Qualifying Dutch Grandprix, Assen, The Netherlands

2012-06-29 18:50
Riding just hours after one of the worst crashes of his world championship-winning career, Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V) secured one of his most dramatic pole positions with a stunning lap in the dying minutes of the dry-wet-dry qualifying session for Saturday�s Dutch TT on the historic Circuit van Drenthe in Assen, Holland. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) will start the race next to Stoner on the front row after qualifying second.

It was a frustrating session for the riders, most of whom spent significant time in the pits during repeated small showers. Stoner was down in ninth when the track was dry for the final time with about six minutes to go in the hour. He had had a heavy crash in the morning and was still trying to find a solution for the front end chatter that has bedeviled the team all year. The reigning world champion had spent qualifying making the most of the limited dry track time on the harder option rear tyre, but with so little time remaining Stoner had no choice but to fit the soft option to improve his grid position for Saturday�s seventh round of the MotoGP World Championship.

Following his out lap on the now dry track it was clear he was on a mission. With his first flying lap he was up to third and on his next he put the pole out of reach. Because of a slight reconfiguration of the 4542m circuit, Stoner�s lap of 1m, 33.713s goes into the record books as the fastest.

The pole was the 38th of Stoner�s MotoGP career and third this season after Estoril and Catalunya.

Pedrosa had set the fastest time of the session 11m, 39s into the hour. Had the conditions remained mixed, Pedrosa would have taken the pole. But in the final few minutes it was Stoner setting the fast time; that left Pedrosa second to his team-mate by .115s.

What was encouraging for Pedrosa was that he had two extended runs when the track was dry, both consistently in the 1m, 34s range that should be enough to keep him at the front of the race pack.

Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) shattered his previous best qualifying mark with a sterling effort in difficult conditions. In his first MotoGP season, the 2011 Moto2 World Champion had qualified a season best eighth in the Catalunya GP. But with his final lap he knocked more than .6s off his previous best to leap up to fourth, and nearly onto the front row: He missed out by a scant .034s.

Like Pedrosa, Bradl�s race pace was encouraging during the limited dry track time, which is important in Assen where Bradl�s German fans will pack the circuit.

San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista was on his last lap when he crashed after pushing the front in the final minutes of the session. He was in eighth at the time, where he would finish, though he had been up to fifth when rain interrupted the proceedings around mid-session. Without the crash, the Spaniard was confident he would have been further up the grid.

Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda) was 14th and third fastest of the CRT bikes. Pirro never got the chance to show his best with only eight laps at speed during the weather-compromised session.

Moto2 championship leader Marc Marquez (Team Catalunya CaixaRepsol � Suter) raced to his fifth pole of the season, then fell while trying to better his time with his final lap. There was little need. The young Spaniard finished with a lap of 1m, 37.133s, which was .455s faster than title rival Pol Espargaro (Pons 40 HP Tuenti � Kalex), his fellow Spaniard who will sit next to him on the front row. Espargaro was on the pole at the previous British Grand Prix.

Marquez had also fallen in the morning, though he was fortunate not to be hurt in either spill. The world championship leader carries a six point lead over Espargaro and Thomas Luthi (Interwetten-Paddock � Suter), the Swiss rider who qualified tenth, into Saturday�s race.

Andrea Iannone (Speed Master � Speed Up) was third fastest and on the front row for the third time this season. Iannone was able to move through the field after reducing tyre chatter while improving tyre life.

Niccolo Antonelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR-Honda) pleasantly surprised his team with a standout qualifying effort. The Moto3 first year rider, and second youngest rider in grand prix racing, had never qualified better than tenth before today. But on a 31 degree C track, the 16-year-old earned his first front row start by qualifying third.

Championship leader Maverick Vinales (Blusens Avintia � FTR-Honda) qualified sixth fastest, but only .533s off pole. Vinales often wins from the front and wanted to do his time without the benefit of a slipstream. His pace overall gave him confidence of enhancing his championship lead on Saturday.

Alexis Masbou (Caretta Technology � Honda) qualified .095s behind Vinales on the row three pole. With 17 riders on the same second, it was hard for the Frenchman to get a clean lap, though with so much traffic he was not able to get into a good rhythm.

