2012-07-28 20:55
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V) nearly earned his fourth pole of the season before being denied the spot after time had expired in MotoGP qualifying for the U.S. Grand Prix at the scenic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Stoner went to the top of the time charts with less than two minutes to go and was on pace to lower his lap time when he was balked by slower riders on his final laps. That gave an opening to Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo, who edged out the world champion by a mere .074s when he crossed the line 28 seconds after the hour had expired.

Stoner will now try to win the race for the second year in a row, and third time overall, from the middle of the front row, just in front of team-mate Dani Pedrosa. Stoner won from second on the grid last year and from the pole in 2007.

Pedrosa was not happy about not being able to improve his time at the end of the hour, but was happy to be on the front row for the seventh time this season. Pedrosa confirmed that he will race the newest spec Repsol Honda RC213V, with the updated chassis and engine, while Stoner will race with the previous chassis and the new engine.

Both Stoner and Pedrosa sat out Saturday morning’s FP3 because of foggy conditions, while most of the other riders spent some time on the track. The session began with only a few CRT riders making laps, but in the final 14 minutes the rest of the field trickled out. The decision by the Repsol Honda team to skip the session, which both riders endorsed because of the marginal conditions, put added emphasis on qualifying, where they not only had to work on a set-up, but also decide whether to use the soft or hard Bridgestone rear tyre in Sunday’s tenth round of the MotoGP World Championship.

Spaniard Alvaro Bautista qualified seventh fastest in his first visit to Laguna Seca as a member of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team. It was his best qualifying effort at the twisty track by five positions. Like the Repsol Honda riders, Bautista lost valuable set-up time by missing most of the morning’s free practice, though he did venture out near the end of the hour.

Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V) finished with the ninth fastest time in his first official qualifying session at the track in the hills east of Monterey. This was Bradl’s first trip to Laguna Seca on a MotoGP machine, though he had learned the track earlier in the year when he took part in a track day aboard a Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade. That helped orient him on the first day, but he still lacked the experience needed to get the most out of the LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V in such a limited time.

Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR Honda) was also making his first visit to Laguna Seca, yet another new track where he had no data for the CRT machine, and the only one this season where he has had no experience. The track is unlike any other in the world, with constant changes of direction and elevations, and a gradually bumpier surface. Riders often struggle to learn the track’s idiosyncrasies in their first forays on the 3.61Km, 11-turn circuit.

Sundays’ U.S. Grand Prix is the final race before the summer break, after which the series returns to the U.S. for the Indianapolis Grand Prix in three weeks’ time.

MotoGP Rider Quotes: Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda: 2nd
“I'm disappointed as I think we definitely had the potential for pole position. We spent most of the session with the hard tyre trying to improve our pace. We've been struggling with it all season when the temperatures aren't high enough to get it working and we had made a few steps and weren't too far off the pace. Then we put on the soft tyre and unfortunately we never got a clean lap. There was always a CRT bike in the way and considering we're three, four seconds a lap quicker than them, you come up on them pretty quick, no matter how big a gap you give them. Every lap was spoiled, which is very frustrating as I really feel we could have been on pole, but we'll have to settle for where we are. Tyre choice for the race will depend on the weather conditions tomorrow. I think we have the pace and longevity in the tyre for the soft, but if it's hot then we may have to try and make the hard work.”

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 3rd
“I was a little upset at the end of the session as I wasn't able to improve my lap time, but happy anyway with another front row. We did a big job this afternoon, considering this morning; in my opinion, there was no meaning to go out with such a track and weather conditions. So we had one hour to work with the tyres and set up the new bike that I finally chose for the race. It was an intense and interesting practice; we know what we have to do for tomorrow. The bike is working well and I'm pretty confident for the race. Let's see if we have better conditions than today for the warm up tomorrow and we can work on the finer details, although I think we have already a good package.”

Alvaro Bautista, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 7th
“Today went quite a lot better than yesterday – the only disappointment is that we hardly got any laps in this morning because of the fog and that probably cost us the opportunity to take another step forward. Anyway, we managed to try a couple of different settings out and in the end we found something positive which improved my confidence on the bike. My pace also improved, so that's good. Obviously, we are still not at 100%, but we have taken an important step. A third row start isn't bad and if we can get away well off the line we can hope to stay with the second group because the front three are on a different level. My objective is to rediscover the feeling I had before Mugello and have a good race.”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: 9th “Not great and not so bad... in between. It’s more difficult for me compared with the past races, because yesterday I had to find my pace and orient myself on this new track. Then this morning we lost the session due to the bad weather, so we started working on the bike package this afternoon. I am not really happy about the front end feeling, because we are losing too much time in braking and in corners entries, so actually I miss the perfect confidence to go faster. We need to analyse the data and make a change for tomorrow, because the surface is pretty bumpy. Starting from the third row is not so bad but I am aware it will be a long race and I will try to follow the guys in the front.”

Michele Pirro, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 16th
“The lap times have improved quite a lot from yesterday, but we need to take another step if we are going to be competitive in the race. The guys will work hard as always to put me in a position to score a good result and I will do my part. (Randy) De Puniet and (Aleix) Espargarò have a big gap over the rest of the CRTs here, but it will be a long race and anything is possible.”

Source: Honda Pro Image

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