The Ducati Desmosedici GP10 machine of Casey Stoner will start the 2010 MotoGP World Championship from the front of the grid tonight following a sensational qualifying performance from the Australian at the Grand Prix of Qatar.
The brilliance of Stoner’s decisive lap was not necessarily in its speed – a 1’55.007 – but in the fact that he set it on race rubber with 16 laps already on the tyre. A minor gear shifter problem after switching to a softer tyre in the closing stages meant that he was unable to raise the bar as his rivals launched their usual late challenge for supremacy but it proved unnecessary as the gap behind him only closed to 0.355 seconds.
Fiat Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo are also in strong form, taking the second and third spots on the grid behind Casey Stoner to set up an exact rematch of last year’s Qatar race.
World Champion Rossi had struggled a little yesterday but was much happier on his bike today after some set-up changes this morning, finding better rear grip and an improved race pace as a result.
Mid-way through the session he moved into the lead for a short while before Stoner bettered his time and edged him back into second. With the hour gone the Italian was up on the clock on his final flying lap but he dropped a few tenths when passing two riders on the fourth sector and had to settle for second, 0.355 off Stoner’s time.
After his confidence-inspiring opening day yesterday, Lorenzo took a small step back this evening and found he had less feeling in the rear than previously. He was nonetheless able to put up a spirited fight for grid positions and was happy to qualify third, considering his recently broken hand and lack of testing. The 23-year-old admits that he still has some pain when braking but is more concerned in tweaking his set-up tonight to put him in the best possible shape for tonight’s race, which starts at 22:30 IST.
2010 MotoGP Qatar Qualifying Times
1.Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’55.007
2.Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’55.362
3.Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’55.520
4.Randy de Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP 1’55.831
5.Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’55.899
6.Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda Team 1’55.963
7.Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1’55.990
8.Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’56.005
9.Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’56.163
10.Hiroshi Aoyama (JAP) Interwetten-Honda MotoGP 1’56.227
11.Ben Spies (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’56.271
12.Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Green Team 1’56.283
13.Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’56.450
14.Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Pramac Green Team 1’56.652
15.Marco Simoncelli (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’56.957
16.Hector Barbera (SPA) Aspar Team 1’57.130
17.Marco Melandri (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’57.325