Dorna press release:
After a dominant performance in the first MotoGP qualifying session of the year, Casey Stoner will line up on pole for the Commercial bank Grand Prix of Qatar.
The 2007 FIM MotoGP World Champion and Ducati Marlboro rider will attempt to make it three consecutive season-opening victories in Qatar on Sunday, having qualified in style at the floodlit Losail International Circuit.
The Australian, who took the win in the opening races of the year in 2007 and 2008, was in hot form again in the first qualifying session of the new single tyre supplier era, setting a 1’55.286s best time near the end of the session to keep him nearly half a second ahead of the chasing pack.
The ‘best of the rest’ was World Champion Valentino Rossi who registered his best time on his penultimate lap, a 0.473s margin behind Stoner. The Italian therefore starts his title defence second on the grid, a big improvement on his seventh place in qualifying at Qatar last year.
Rossi’s team-mate, 2008 poleman Jorge Lorenzo, completes the front row courtesy of his 1’55.783s time, itself just 0.024s behind his Fiat Yamaha colleague’s best.
Like Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso was taking part in his first qualifying practice on Bridgestone tyres and the Italian youngster ended up in fourth spot. The new Repsol Honda rider will get away from the head of the second row on his factory debut as he attempts to match or improve on his impressive fourth place at Losail last year.
Loris Capirossi, meanwhile, who starts his 20th World Championship season this weekend, will be on his compatriot Dovizioso’s shoulder having put himself fifth on the grid with the new and improved Suzuki GSV-R.
Another experienced rider, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards, completes the second row having lapped within a second of Stoner.
Randy de Puniet of the satellite LCR Honda team posted a best effort of 1’56.358, just over a second off pole position pace, to qualify seventh, joined on the third row by Rizla Suzuki man Chris Vermeulen and San Marino rider Alex de Angelis of the San Carlo Honda Gresini team. Pramac Racing’s Mika Kallio completes the top ten as the best rookie qualifier.
Dani Pedrosa qualified in 14th position on his Repsol Honda RC212V, handicapped by his left wrist and knee injuries but still giving himself a chance of scoring points on Sunday.
Comeback star Sete Gibernau is also riding injured with an ongoing shoulder injury sustained in training in the winter, and he will start his first race in more than two years in 15th position.
A huge high-speed highside crash for Nicky Hayden on turn two at the end of the session saw him unable to move up from 16th on the grid on his Ducati debut and he was stretchered away for medical attention. The American has hurt his back but his participation in the Commercial bank Grand Prix of Qatar has not been ruled out.
Although some unseasonal and unexpected intermittent rain did not affect the MotoGP session, it did cause a 25 minute delay in the start of the 250cc qualifying practice.
Álvaro Bautista wants to fight hard for the 250cc World title this year and he will start the first race of 2009 in the quarter litre class in pole position, whilst the current World Champion Marco Simoncelli misses out due to injury.
Bautista took full advantage of Simoncelli’s absence, after the Italian withdrew following free practice 2 due to his wrist injury, the Spaniard registering a best effort of 2’00.677 right at the end of the session to beat his rivals.
The late finish saw the 250cc riders round off the evening’s action at 1.15am local time, with Bautista heading the grid despite a late challenge from Scot Racing Team’s Hiroshi Aoyama -who was second by a 0.1s gap. Also on the front row are Bautista’s new Mapfre Aspar team-mate Mike di Meglio, on his 250cc debut as 125cc World Champion, and Pepe World Team’s Héctor Barberá, on the comeback trail from a serious back injury.
Row two is filled by Héctor Faubel (Valencia C.F. – Honda SAG), another 250cc debutant in Gabor Talmacsi (Balaton Racing Team), last year’s Qatar race winner Mattia Pasini (Team Toth Aprilia) and Alex Debon (Aeroport Castelló-Blusens).
The opening qualifying session of the 2009 FIM MotoGP World Championship season, held earlier in the evening, saw Julián Simón lap ahead of his rivals to take pole.
Returning to the single cylinder class this year and fastest in every 125cc session so far this weekend, Simón’s 2’06.974s best effort towards the end of the session put him on pole, just ahead of his new Bancaja Aspar team-mate Bradley Smith. Englishman Smith missed out on repeating his 2008 Qatar pole position by just 0.133s.
Joining the pace-setting Aspar pair on the front row are Italian rider Andrea Iannone (Ongetta I.S.P.A.) and another Spaniard, Nico Terol (Jack & Jones Team), who were respectively 0.614s and 0.807s down on Simón’s pole time.
The second row of the grid for the first race of the year on Sunday night will feature Sandro Cortese (Ajo Interwetten), last year’s Qatar race-winner Sergio Gadea (Bancaja Aspar), Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) and Pol Espargaró (Derbi Racing Team).
After the three respective warm-up sessions on Sunday evening, the 125cc riders will dispute the first race of the year at 8pm local time, followed by the 250cc race at 9.15pm and the MotoGP spectacular at 11pm.