Round seven of the FIM MotoGP World Championship is taking place at Assen, Netherlands this weekend and it was 2011 race winner Ben Spies who set the pace early in Thursday’s free practice sessions. While the Factory Yamaha’s looked to the in good position on Thursday and with the rival Repsol Honda team struggling with chatter issues, it was Honda’s Casey Stoner who came out on top in this afternoon’s qualifying session.
After numerous breaks due to showers, the sun reappeared in the final few minutes to allow Stoner, who crashed heavily in the morning practice, to put in a scorching lap in the high 1.33’s to oust Pedrosa into second on the grid. Rounding out the front row is Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, who could not match the Hondas’ pace, and seemed to be struggling with the last sector of the track.
According to Stoner, “This morning was probably one of my biggest crashes, which is saying something! The crash really knocked the wind out of me, I hurt my head, neck, wrist, knee and shoulder, it was a bad one for sure. The shoulder isn’t too bad, in some of the faster corners it’s tricky but my knee is the worst on the change of direction in the chicane and a few other places. The team did a really great job, they kept their heads down even when I wasn’t riding to my full potential or the bike’s full potential and when we were struggling to get the rear tire to work, they didn’t give up. Then when we came back onto the soft rear tire for the first time since FP1, the bike had much more feeling and we were able to put together a fantastic lap and put it on pole. As far as race pace goes, we’re still struggling and we need to work on this and make some decisions before the race. It’s been a really strange day for us but hopefully we can be competitive tomorrow.”
The story of the afternoon was however LCR Honda MotoGP’s rookie Stefan Bradl, who heads the second row in fourth, after putting in his best qualifying display in the premier-class. Alongside him in fifth is Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, who again seems to be not feeling the effects of his fractured left ankle. Sixth place is occupied by yesterday’s pace-setter Ben Spies on board his factory Yamaha, who will be looking to rediscover some of his earlier form for the race tomorrow.
Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso leads the third row in seventh as the last Yamaha on the grid, after failing to improve in the final few minutes of the session. To his right, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista starts in eighth, after he crashed out on his satellite Honda on the final hot lap.
Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden qualified in ninth, in front of teammate Valentino Rossi, rounding out a disappointing qualifying session for the Italian outfit. Top CRT performer was Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet, who put his ART machine in 12th place.