Stoner races to Jerez pole
Casey Stoner's dream start to the new MotoGP season continued as he claimed pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.The Australian won his first race for the Repsol Honda team at the season opener in Qatar two weeks ago, and was once again the class of the field as he beat off the challenge of team-mate Dani Pedrosa to take top spot.
Not even a fall at the first corner in the dying moments of the session could deny Stoner pole, with his best lap of one minute 38.757 seconds enough to edge out home favourite Pedrosa by 0.158 seconds.
Ominously for Stoner's rivals Jerez has been a track where he has struggled in the top class, but he is the clear favourite to secure another 25-point haul for victory.
Reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo produced a strong lap to follow the dominant Hondas by rounding out the front row on his Yamaha.
His team-mate Ben Spies, another to suffer a fall late in the session, leads off the second row with the Gresini Honda of Marco Simoncelli and the Repsol bike of Andrea Dovizioso next up.
Randy de Puniet once again showcased his undoubted pace by being the fastest Ducati as he claimed seventh aboard the customer Pramac machine.
But it was a nightmare day for the Bologna marque's factory squad with Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden off the pace throughout.
The American eventually out-qualified his Italian team-mate, taking 11th to Rossi's 12th.
Nine-time world champion Rossi's cause was not helped by a crash early in the session which saw him switch to his spare bike, but his complete lack of pace came as a real surprise after showing some good speed in yesterday's practice sessions.
Stoner revealed in the post-qualifying press conference that, despite his pace, he was unhappy with the performance of his RC212V on the softer tyre.
"This morning I was really happy with the way the bike was working on used tyres. We did more than a race distance and was not too far off my fastest lap time, so we were really happy," he said.
"This afternoon we wanted to continue that, put a lot more laps on a set of hard tyres and see if we could improve it. We didn't seem to be really going in the right direction - every time we seemed to find a bit more grip we'd lose the feeling in the front so we were trying to just find that balance.
"When we put the soft tyre on, we weren't really happy with the way the bike was working, so I think we'll come back to what we had this morning (for the race)."
Lorenzo, meanwhile, believes Yamaha are closing in on Honda in terms of outright pace, but expects a tough home race.
"The bike has improved a lot - especially under braking - so I feel more comfortable," he said..
"But we are still a little bit far from the Honda riders, so we hope tomorrow, which will be a difficult race, to be closer."