Ben Spies saw his hopes of a stunning maiden MotoGP front row start in his home race thwarted by a late crash from Pramac Ducati rider Mika Kallio in qualifying.
The Texan was on course to move into third place by Andrea Dovizioso when he came up behind Kallio’s incident at the famous Corkscrew in the decisive final moments of the session.
The 26-year-old slowed down slightly and he eventually had to settle for fifth place on the grid for the 32-lap race.
But Spies’ fastest lap of 1.21.679 was only 0.062s away from the top three and he said: “It’s a little frustrating to be so close to my first front row. The last stint was good and I was actually on a front row lap for sure. I was a tenth quicker and then Kallio unfortunately crashed at the Corkscrew.
"As soon as I got in to the corner there was a big dust cloud and yellow flags were being waved. I was really scared that someone was on the downhill part and you can’t see going in there. I lost a tenth there for sure and that definitely kept me off the front row. He obviously didn’t do it on purpose and I tried to judge it as best as I could and keep my speed up but I wanted to play it safe and not plough somebody in the middle of the track.”
Spies though is confident he can be in the fight for his second premier class podium of the season to follow up his stunning third place at last month’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Spies accepts that a dream victory is virtually out of his grasp with Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner so dominant at the front of the field.
Spies was over 0.7s away from Fiat Yamaha rider Lorenzo and he said:
“I’m happy being in the middle of row two and besides Casey and Lorenzo I’m in the battle for the podium and that’s where I want to be. I couldn’t be happier with that. I’m not that surprised they are so fast.
"Everybody knows how much raw talent Casey has got and Lorenzo right now is riding like ten men and full of confidence. I can see what he’s doing but I can’t do it right now.
"He’s just riding awesome and the fortunate thing for him is the guy that’s running his pace right now, isn’t a guy he’s battling with for the championship and he’s looking pretty sweet. Both those guys are pretty unbelievable.
"A mid-21 is not slow round this place and a 20.9 is real impressive. If I get a good start and stay out of trouble then I have the pace to fight for the podium. For the win, those guys are going way too fast now. You never give up but they are on another level right now from everybody. I’ll ride as hard as I can and have some fun in front of the home fans.”