Casey Stoner claimed his second pole position of the season at the Sachsenring today to continue his domination of the German MotoGP.
And the Australian will be hoping to end the premier class pole position jinx that hasn’t seen a rider win from for the last 11 races in a run stretching back to Ducati team-mate Loris Capirossi’s success in the 2006 Japanese MotoGP.
The MotoGP world championship leader, who has won five out of the opening nine races in 2007, set the fastest time of 1.22.384 with 13 minutes of qualifying remaining.
None of his rivals could better that benchmark, though Spaniard Dani Pedrosa came the closest as his best of 1.22.388 set with just five minutes remaining was just 0.004s adrift of Casey Stoner.
Stoner had started the session impressively having topped the timesheets in all three free practice sessions going into this afternoon’s decisive qualifying.
A 1.23.028 set early on race tyres got him to within 0.131s off early pacesetter Alex Barros before his decisive move on qualifying tyres pushed him 0.155s ahead of Randy de Puniet.
Stoner said: “I’m pretty happy wherever I qualify on the front row, so it’s a nice start for us tomorrow. But I also don’t believe in all these sort of pole position jinx and all of that from pole position.
“The last man to win from pole position was Loris Capirossi on a Ducati. So I figure that is a clear card to finish that thing.
“And also most people that have had pole position this year normally haven’t been always very competitive during on race tyres, not right at the top. So we’ll see how we go but I’ve been competitive all weekend and we’ll see if we can get there.”
Dani Pedrosa claimed only his fifth front row start of the season as he goes in search of ending a winless streak that stretches back 12 months to the 2006 British GP at Donington Park.
Pedrosa said: “Tomorrow will be a very long race and at the end it will be difficult for the tyres because you spend so much time on the edge. So we will have to see how the tyres handle it. But I am happy to be on the front row because that is very important.”
Completing the front row is Italian Marco Melandri, who seems much happier with his Gresini Honda RC212V after he received a new exhaust system in Germany.
Identical to factory duo Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa, Marco Melandri said: “We’ve taken a big step forward with it. The throttle connection is much more smooth and the feeling under braking has also improved.”
Marco Melandri left his challenge late to secure his first front row start of 2007 in what has been a torrid season for the former world 250 champion.
He climbed to third with eight minutes remaining when a lap of 1.22.554 moved him to within 01.70s of Stoner.
Just two minutes were left on the clock when he bumped Randy de Puniet off the front row with a 1.22.397 that was just 0.013s away from snatching pole position.
Melandri said: “This is a really good track for me. I’m coming from a very difficult situation and I appreciate the help Honda has given me with the new parts for my bike.
“Now I have the bike I like to ride. It will be a difficult race and long for the tyres but after some very bad races I need a result for myself and for the team.”
Marco Melandri’s late charge left Randy de Puniet fourth, though he bit the dust again in a dramatic conclusion to the session.
The French rider was on course to deny Stoner pole on his last lap when he was 0.138s up on the Ducati rider in the first two timed sections. But he crashed his factory Kawasaki ZX-RR at Turn 10 and had to lay his bike down as he careered towards the trackside air fence.
He walked away unhurt after leading the session early on. In a now customary tactic, Rand de Puniet was the first rider to run a soft qualifying tyre and he topped the timesheets with a 1.22.539 that moved him 0.358s clear of D’Antin Ducati rider Alex Barros.
It was an advantage he held for over 20 minutes before Stoner’s decisive attack.
Fifth place went to American John Hopkins who needed a late burst of speed as he languished down in 16th place with just a minute remaining.
He clocked a 1.22.561 to get within 0.177s of Casey Stoner but then ran off under hard braking at the first corner.
Seven-times world champion Valentino Rossi will start sixth on the second row as he finished 0.221s behind main title rival Casey Stoner and the Italian will start from off the front row for only the third time in ten races.
Valentino Rossi trails Casey Stoner by 21-points going into tomorrow’s 30-lap race, yet he can draw on the experience of last year where he surged through from 11th on the grid to win.
He did the same two weeks ago in Assen’s Dutch GP to defeat Casey Stoner. Valentino Rossi was as high as fifth in the closing stages when he posted a 1.22.605 on his 28th lap. In the first two timed sections he was 0.083s ahead of Stoner’s pole time but lost nearly 0.3s in the final sector.
Carlos Checa will start from 15th position after he escaped injury when he lost the front end of his LCR Honda at the final corner with eight minutes remaining.
MotoGP qualifying results:
1. Casey STONER AUS DUCATI 1:22.384
2. Dani PEDROSA SPA HONDA 1:22.388
3. Marco MELANDRI ITA HONDA 1:22.397
4. Randy DE PUNIET FRA KAWASAKI 1:22.539
5. John HOPKINS USA SUZUKI 1:22.561
6. Valentino ROSSI ITA YAMAHA 1:22.605
7. Loris CAPIROSSI ITA DUCATI 1:22.615
8. Alex BARROS BRA DUCATI 1:22.897
9. Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA YAMAHA 1:22.958
10. Shinya NAKANO JPN HONDA 1:22.969
11. Chris VERMEULEN AUS SUZUKI 1:23.039
12. Anthony WEST AUS KAWASAKI 1:23.056
13. Colin EDWARDS USA YAMAHA 1:23.090
14. Nicky HAYDEN USA HONDA 1:23.151
15. Carlos CHECA SPA HONDA 1:23.182
16. Alex HOFMANN GER DUCATI 1:23.199
17. Michel FABRIZIO ITA HONDA 1:23.491
18. Makoto TAMADA JPN YAMAHA 1:23.744
19. Kurtis ROBERTS USA KR212V