CZE DUCATI Cardion AB Ducati
16 Toni Elias +2.902s SPA HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
17 Kousuke Akiyoshi +3.100s JPN HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
18 Damian Cudlin +3.695s DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
19 Shinichi Ito +4.704s JPN HONDA Team HRC

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