US MotoGP: Pole to medical centre for Jorge Lorenzo

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Jorge Lorenzo stormed to his fourth pole position of 2009 in Laguna Seca today before a huge high-side in the final minutes saw the Spaniard whisked off to the circuit medical centre in the back of an ambulance.

Lorenzo, who had already crashed at the fast right-hand Turn 10 just 19 minutes earlier, spectacularly high-sided out at the same corner with just three minutes remaining on his spare Fiat Yamaha YZR-M1. The 22-year-old attempted to get to his feet, but hobbling severely he fell back to the floor and needed to be stretchered away.

Early indications are that the double world 250GP champion has severe bruising to his right leg and foot and a partial dislocation of his right shoulder. He is expected to be declared fit to ride in tomorrow’s 32-lap race. It is another injury nightmare though for Lorenzo, who took pole position with a best time of 1.21.678 to edge out team-mate Valentino Rossi by 0.167s.

Lorenzo suffered a broken ankle in 2008 when he crashed out of the American GP on the first lap in what was the last in a string of big mistakes from this year’s title challenger. Rossi’s second place bizarrely left him in Parc Ferme on his own, with Aussie Casey Stoner also crashing out in a dramatic finale to today’s qualifying session.

Stoner high-sided his factory Ducati GP9 at the third corner, the 23-year-old landing heavily on his back. Stoner, who has been suffering severe fatigue again during the American GP weekend, still clung onto a front row start in third with a best time of 1.21.910.

He was taken away on a stretcher too, but TV pictures later showed him walking back to his office at the back of the Laguna Seca paddock. The 2007 world champion will definitely race in tomorrow’s eighth round of the 2009 world championship.

Away from the drama of the front row, Spaniard Dani Pedrosa secured fourth place on the grid, one place ahead of Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso. Surprise of the weekend though continues to be Toni Elias, with the Gresini Honda rider’s lap of 1.22.146 securing him sixth ahead of American duo Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden.

Both Edwards and Hayden crashed out in this morning’s final practice session that was run in overcast and cool conditions compared to the sunny and warm weather of this afternoon.

Edwards, who also high-sided at Turn 10, lost most of the fingernail off the third finger on his right hand. Chris Vermeulen also crashed heavily this morning at Turn 10, the Aussie suffering damage to his left hip.

British rider James Toseland was another casualty too, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider emerging unscathed from a crash at the final corner in the opening 15 minutes. Toseland ended up in a bitterly disappointing 15th place on the grid – his worst of 2009.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt