The Laguna Seca circuit played host to a tremendous qualifying session for the US Grand Prix, following on from the third free practice session. In an extremely tight battle for pole position, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner fought right to the end of the run. In the end, the top spot on the grid went to the Spaniard, who clinched pole by 74 thousandths of a second from the reigning MotoGP World Champion. 0.352 back was Dani Pedrosa, who could not lower his time in the final seconds and will round off the front row tomorrow.
After dominating the free practice sessions on day one, Repsol Honda Team riders Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner were the only riders to sit out the third practice session. Pedrosa had two bikes equipped with the new chassis and new engine (2013 spec) at his disposal, whilst Stoner continued working with a standard engine in one bike and the new motor in his second machine –that with which he will ride tomorrow. With temperatures of 12ºC and the asphalt at less than 20ºC, plus a dense mist covering the hills of the circuit, both riders opted to stay in the pits rather than risk injury in poor visibility. On-track action was limited to a few laps for the rest of the field in the final ten minutes.
In qualifying, the top three in the World Championship standings were quick to take centre stage, setting the early pace. Lorenzo took the initiative first, becoming the opening rider to break the 1’21 mark. Pedrosa immediately responded. Stoner was down in third, improving his feel with the hard tyre. It would only be in the final moments of the run that the grid would be decided.
With the softest available tyre compound on his RC213V and less than two minutes remaining on the clock, Casey Stoner stopped the lap timer in 1’20.628. That put him at the head of the grid, until Jorge Lorenzo made a late bid for pole and dropped 74 thousandths of a second off the Australian’s time. Stoner will start from second, accompanied by Dani Pedrosa on the front row. Pedrosa had begun the session with the soft tyres, and has shown strong pace on hard rubber so far this weekend. He was, unfortunately, unable to improve upon his times late on in the Saturday session.
Tomorrow at 2pm local time –11pm in Europe– the lights will go out for what is sure to be an exciting MotoGP race between the top three riders in the standings, if today is anything to go by.
FP3 – Not Classified
QP – 1:20.906, 32 laps, 116 km.
“I was a little upset at the end of the session as I wasn’t able to improve my lap time, but happy anyway with another front row. We did a big job this afternoon, considering this morning, in my opinion, there was no meaning to go out with such a track and weather conditions. So we had one hour to work with the tyres and set up the new bike that I finally chose for the race. It was an intense and interesting practice; we know what we have to do for tomorrow.
The bike is working well and I’m pretty confident for the race. Let’s see if we have better conditions than today for the warm up tomorrow and we can work on the finer details, although I think we have already a good package”.
FP3 – Not Classified
QP – 1:20.628, 26 laps, 94 km.
“I’m disappointed as I think we definitely had the potential for pole position. We spent most of the session with the hard tyre trying to improve our pace, we’ve been struggling with it all season when the temperatures aren’t high enough to get it working and we had made a few steps and weren’t too far off the pace. Then we put on the soft tyre and unfortunately we never got a clean lap. There was always a CRT bike in the way and considering we’re 3-4 seconds a lap quicker than them, you come up on them pretty quick, no matter how big a gap you give them.
Every lap was spoiled which is very frustrating as I really feel we could have been on pole but we’ll have to settle for where we are. Tyre choice for the race will depend on the weather conditions tomorrow, I think we have the pace and longevity in the tyre for the soft, but if it’s hot then we may have to try and make the hard work”.