PEDROSA: FIRST EVER MOTOGP POLE!

Rookie Dani Pedrosa has taken his first ever MotoGP pole position after an exciting, rain-interrupted, qualifying session for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai.

 

Friday’s wet weather had been forecast to continue on Saturday, but cleared overnight; leaving a dry track for final free practice – led by Pedrosa’s fellow rookie Casey Stoner, ahead of Nicky Hayden, Loris Capirossi and Camel Yamaha team-mates Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi (who both set exactly the same time) – with the favourable conditions continuing at the start of this afternoon’s qualifying session.

Into the hour and Stoner’s morning best of 2mins 0.603secs – some 0.893secs from Sete Gibernau’s 2005 pole time on a Movistar Honda – was soon beaten, by the young Australian himself, with Gibernau then leading the field with a 2mins 0.18secs circulation set with ten-minutes gone.

Sete kept his Ducati on top – despite pressure from Pedrosa and Stoner – until a rain shower arrived just before the halfway point, sending the entire 19-rider field straight into the pits. But the rain soon passed and, with 20-minutes remaining, the session effectively ‘restarted’ with qualifying tyres waiting to be used.

 

But just before the rain began, Stoner was thrown from his LCR Honda when his rear wheel suddenly broke away through the left hand final turn. The 20-year-old fortunately escaped any injury in the awkward looking tumble and was able to take part in the ‘restart’ – proving he’d lost none of his speed by knocking Pedrosa from second place with 12-minutes to go.

However, Pedrosa bounced back in style with seven-minutes remaining – setting the first sub two-minute lap of the weekend to take pole position, before surprisingly losing the top spot to Kawasaki’s Shinya Nakano. Colin Edwards, who had led the session just before Pedrosa, then shot back to the top – despite the super soft qualifying tyres causing visible chatter on the Texan’s M1.

With the chequered flag waving, the former World Superbike champion was still on top – but Pedrosa snatched his first ever premier-class pole, albeit two races after Stoner, by a commanding 0.374secs on his very final lap of the afternoon.

The tiny Spaniard was undoubtedly helped by his top-speed enhancing stature, setting an incredible 212.8mph (342.5 km/h) along the huge back straight. But Makoto Tamada and Stoner were both faster (perhaps due to a slipstream) – the pair setting an awesome 213.6mph (343.7km/h) and 213.3mph (343.2km/h) respectively through the speed trap this afternoon.

 

Meanwhile, lining up between Pedrosa and Edwards on the front of Sunday’s grid will be Rizla Suzuki’s John Hopkins, who wrung an unexpectedly impressive dry weather performance from his GSV-R to close to within 0.364secs of Dani – and set an impressive top speed of 337.9km/h.

That bumped Nakano to the head of row two, where he will be joined by championship leader Hayden and long-time pole holder Gibernau, with Stoner eventually settling in seventh alongside Turkish Grand Prix winner Marco Melandri and Kawasaki rookie Randy de Puniet.

Capirossi, currently just 1-point from Hayden, had been fourth fastest before the rain arrived – but was left a disappointing tenth at the end of the session, ahead of Makoto Tamada and the second factory Suzuki of Chris Vermeulen, all within 1.3secs of pole.

But where was Rossi? The world champion had been celebrating his M1′s return to form after setting the pace in both of Friday’s wet sessions – but that verdict looks to have been a little premature, as the Italian was left an unlucky 13th this afternoon after lapping 1.7secs from Pedrosa.

By contrast, the Dunlop riders were looking more competitive in the dry, with Tech 3 Yamaha’s Carlos Checa setting the 14th fastest time.

Sunday’s race day is expected to be dry, but further rain showers can’t be ruled out…

Qualifying:

1. Pedrosa
2. Hopkins
3. Edwards
4. Nakano
5. Hayden
6. Gibernau
7. Stoner
8. Melandri
9. de Puniet
10. Capirossi
11. Tamada
12. Vermeulen
13. Rossi
14. Checa
15. Elias
16. Hofmann
17. Ellison
18. Roberts
19. Cardoso

 

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