Dani Pedrosa outpaced Jorge Lorenzo by the smallest of margins to claim pole position for tomorrow’s San Marino Grand Prix. With no dry track time prior to qualifying, a number of different riders muscled in the pole fight but once the session reached its conclusion, the two usual suspects were going head-to-head again.
The first half of the session was totally dominated by Pedrosa who set about his race preparation, gradually upping his pace from early 1:35s to mid 1:34s. Dani didn’t come under any great threat until the riders behind switched to the softer tyres with Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl closing to within a tenth of a second. The Yamahas weren’t challenging as they’d been expected to with Lorenzo off the front row and Ben Spies in the gravel after a mistake at turn one.
Pedrosa’s near fifty minute spell at the top of the timesheet was finally ended by Lorenzo who improved to a 1:34.260 on soft tyres and Pedrosa’s immediate reply was a tenth slower, keeping him back in second. The title contenders were then stunned by a sensational lap from Stefan Bradl who stuck the LCR Honda on provisional pole eight minutes from time.
With the seconds ticking away, time was running out for Pedrosa and Lorenzo but the next change of polesitter saw Cal Crutchlow snatch the lead for Tech 3, putting in consecutive laps in the 1:34.0s range. With that, the title rivals upped their game and Lorenzo dropped into the 1:33s at the perfect time, taking a tenth off Crutchlow’s time. Pedrosa still had one more lap available to him though and despite trailing by two tenths heading into the final sector, the Honda had enough in the last quarter of the lap to snatch pole by 0.018s.
Crutchlow ran wide at turn one on his final lap which prevented him from bettering third but he, along with fourth placed Stefan Bradl, will have been delighted with the final result. Alvaro Bautista also shone on his satellite Honda to grab fifth ahead of Valentino Rossi, the Ducati rider matching his best qualifying result of the season.
The two remaining Yamahas of Andrea Dovizioso and Ben Spies will start together on the third row with Jonathan Rea for company after the British rookies performed admirably on the Repsol Honda. Rea, who will have been particularly disadvantaged by the wet build-up, qualified within 1.5s of pole and outpaced Nicky Hayden and Karel Abraham on their prototype Ducatis.
Randy de Puniet took twelfth on the grid to lead the CRT pack while James Ellison will start four places further back in sixteenth.