Jorge Lorenzo claimed his third pole position of the season in record-breaking fashion at the spectacular Laguna Seca track in California this afternoon.
The Spaniard secured his first pole position since the second round of the 2012 campaign in Jerez with a record lap of 1.20.554, which narrowly beat Casey Stoner’s pole record of 1.20.700 set on a Ducati Desmosedici 800cc machine in 2008.
Lorenzo, who will start tomorrow’s 32-lap race US Grand Prix with a 19-point lead over compatriot Dani Pedrosa, set his best time with a terrific final lap attack after it had looked like Stoner would deny him pole.
Stoner had snatched top spot with just over a minute remaining when he logged a 1.20.628.
But Lorenzo retaliated and his best time secured him pole by just 0.074s.
Stoner was second ahead of Repsol Honda team-mate Pedrosa, who couldn’t improve his pace on Bridgestone’s soft compound rear tyre.
Pedrosa, who is using the all-new 2013 spec Honda RC213V in California, set his best lap of 1.20.906 on only his sixth lap of the 60-minute session and he couldn’t improve in 26 further laps.
Ben Spies blew a great chance to score his third front row start of the campaign as he heads the second row in fourth.
The Texan, who will quit Yamaha at the end of 2012, had set a best time of 1.21.094 that had put him just 0.188s behind Pedrosa.
But he suffered a heavy crash late in the session that he walked away from unhurt.
British rider Cal Crutchlow will start fifth after he clocked a best time of 1.21.268. That was only 0.174s behind Spies and the 26-year-old will start from the second row of the grid for the sixth time in 10 races.
Crutchlow was 0.271s clear of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Andrea Dovizioso while it was a nightmare day for Ducati.
Home crowd favourite and double Laguna Seca winner Nicky Hayden will start down in eighth place after a best time of 1.21.734 left him 1.180s off Lorenzo’s blistering pace.
Factory Ducati team-mate Valentino Rossi struggled even more and he was cast adrift in a lowly and humbling 10th place. The Italian’s best time of 1.22.544 left him a massive 1.990s off the pace and he was less than 0.5s faster than Aspar Aprilia CRT duo Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro.
British rider James Ellison’s 1.24.715 will see him start in 21st place after he was 4.161s behind the leading pace.