Lorenzo: Record-Breaking Pole at Motegi MotoGP

2012 Motegi MotoGP Qualifying Results

When Friday’s practice sessions wrapped up for the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan at Twin Ring Motegi, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was quickest ahead of Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, the current MotoGP points leader.

Pedrosa, who trails Lorenzo by 33 points after 14 of 18 rounds, continued the dominance at the third and final practice session Saturday morning, the RC213V rider posted a 1:45.792, which was again below the circuit record he set last year en route to the win (1:46.090). As usual, trailing Pedrosa was Lorenzo, the two riders continuing their season-long fight.

But during the final minutes of qualifying, it was Lorenzo who would lay down the top lap – a 1:44.969, which became a new track record at Motegi. The pole was a historical one for Lorenzo, his sixth this season and 50th of his career. Joining Lorenzo on the front row will be Pedrosa and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow.

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “I’ve been really fast all weekend with a very good pace but in qualifying, ten minutes to the end I thought I was making a very good lap but I was in sixth position! I didn’t understand how the other riders were going so fast. I needed to push a bit more, in the second to last lap I made a mistake so in the last lap I had my last chance. I made it so I’m very happy but of course the important thing is the race tomorrow.”

Pedrosa, who experienced chatter problems aboard his RC213V, continually posted quick laps during qualifying, but would finish 0.246 of a second behind Lorenzo.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP) says: “In the end I didn’t know the lap times of the others and I was just pushing as hard as I could to get a place on the front row of the grid because on my last exit I was eighth. I had many problems with chattering in qualifying and we still don’t know why. Everything was OK during the free practices but this afternoon, it was hard to do the lap time.

“Finally the second place is good enough and I hope we can avoid this chattering in the race tomorrow. The key point will be to choose the correct rear tire and be consistent for the whole race because the pace will be fast.”

Qualifying third, Crutchlow took his seventh front-row start of 2012 MotoGP at Motegi. He almost crashed during the end of the hour-long session, reporting unusual vibrations on the YZR-M1, which his team is hoping to resolve ahead of Sunday’s GP.

Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “I am really happy to be on the front row again and I have to say a big thanks to my Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew because they did an amazing job to improve the bike from yesterday. In the first two practice sessions I was struggling just to make it inside the top 10 and today I was fighting for pole position, so my team did a great job.

“I’m actually a bit disappointed not to get my first pole position because I felt today was a good opportunity to get it. I was fast right from the start of the session and I felt much more confident with the hard rear tire, so that is a big bonus for the race. To be honest though I am not sure whether to race the hard or the soft rear tire. I haven’t made a final decision yet and maybe I’ll have to flip a coin.

“The pleasing aspect today is that I am not only fast but I’m also consistent, so hopefully I’ll be in the podium fight tomorrow, which would be a great way to start this busy period to the end of the Championship. It is great to see the YZR-M1 so competitive here in Japan, so hopefully all four of us can put on a good show for the Yamaha fans tomorrow.”

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies heads up the second row, though he suffered a crash during the final seconds of qualifying. Joining Spies on the second row will be San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Andrea Dovizioso. The Italian suffered overheated brakes on his YZR-M1, causing him to pit for some time.

In seventh and on top of the third row is the returning Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner. The Australian is still struggling with injury, not allowing him to lean as much as needed for optimal lap times. Stoner, who usually started from the front row, was 0.776 of a second behind Lorenzo.

Joining Stoner on the third row is LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, the final rider to post within a second of Lorenzo. Bradl also suffered a crash at the beginning of qualifying, but was able to rejoin the 22-rider grid towards the end of qualifying. Taking the final spot on the third row was Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi. Rounding out the top 10 was Rossi’s teammate, Nicky Hayden.

Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró took top CRT spot in 13th, consolidating the form he has shown all weekend, MotoGP says.

MotoGP reports that there were numerous other crashes throughout the session as San Carlo’s Michele Pirro dropped his bike early on, with Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison and Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham also following suit at the end of the session. Fortunately none of the riders were seriously hurt in the crashes.

The riders will return to Motegi Sunday for the Japanese Grand Prix, round 15 of 18 in the 2012 MotoGP Championship. For a preview of the race, including TV times, click here.

2012 Motegi MotoGP Qualifying Results:

Pos.Num.RiderNationTeamBikeKm/hTimeGap 1st/Prev.
1.99Jorge LORENZOSPAYamaha Factory RacingYamaha302.41’44.969
2.26Dani PEDROSASPARepsol Honda TeamHonda306.91’45.2150.246 / 0.246
3.35Cal CRUTCHLOWGBRMonster Yamaha Tech 3Yamaha304.71’45.2570.288 / 0.042
4.11Ben SPIESUSAYamaha Factory RacingYamaha302.51’45.3360.367 / 0.079
5.19Alvaro BAUTISTASPASan Carlo Honda GresiniHonda303.71’45.4810.512 / 0.145
6.4Andrea DOVIZIOSOITAMonster Yamaha Tech 3Yamaha302.91’45.6120.643 / 0.131
7.1Casey STONERAUSRepsol Honda TeamHonda304.01’45.7450.776 / 0.133
8.6Stefan BRADLGERLCR Honda MotoGPHonda309.11’45.8480.879 / 0.103
9.46Valentino ROSSIITADucati TeamDucati302.61’45.9761.007 / 0.128
10.69Nicky HAYDENUSADucati TeamDucati301.81’46.4611.492 / 0.485
11.21Katsuyuki NAKASUGAJPNYamaha YSP Racing TeamYamaha303.01’46.7801.811 / 0.319
12.8Hector BARBERASPAPramac Racing TeamDucati305.21’46.8811.912 / 0.101
13.41Aleix ESPARGAROSPAPower Electronics AsparART286.51’47.3832.414 / 0.502
14.14Randy DE PUNIETFRAPower Electronics AsparART288.71’47.5812.612 / 0.198
15.17Karel ABRAHAMCZECardion AB MotoracingDucati303.21’47.7912.822 / 0.210
16.5Colin EDWARDSUSANGM Mobile Forward RacingSuter287.21’48.1253.156 / 0.334
17.68Yonny HERNANDEZCOLAvintia BlusensBQR284.71’48.5133.544 / 0.388
18.51Michele PIRROITASan Carlo Honda GresiniFTR283.61’48.6533.684 / 0.140
19.9Danilo PETRUCCIITACame IodaRacing ProjectIoda-Suter283.61’48.8313.862 / 0.178
20.77James ELLISONGBRPaul Bird MotorsportART286.51’49.0234.054 / 0.192
21.84Roberto ROLFOITASpeed MasterART282.91’49.1834.214 / 0.160
22.22Ivan SILVASPAAvintia BlusensBQR283.81’49.8314.862 / 0.648

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One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007 and is currently Editor at Large at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of 365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).