Ducati MotoGP Team riders Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden were in competitive form in qualifying practice for the USGP at Laguna Seca today, with the Australian sealing a front row start for tomorrow’s race and the American qualifying on the third row in eighth place – the best grid position of his debut season with the Italian factory so far.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Stoner, who crashed out heavily at the end of the session. The 2007 World Champion is nevertheless confident he will be able to ride tomorrow although he is expecting a gruelling race, not least because of the physical exhaustion he has been suffering in recent weeks. Hayden can also expect a tough battle in an intense mid-pack, with less than half a second separating him from the man in fourth on the grid and three riders within three tenths just behind him.
CASEY STONER (Ducati MotoGP Team) (3rd; 1’21.910)
“To be honest the bike had given us a few warnings in a lot of places around the circuit today and I’m sure there were a lot of other guys in a similar situation. The tyre is quite hard on the right-hand side and needs a couple of laps to warm up properly. Unfortunately on the lap before the crash, in the most important corner for heating that side of the tyre up I was held up by two riders having a disagreement and then I got stuck behind one of them into the next right-hander too. I was wary that the tyre would be cooler than I needed it to be on the next lap so I went into turn three a lot more carefully than normal, but as I closed the gas on the way into the corner the rear just came around. I tried to pick the bike up and go straight into the gravel but it didn’t want to and that was it – it threw me straight up in the air! It hurt when I landed but I thought I’d only winded myself – now it looks like I might have torn something in my groin, which is not the best thing to happen before the race. Anyway, we have a great bike for this track so we’ll see what we can do.”
NICKY HAYDEN – (Ducati MotoGP Team) (8th; 1’22.540)
“I’m happy with that. I know eighth place is nothing to write home about but it’s a big result for us and I’m relieved after yesterday. The data guys did a good job and we made a good step with the mapping this morning that allowed me to come off the corners a lot better. I had a crash at the end of free practice that set us back a little bit but we got it together for qualifying this afternoon and at the end there it looked like I might steal P6, which I would have been real happy with. We slipped back to eighth but considering that we usually lose positions from free practice to qualifying, to make some up today is pleasing. It got pretty gnarly at the end of the session there, a lot of guys were crashing and there were yellow flags everywhere. People thought getting rid of qualifying tyres would make things safer but when grid positions are as important as they are at a circuit like this you’re going to have guys hanging it out for a fast lap on a race tyre, and that ain’t so safe! I don’t remember a dry qualifying session with so much carnage at the end and it’s something we need to look at.”