Ducati Marlboro Team rider Casey Stoner will start tomorrow's season-ending Valencia GP from the front row of the grid after missing out on pole position by a tantalising 0.086 seconds. It is his 12th front-row start from the year's 18 races. Team-mate Loris Capirossi will start from the third row.
The pair will be watched tomorrow by the entire staff of Ducati Corse - more than 100 people - who fly into Valencia tomorrow morning aboard a specially chartered plane. The trip is a thank you for their sterling work which has won the riders', constructors' and teams' MotoGP World Championships.
Champion Stoner, who missed pole at the Malaysian GP two weeks ago by a similarly narrow margin, was the fastest rider here using race tyres in the three pre-qualifying practice sessions. And this afternoon's performance was enough to win the awesome Australian the season-long BMW M qualifying award, for which he receives a BMW M3 Coupe.
Stoner has already won ten races this year and has also been relentlessly impressive in practice and qualifying, topping a remarkable 29 of the 43 practice, qualifying and warm-up sessions since the German and US GPs, where he led all five pre-race sessions at both events.
Capirossi was happy with his day's work, though he was slowed by another rider in his crucial second run on qualifying tires.
Casey Stoner, 2nd fastest, 1m 31.603s, 'I'm pretty happy again, we're on the front row and we've been concentrating on the race setting. I've probably got the record for the most second places in qualifying this year; again we missed out on pole by a few thousandths, it's been like that every time we've nearly been on pole this year. The race set-up is looking pretty good and we're quite happy with race distance on the tires; like this morning we started out with eight laps already on the tires and finished the session with the same set. But we are still trying to get slightly better lap times towards the end, just to make sure we are competitive at the end of the race. We just need to improve the traction a little bit, because the turning and everything else seems fine. And we've still got to decide what rear tire to run, depending on what the weather does. It's nice to win the car - Adriana has already scored it!'
Loris Capirossi, 8th fastest, 1m 32.261s, 'I'm pretty happy because we've set up the bike quite well. We changed the weight distribution slightly to put more weight on the rear for more traction and I could feel the improvement. We have still to decide between two different compound race tires. Maybe we will try the harder tire in warm-up to see if it will work well in the race. Anyway, I'm happy, I was lapping consistently around the 1m 33.5s mark and that's not bad. With my qualifying tires I made a mistake during my first run and I came across a slower rider on the second run. That kind of thing happens, so no problem. The important thing is that we've found a good set-up and I think we can have a good race.'