Casey Stoner recorded his best ever MotoGP qualifying performance at the Jerez circuit to secure a front row spot for what promises to be a scintillating Spanish Grand Prix tomorrow.
The Ducati Marlboro rider clocked the third fastest time in this
afternoon's qualifying session behind local pair Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, with his team-mate Nicky Hayden set to start from sixteenth on the grid after being unsettled by a dramatic change in the track conditions this afternoon.
After a tentative first day yesterday, Hayden made improvements this morning and was tenth fastest in the final free practice session. However, with a 15ºC increase in track temperature and the arrival of high winds he was unable to maintain his progress in the afternoon, lapping almost half a second slower than he had in the morning.
“This morning certainly went a lot better, I thought we'd found a good way forward with the bike but this afternoon I had a very different feeling. The wind certainly didn't help things but that is the same for everybody. It was very unstable in the fast corners and just not holding the line”, explained the American. “We tried our best to fix it but things just didn't go nearly as smooth as we'd like and we've ended up with a difficult grid position. We'll see what we can do about it tonight. We'll make a few small adjustments to the bike, make a few tweaks to the set-up here and there and see how it goes in warm-up. The only thing is that it's quite cool here in the morning compared to the afternoon and, like today, the feeling with the bike changes a lot without touching a thing. It's going to be tough but we'll keep working hard and hopefully be in shape to put on a good show for these incredible fans tomorrow afternoon.
Stoner also struggled with the tricky conditions but increased his pace and confidence towards the end of the session, eventually closing to within half a second of Lorenzo's pole effort.
"Our bike has never really worked well here in the past but we worked hard during the test and over the past two days to come up with a package that is at least competitive. This morning it felt really good and even though we weren't top of the time sheets I felt confident”, he said. “Unfortunately the wind tends to unsettle our bike and it was pretty hairy out there this afternoon - it certainly didn't help me feel more confident with the bike after the front end issues we had yesterday! I set myself the target of a position on the second row so to get on the front row is an unexpected bonus and it will be really helpful for tomorrow. Until the last couple of years I'd always found it hard to do well in my home race but the Spanish and Italian guys always seem to find an extra gear on their own turf. The support for Dani and Jorge is fantastic, they are both riding well and they'll definitely be competitive tomorrow. It should be great fun!"