Casey Stoner took his eighth pole position of the 2011 season at Misano but didn't enjoy the comfortable advantage of recent races, with Jorge Lorenzo pushing him all the way. The Australian led a Repsol Honda 1-2 in morning practice but when the session got underway, it became immediately apparent that Lorenzo was a pole contender.
The World Champion began the one-hour session with the kind of form that took him to the top of the timesheets yesterday, becoming the first rider to break into the 1:33s after just nine minutes. Lorenzo subsequently went quicker on each of the next three laps to set the benchmark at a 1:33.716 before returning to the pits, while Dani Pedrosa moved into second ahead of Stoner.
Pedrosa joined Lorenzo in the 1:33s on his second run but all attention shifted to Stoner as he bolted on the softer tyres 15 minutes from time. His first lap on the fresh rubber was impressive enough, a 1:33.495 but the championship leader piled on the agony for his rivals with a 1:33.138 next time around.
Stoner wouldn't run the soft tyres again so the closing stages saw Lorenzo and Pedrosa do battle for the two remaining places on the front row. Yamaha's number one struck the first blow with a 1:33.265, cutting the gap to Stoner to just a tenth of a second, but Pedrosa all but matched him in the final minute, keeping the World Champion firmly on his toes.
Lorenzo responded in typical fashion by improving again on his final lap although he still fell short of Stoner's pace, but with a gap of just 0.120s to the Honda, the battle for victory looks a mouth-watering prospect.
Pedrosa will be a threat off the line from third while Ben Spies confirmed Yamaha's prodigious pace by beating Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso to fourth. The fight for the second row was incredibly close though with a tenth covering four riders and Colin Edwards was the man who drew the short straw, having to make do with seventh. Alvaro Bautista qualified eighth for Rizla Suzuki while Hector Barbera earned the honour of top Ducati, as he's been in every session, with ninth for Mapfre Aspar.
Hiroshi Aoyama qualified in the top ten for just the third time this year which meant the Italian fans had to look all the way down to 11th to find Valentino Rossi. The two-time Misano winner needed a late improvement even to get in front of Karel Abraham who had momentarily beaten him.
Cal Crutchlow will feel he should have been ahead of both Ducatis after holding 11th himself two minutes from the end. Sadly though, the Briton crashed for the third qualifying session in a row which opened the door for Rossi and Abraham to knock him off the fourth row.
Two more Ducatis will start next to him on the fifth row with Randy de Puniet 14th after a crash of his own, and Nicky Hayden a miserable 15th. The back row will feature Loris Capirossi and Toni Elias after both had poor sessions, finishing over two seconds off the pace.
GP Aperol di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini: Qualifying Result
|1||Casey Stoner||AUS||Honda||Repsol Honda Team||1:33.138|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||SPA||Yamaha||Yamaha Factory Racing||+0.120|
|3||Dani Pedrosa||SPA||Honda||Repsol Honda Team||+0.180|
|4||Ben Spies||USA||Yamaha||Yamaha Factory Racing||+0.809|
|5||Marco Simoncelli||ITA||Honda||San Carlo Honda Gresini||+0.852|
|6||Andrea Dovizioso||ITA||Honda||Repsol Honda Team||+0.888|
|7||Colin Edwards||USA||Yamaha||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+0.916|
|8||Alvaro Bautista||SPA||Suzuki||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||+1.222|
|9||Hector Barbera||SPA||Ducati||Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP||+1.454|
|10||Hiroshi Aoyama||JAP||Honda||San Carlo Honda Gresini||+1.499|
|11||Valentino Rossi||ITA||Ducati||Ducati Team||+1.538|
|12||Karel Abraham||CZE||Ducati||Cardion AB Motoracing||+1.589|
|13||Cal Crutchlow||GBR||Yamaha||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+1.653|
|14||Randy de Puniet||FRA||Ducati||Pramac Racing Team||+1.732|
|15||Nicky Hayden||USA||Ducati||Ducati Team||+1.817|
|16||Loris Capirossi||ITA||Ducati||Pramac Racing Team||+2.364|
|17||Toni Elias||SPA||Honda||LCR Honda MotoGP||+3.029|
|107% Qualifying Time: 1:39.658|