A stroke of genius was performed by Casey Stoner in qualifying for the Dutch TT, giving the Australian pole for the Saturday race at Assen. Stoner rode on the limit for his hot lap of “The Cathedral” in the afternoon session, claiming his third pole position of the season and shaking off a morning high side. By his side on the start line will be Dani Pedrosa, who improved his setup and was able to take a big step forward on Friday.
Qualifying took place after rain had affected Free Practice 3, falling just before the start of the session. Riding through the slow turn nine of the track for his third lap, Stoner was flung from his Honda RC213V when he opened the throttle, losing rear grip. He suffered a heavy fall, but the Repsol Honda Team rider nonetheless went back out when the track dried midway through.
In the rainy session, Dani Pedrosa rode thirteen laps and recorded the second best time of the meeting at the time: 1’34.522. Casey Stoner completed eight additional laps and was seventh fastest –0.790 off his teammate.
Rain also interrupted qualifying on two occasions. Pedrosa had led the way for a great deal of the session, until the riders went back out after a heavy shower with six minutes left on the clock. Stoner put in his magic lap of 1’33.713, and only Pedrosa was able to go round within the same second. The Spaniard was 0.115 off his teammate in a tight finale, in which current series leader Jorge Lorenzo did enough to join the duo on the front row.
FP3 – 1:34.522, 13 laps, 59 km.
QP – 1:33.828, 19 laps, 86 km.
“We did a very good job in all the practice sessions and I’m happy with qualifying, even though I missed the pole position at the very end. The target was to be on the front row because the first corner here is very close and tight, and to work hard to get a good race pace, I think we did everything well. We improved the feeling with the front tyre a little and I’m really looking forward to confirm this in the race tomorrow. The times are very close again but the key point will be the race pace. I feel good, the bike is working well and we just need to make the correct tyre choice, because the weather can be uncertain like it was in Silverstone.
It looks like the soft tyre gives you a lot of potential but for the race distance we are not 100% sure, especially on the left side which is softer. Here it is important to have good stability out of the corner and with the hard compound you get it, so we will need to wait and see what the conditions are like tomorrow and do the best in the race”.
FP3 – 1:35.312, 7 laps, 32 km.
QP – 1:33.713, 15 laps, 68 km.
“This morning was probably one of my biggest crashes, which is saying something! The crash really knocked the wind out of me, I hurt my head, neck, wrist, knee and shoulder, it was a bad one for sure. The shoulder isn’t too bad, in some of the faster corners it’s tricky but my knee is the worst on the change of direction in the chicane and a few other places. The team did a really great job, they kept their heads down even when I wasn’t riding to my full potential or the bike’s full potential and when we were struggling to get the rear tyre to work, they didn’t give up.
Then when we came back onto the soft rear tyre for the first time since FP1, the bike had much more feeling and we were able to put together a fantastic lap and put it on pole. As far as race pace goes, we’re still struggling and we need to work on this and make some decisions before the race. It’s been a really strange day for us but hopefully we can be competitive tomorrow”.