For fourth consecutive pole
As he has done on so many occasions this season, Casey Stoner played the spoiler in today's qualifying session for the Cinzano GP San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, snatching what seemed to be surefire pole for local favourite Valentino Rossi.
With Rossi having left it late to clock his fastest lap of the Misano circuit, something special was required of the 21 year-old Australian if he was to start his fourth consecutive race from pole. The Ducati rider duly obliged by putting down his 1'33.918 lap to become the only man to go round the new track in under 1'34.
Few would have believed that even Stoner could knock Rossi off the top of the tree, and the Italian seemed to be one of the most convinced that he would be starting tomorrow's race from the head of the grid. The Yamaha factory rider pumped his fist in elation as he completed his hot lap, saluting the thousands of supporters to his cause in attendance today, Rossi then completed his in lap at a leisurely pace, watching his rival on the circuit's big screen in disbelief as Stoner subsequently answered his challenge.
The current series leader and the former five-time MotoGP World Champion will be joined on tomorrow's front row by the reigning title holder, as Nicky Hayden put himself on the front row for the second consecutive race. ‘Trick Daddy' gave a late surge onboard his Honda RC212V to establish a prime spot amongst the frontrunners at a tight circuit.
With a lack of practice time due to the cancellation of yesterday's sessions, qualifying tyres were only really used in the final 15 minutes of the afternoon. The rest of the hour was dedicated to race settings, during which Randy de Puniet led the way for a large portion of the proceedings. The Frenchman was also one of the first to put on qualifying rubber, and eventually finished just six hundredths of a second away from a front row start.
John Hopkins and Dani Pedrosa completed a top six made up of five different factories and evenly split between Bridgestone and Michelin.
Spanish veteran Carlos Checa, Chris Vermeulen and Colin Edwards will start from the third line of attack, in what is sure to be an exciting return to Misano in front of an expectant crowd.
DORNA / CAPSIS International