Dani Pedrosa took his third pole position of the 2010 season after an extraordinary qualifying session for the Czech MotoGP at Brno on Saturday as he denied rookie Ben Spies, who took his first front row start.
While Pedrosa's key rivals Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden all crashed out, the Honda man, who last started from the front spot at Mugello in June (a race which he went on to win) went on to hold off a spectacular challenge from reigning World Superbike champion Spies – who came within 0.4sec of taking a landmark first pole in the premier class.
It was a breathless end to the session, which had already thrown up a surprise as both Tech 3 Yamaha riders Spies and Colin Edwards appeared at the top of time sheets to break the stranglehold of an intense Lorenzo and Pedrosa duel up until that point. Clearly benefiting from a revised front end introduced this weekend.
Spies' 1m57.4sec had put him fastest with 15 minutes to go, ahead of his resurgent team-mate. But swiftly Lorenzo, then Pedrosa (on a 1m56.859sec) went quicker again. That's when things went completely off script... First Hayden, who was fifth at the time and who had been outpacing his Ducati teammate Casey Stoner, dropped the front-end of his GP10 at the high-speed entry to Turn 3. The Italian machine's front appeared to just let go in to the left-hander, painfully trapping the American's hand on the bars. Hayden, hard as nails, was back in the pits before the session's end though.
While Rossi then moved up to third briefly, Spies re-emerged from the pits determined to prove this was no flash of spirit and once again went fastest on a 1m56.846sec. With that mark to beat Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Rossi all re-emerged from the pits, freshly shod on new tires. But only Pedrosa managed to complete his attempt, as first Lorenzo shot off the track at Turn 11, admitting afterward that he had been taking risks.
Such was the velocity of the championship leader's shunt that his bike ended up atop the tire barriers. No sooner had the dust settled, than Rossi was up on his feet having fallen at the penultimate corner, visibly cursing in an uncharacteristic display of frustration. All this left Pedrosa clear to deliver a lap of 1m56.508sec to finally put the matter beyond doubt, 0.338sec faster than Spies' best effort.
Lorenzo, despite being grounded, ended the session third ahead of a noticeably subdued Stoner, Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso, who completed the top six. Edwards eventually dropped to seventh, with Hayden eighth. Hector Barbera was ninth – another to crash late – while Loris Capirossi completed the top 10 on the sole Suzuki.
Pos Rider Team Time Gap
1. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m56.508s
2. Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha 1m56.846s + 0.338s
3. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m56.865s + 0.357s
4. Casey Stoner Ducati 1m56.868s + 0.360s
5. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m57.059s + 0.551s
6. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m57.117s + 0.609s
7. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m57.222s + 0.714s
8. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m57.635s + 1.127s
9. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 1m57.960s + 1.452s
10. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1m57.981s + 1.473s
11. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m58.089s + 1.581s
12. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 1m58.169s + 1.661s
13. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 1m58.182s + 1.674s
14. Marco Melandri Gresini Honda 1m58.430s + 1.922s
15. Alex de Angelis Interwetten Honda 1m58.522s + 2.014s
16. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 1m58.700s + 2.192s
17. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 1m37.190s + 2.421s