On difficult day for Hayden
Casey Stoner will start the 2009 MotoGP World Championship from pole position in Qatar after a dominant performance in today's single qualifying session, which saw Nicky Hayden suffer a spectacular crash that has left him battered, bruised and
doubtful for his Ducati race debut tomorrow night.
The American is suffering severe pain in his back and after undergoing some initial x-rays at the circuit medical centre, he has been taken to a local hospital for further checks. He also required three stitches in a cut on his chest and a decision on his participation in the race will be made tomorrow.
As he had done in each of the free practice sessions, Stoner set the pace throughout this evening's 45-minute grid shoot-out and rarely looked threatened at the top of the time sheets, leading nearest rival Valentino Rossi by over a second for the majority of the session before the Italian closed the gap to 0.432 seconds at the end.
However, the Australian's first question to his mechanics on his return to parc fermé was not about his own authoritarian performance but about the condition of Hayden, who he had seen left strewn in the gravel at turn eight following a sickening high-side. It was the latest episode in a luckless weekend for the American, who suffered an engine breakdown in today's final free practice.
"It rained a little bit at ‘lunchtime' between the two practice sessions today but it was gone as quickly as it arrived and we were relieved that we were able to ride at all. There is a little bit of dust and dirt that seems to come down with the rain here so we knew the track conditions would be slick and the lap times wouldn't come down much.
The reality was that there was so much dirt out there that the softer compound tyres worked virtually like a qualifier and only lasted for a couple of laps”, he said. “Even on a race tyre it is hard to predict whether your set-up is going to work because the conditions are different every time we go out so we're going to have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. It's impossible to guess what could happen in the race but generally I'm happy with our set-up and the main thing for us at this early stage is to pick up points, keep working on our weaknesses and make sure we don't make the same mistakes as last year by getting to the middle of the season with problems to fix. The whole team are keeping our fingers crossed for Nicky too. Hopefully he can ride tomorrow but the most important thing is that he's okay."