MotoGP rider quotes:

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: Pole position, 1m, 33.713s
�This morning was probably one of my biggest crashes, which is saying something! The crash really knocked the wind out of me. I hurt my head, neck, wrist, knee and shoulder; it was a bad one for sure. The shoulder isn't too bad. In some of the faster corners it's tricky, but my knee is the worst on the change of direction in the chicane and a few other places. The team did a really great job, they kept their heads down even when I wasn't riding to my full potential or the bike's full potential and when we were struggling to get the rear tyre to work, they didn't give up. Then when we came back onto the soft rear tyre for the first time since FP1, the bike had much more feeling and we were able to put together a fantastic lap and put it on pole. As far as race pace goes, we're still struggling and we need to work on this and make some decisions before the race. It's been a really strange day for us, but hopefully we can be competitive tomorrow.�

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 2nd, 1m, 33.828s
�We did a very good job in all the practice sessions and I'm happy with qualifying, even though I missed the pole position at the very end. The target was to be on the front row because the first corner here is very close and tight, and to work hard to get a good race pace, I think we did everything well. We improved the feeling with the front tyre a little and I'm really looking forward to confirm this in the race tomorrow. The times are very close again, but the key point will be the race pace. I feel good, the bike is working well and we just need to make the correct tyre choice, because the weather can be uncertain like it was in Silverstone. It looks like the soft tyre gives you a lot of potential, but for the race distance we are not 100% sure, especially on the left side which is softer. Here it is important to have good stability out of the corner and with the hard compound you get it, so we will need to wait and see what the conditions are like tomorrow and do the best in the race.�

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 4th, 1m, 34.035s
�Finally we put the things together and we had a very good qualifying, a very good lap time and a very good placement on the starting grid for tomorrow. I was not expecting this result because yesterday we were struggling a lot, but we remained concentrated: basically we did not give up and the great result finally arrived and the team demonstrated a strong character. We have found a good balance for the bike using a perfect strategy and it was not easy because the weather was pretty unstable. This is our real potential and now I must learn to repeat this in the future.�

Alvaro Bautista, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 8th, 1m, 34.722s
�It was a shame about the crash because we did such a good job this morning and our pace was strong. This afternoon the rain came first, which set us back, and then when I went back out and tried to push I lost the front and crashed, which cost me a lot of grid positions. The good thing is we are fast and our rhythm is good so we just have to try and get a good start, make up positions as quickly as possible and not lose contact with the front guys.�

Michel Pirro, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 14th, 1m, 36.647s
�We lost half of the session to the rain this afternoon and that didn't help us, but we have closed the gap a little to the two best CRT bikes and this is positive. Obviously we still have some things to do, especially to solve a bad vibration, but I'm sure the team can help resolve it tomorrow and put me in a position to be fighting to be the top CRT.�

Moto2 rider quotes

Marc Marquez, Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol � Suter: Pole position, 1m, 37.133s
�I feel fine physically. We know why we crashed in practice and we corrected it for qualifying. I was pushing a little bit harder on the slowest corner in the afternoon, because I knew that a crash wouldn't matter too much. I lost control and I was spat off the bike, but we still have a good setting for tomorrow's race. Our pace is good and I have a lot of confidence on the bike. We knew that we were fine, and that we weren't as far off as it looked, so we just focused on our job. As always, the work carried out on the first two days was focused on preparing for the race, and in qualifying we went with the best solutions to try and get a hot lap in. The important thing is that we are on pole and are not suffering like at Silverstone. We are very prepared to fight for the win.�

Pol Espargaro, Pons 40 HP Tuenti-Kalex: 2nd, 1m, 37.588s
�We have a very good pace and we are working in an incredible way, so I'm happy and confident for the race. Marc (Marquez) and I were the only ones capable of doing several times at 1m, 37s, but Andrea Iannone is usually there in practice, and I'm sure tomorrow he will be at the front and fighting for victory, which could be like the surprise of Scott Redding at Silverstone. The pole position is always a joy, but the important thing is to be in the first row and starting well. Sure, the race will be hard and complicated and we will try to do our best to get the win, or at least return to the podium.�

Andrea Iannone, Speed Master � Speed Up: 3rd, 1m, 37.956s
�This first row is really important. It wasn�t a very easy day, we had to deal with some chatter, but with the guys we tried out some solutions that are helping us little by little. The race tomorrow is going to be a tough one. Marc Marquez and Pol Espargar� are very fast and it�s going to be quite a battle. Today�s result is a good one; we�ll see what happens tomorrow.�

Moto3 Rider Quotes

Niccolo Antonelli, San Carlo Gresini Moto3 - FTR Honda: 3rd, 1m, 43.988s
�I can finally say I am happy because this is an excellent result with a bike that is improving at every race. The weekend has started well, we've been fast in every session and this afternoon I was able to meet my target of qualifying inside the top five. I had fun out there although it was tough to set the time on the final lap because there was so much traffic out there. That makes it so much more special because I had to get past a bunch of riders and it give me confidence for what I hope will be a good race for tomorrow.�

Maverick Vinales, Blusens Avintia � FTR Honda: 6th, 1m, 44.178s
�We wanted to go at our own pace and ride solo, and because this is a difficult track and we used no slipstreams, we missed out on pole. Today the important thing was to find a good pace for tomorrow, and I think that we are riding well. We have to improve the engine, but the chassis is working well.�

Alexis Masbou, Caretta Technology � Honda: 7th, 1m, 44.273s
�We have to work hard. The time on the lap is good, but I am not able to have this rhythm for all the race. I hope to do well tomorrow.�

Source: Honda Pro Image

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