Valentino Rossi will start his quest for a 100th Grand Prix victory from pole position in The Netherlands on Saturday afternoon, after taking the top spot for the Alice TT Assen with a 1’36.025 lap.
Although it is Rossi’s second pole position of 2009, it is also the first time that he has topped a qualifying practice timesheet this season. His previous pole came courtesy of combined free practice times when the QP session in Japan was cancelled due to rainfall.
The Fiat Yamaha rider was trailed by Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who was less than a tenth of a second slower than the Italian’s hot lap. Pedrosa returns to the front row after two races away.
Jorge Lorenzo continued his 100% record of front line starts with a time 0.368s down on teammate Rossi’s marker, and the Spaniard made a final push for pole in the closing stages of the session. He is now the only rider to have qualified on the front row for every race of the 2009 season to date, having relegated Casey Stoner to fourth place today.
Although Stoner had crossed the line with enough time to perform another hot lap, the Australian sat up due to traffic on-track and opted against a further attempt at pole. Problems with grip had plagued the Ducati Marlboro rider throughout the morning and afternoon sessions, and he had another wobble that left him obviously agitated.
Colin Edwards once again qualified on the second row after leading the session for a small period of time, alongside another veteran in Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi.
The only crash in the session came from Niccolò Canepa, the Pramac Racing rookie escaping uninjured.
A second consecutive 250cc pole went to Hector Barberá, as the PepeWorld rider took his sixth career top spot with a 1’40.019 lap. Barberá was just over a tenth of a second speedier than the two riders above him in the overall standings, with Scot Racing man Hiroshi Aoyama and Mapfre Aspar’s Álvaro Bautista both coming close to the front marker on the grid.
Joining the trio on the front row is reigning 250cc World Champion Marco Simoncelli, concluding a first row quartet sure to provide some thrills. The second line is also packed with talent, as Balatonring stand-in Aleix Espargaró continued his impressive one-off showing to head Alex Debón, Raffaele de Rosa and Mattia Pasini.
There were fewer crashes in the afternoon run than in the morning session, but a fall for Stevie Bonsey was notable for its flinging the American from his Aprilia machine and onto the asphalt. Bonsey is expected to ride tomorrow despite the incident.
Whilst all eyes were on the established names putting in their final hot laps in 125cc qualifying, Ajo Interwetten’s Sandro Cortese snuck out from behind Julián Simón’s Aprilia and onto the first grid spot for the first pole position of his career.
The German had been outside the front two rows with his previous best time, but as the clock ran down he pulled a 1’45.430 lap out of the hat to relegate Simón to second place. Both were on flying laps in the final seconds of the session, knocking Jack&Jones WRB’s Nico Terol down to third in a front row split by just over two-tenths of a second.
Another German, Stefan Bradl, joins Cortese on the front row for the Alice TT Assen, leaving two of the series’ title contenders aiming for victory from the second line. Bradley Smith and Andrea Iannone – winner of the last race in Barcelona – are accompanied by a rejuvenated Simone Corsi and Spaniard Pol Espargaró.