Stoner takes second consecutive pole with Donington masterclass2008-06-21 08:23
As the rain continued to fall on Donington Park, Casey Stoner performed the MotoGP equivalent of walking on water in the Saturday afternoon qualifying session. The Ducati Marlboro rider was unstoppable in an amazing hour-long demonstration of 800cc riding en route to his second consecutive pole position of the year, continually lowering his times right up to the final moment.
Stoner eventually settled on a 1´38.232 lap as his ultimate offer, some six tenths of a second ahead of nearest rival Valentino Rossi. After dominating in the dry on Friday, the reigning World Champion has proved that he is ready for any eventuality when the lights go out on Sunday. Rossi, however, is the current series leader, and a rider who has also proved his worth at Donington Park in previous years.
Rizla Suzuki´s Chris Vermeulen makes his maiden appearance of the season on the front row at the bwin.com British Grand Prix, aiming for a repeat of his 2007 podium, his presence on the front line also marks the first time this year that Bridgestone have taken all three top spots for a MotoGP race.
Leading the Michelin charge –and making it four different manufacturers in the top four grid spots- Nicky Hayden continued his upturn in fortunes since receiving the pneumatic valve engine from Honda. The factory rider had been told that he could only use the motor on the condition of a top four placing, and the 2006 World Champion once again upheld his part of the bargain, albeit a full second slower than Stoner.
Last year´s poleman Colin Edwards was the fastest satellite rider onboard the Tech3 Yamaha M1, whilst JiR Team Scot´s Andrea Dovizioso joins him on row two. The third line features Anthony West –so impressive on his 800cc debut at Donington last year and riding for his future- and Rizla Suzuki replacement rider Ben Spies ahead of Dani Pedrosa, currently second in the World Championship.
Whilst West came close to a falling when tussling with Dovizioso, home rider James Toseland was the only rider to take a tumble when pushing for an improvement for his Donington race return. Toseland´s rock group `Crash!´ may have wowed the crowds at yesterday´s Riders for Health event, but on Saturday afternoon the ensemble´s moniker was anything but welcome; two falls at the end of the session frustrating the Englishman and leaving him sixteenth on the grid.
As in the 125cc class, the nature of split qualifying sessions played into the hands of the provisional poleman in 250cc. With a wet track with which to set about improving on dry times, Alvaro Bautista was the principal beneficiary in the quarter litre class, taking a fourth pole of the season and continuing his 100% record of front row starts courtesy of his Friday marker.
With the chance to take the lead in the overall standings this weekend at Donington Park, and on a run of winning form, Marco Simoncelli joins Bautista on the front row for the fourth time in as many races. The Metis Gilera rider and his Spanish rival will be accompanied by Team Toth´s Hector Barbera and Emmi-Caffe Latte man Thomas Luthi on the first line.
JiR Team Scot´s Yuki Takahashi, plus fellow Japanese rider Hiroshi Aoyama and the Spanish duo of Julian Simon and Aleix Espargaro, feature on the second row.
Despite recording the fastest time in the second qualifying session, current World Championship leader Mika Kallio will only take off from fourteenth on the grid after a dismal Friday afternoon. Also cursing their comparatively poor initial results will be Alex Debon and Mattia Pasini, in eleventh and twelfth respectively. Lotus Aprilia rider Debon fell from his machine early in the wet run, although the bike continued of its own accord and crossed the track in an incident which thankfully ended without any collision.
Although not a renowned wet weather rider, Simone Corsi likely breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that Saturday´s second 125cc qualifying session would take place in the wet. The Italian had already claimed the provisional pole spot on Friday afternoon in dry conditions, meaning that he was unlikely to be troubled in the decisive session.
Corsi´s 1´37.488 lap proved to be the pole clincher, giving him his first start from the front of the grid since Portugal. The Jack&Jones WRB man emerged victorious from that race, and is looking to do the same in order to keep up the pressure on series leader Mike di Meglio –who starts from 21st after some Friday gearing problems.
Reigning World Champion Gabor Talmacsi will line up alongside Corsi in his fifth front row start of the year, having picked up a recent run of consecutive podium finishes at Mugello and Catalunya. He remained less than a tenth away from Corsi´s marker.
The front row is completed by Talmacsi´s Bancaja Aspar teammate Sergio Gadea and home rider Scott Redding, the first Britain to qualify on the first line of attack at Donington Park since 1988 (when Niall Mackenzie placed on the front row for the 500cc race and Alex Bedford in the 125cc class.). The Blusens Aprilia rider has just one appearance at Donington Park to his name, but commanded the track like a veteran in yesterday´s session.
There will be an empty grid space behind Corsi on Sunday afternoon, with Pol Espargaro ruled out of action with a fractured collarbone. The Belson Derbi rider, who has finished fourth, fourth, third and second in the last quartet of races, will now head to Barcelona for a consultation with Dr. Xavier Mir, missing the bwin.com British Grand Prix.
I.C. Team´s Andrea Iannone, Corsi´s teammate Nico Terol and Repsol KTM rookie Marc Marquez will line up in a trio on the second row. Marquez suffered a spectacular crash on Saturday afternoon, with no effect on his participation in tomorrow´s race.
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