Yamaha has secured a pole position for the fourth time this season at the China MotoGP, but this time it was veteran rider Colin Edwards who shot to the top of the timesheets on his final lap of the hour-long session in Shanghai.
The Tech 3 Yamaha rider had been top earlier only to be knocked down the timesheets, but the 34-year-old made sure he would claim his first pole position since Donington Park last season.
Edwards’ team-mate James Toseland will start from the third row of the grid after finishing the session in seventh with a best time of 1:59.254 as he still gets to grips with the Shanghai circuit, which he’d never ridden until yesterday.
Valentino Rossi will start second on his Fiat Yamaha while Casey Stoner takes his first front row start of the season in third.
Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who was declared fit enough to ride after suffering ankle injuries in a massive high-side in the first practice yesterday, will start from fourth after putting in an heroic effort in qualifying never getting off his YZF-M1 even in the garages.
Rookie Andrea Dovizioso lost the front end of his JiR Team Scot Honda early on in the session and had to run back to the pits to get a spare motorcycle.
Casey Stoner was on the early pace with a 2:00.577 to go to the top of the timesheets.
After initially going ninth, James Toseland soon shot up to sixth with a 2:01.228 on his Tech 3 Yamaha and then on his next lap brought that down to 2:01.226.
After 12 minutes Dani Pedrosa put himself on top with a 2:00.389 and he soon brought this down to 2:00.163.
But seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi had other ideas and put himself top with just over a quarter of the session gone with a 1:59.876 on the Fiat Yamaha.
Dani Pedrosa shot up to take the lead on his 12th lap with a 1:59.693 but it was his team-mate 2006 champion Nicky Hayden some 10 minutes later who shocked the pack to shoot to the top with a 1:59.507.
And just seconds later Rizla Suzuki man Loris Capirossi stunned the Shanghai crowd even further to beat this time by just 0.1secs to take the top spot.
Jorge Lorenzo was riding with fractures in both feet and his right ankle, while his left ankle is swollen with ligament damage according the TV reports, after his massive high-side yesterday. He posted the 13th best time but only just over two seconds off the pace.
Rossi returned to the top with a 1:59.362 with just over 20 minutes remaining. And former tem-mate Colin Edwards made sure Yamaha’s stayed at the top by taking provisional pole with a 1:59.088.
Lorenzo must have thought the Chinese gods were against him as he had a massive moment on his 13th lap and just managed to hold on to his Yamaha YZF-M1 which would surely have sent pain through his already sore body.
Nicky Hayden was the next rider with a fast beating heart as he lost his front end of his Repsol Honda. The American tried to ride it back to the pits from the back of the circuit, but in the end he opted to leave it at a marshal’s post and run back to the pits for the spare RC212V.
Defending champion Casey Stoner, who has struggled in the past couple of races, knocked a massive amount off his time to set a 1:58.860 for the top spot.
Jorge Lorenzo returned to the Shanghai track and managed to put his Yamaha straight in to fourth, jumping up nine places.
Tech 3 Yamaha’s James Toseland, who was still only on the Shanghai circuit for his fourth session, was sitting 13th with a best lap of 1:59.999.
Shinya Nakano was another faller as he came off his Gresini Honda with just under 10 minutes remaining. And Kawasaki’s John Hopkins was the next to lost the front end.
Casey Stoner improved his pole time on the Ducati GP8 by knocking off 0.269secs, but Rossi knocked 0.4secs off this time to put himself on pole again with five minutes left.
Britain’s James Toseland shot himself up to fifth on his 18th lap with a 1:59.254, which was 0.74secs quicker than his previous best.
Then the heroics of the injured Jorge Lorenzo continued as he put his Fiat Yamaha on the front row of the grid with a 1:58.711.
Veteran Texan Colin Edwards returned to provisional pole with a 1:58.139 and it was then just a matter of time to see what other riders on their final flying laps managed as the chequered flag was waved. But he had done enough and it was time for the satellite Yamaha team to celebrate and look ahead to tomorrow’s race.
Tech 3 Yamaha team boss Herve Poncharal said after qualifying: “This is not bad for an old man, some say I should retire but not now.
“I’m delighted we’ve been having good times in the championship but yesterday I was thinking this is going to be more difficult. We worked on chassis and tyres last night and I’m happy Yamaha have a one-two.”
China MotoGP qualifying results:
1 Colin EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha 1'58.139
2 Valentino Rossi ITA Fiat Yamaha + 0.355
3 Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro + 0.452
4 Jorge Lorenzo SPA Fiat Yamaha + 0.572
5 Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda + 0.716
6 Loris Capirossi ITA Rizla Suzuki + 0.802
7 James Toseland GBR Tech 3 Yamaha + 1.115
8 Chris Vermeulen AUS Rizla Suzuki + 1.186
9 Randy de Puniet FRA LCR Honda + 1.218
10 Nicky Hayden USA Repsol Honda + 1.368
11 Andrea Dovizioso ITA JiR Team Scot + 1.420
12 Marco Melandri ITA Ducati Marlboro + 1.539
13 Shinya Nakano JPN San Carlo Gresini Honda + 1.577
14 John Hopkins USA Kawasaki + 1.601
15 Toni Elias SPA Ducati Alice + 1.794
16 Alex de Angelis RSM San Carlo Gresini Honda + 2.177
17 Sylvain Guintoli FRA Ducati Alice + 2.621
18 Anthony West AUS Kawasaki + 2.699