Lorenzo blazes into pole position unscathed after morning crash

Yamaha Factory rider Jorge Lorenzo set out into the afternoon qualifying session apparently unfazed following an enormous highside at the end of the morning practice at the Red Bull US Grand Prix on Saturday. The reigning World Champion forgot to hit a switch that overrides the launch control system and engages the traction control during a practice start, thus throwing himself into the air and across the gravel when he put the throttle at full stick. He appeared unaffected however, by setting a fast lap just 15 minutes into qualifying that remained the top lap for nearly the entire session. His 35th and final lap of 1'21.202, which was over half a second faster than his FP3 time, sealed his place at the head of the starting grid at Laguna Seca.

Championship leader Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) made a final push after trailing the frontrunners, posting a time of 1'21.274 to put him in second place on the grid, with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) landing in the final place on the front row with his quickest time of 1'21.385.

The one-hour qualifying session was held under perfect conditions, with the sun shining and track temperatures of 41º Celsius which warranted the field starting out on harder compound tyres. The American riders were the first to switch to softer compounds, hoping for good results on at their home track, with Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) taking provisional pole with 15 minutes remaining to the delight of the crowd. However, with 5 minutes remaining on the clock, Spies lost the front in turn 3, slid across the gravel and wedged his Factory Yamaha under the air fence, damaging it too far to remount it for the last five minutes of the session and knocking him into fourth position.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) posted a time of 1'21.696 to earn him the middle position on the second row. The Italian was followed by countryman Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) whose lap of 1'21.731 put him in the final second row spot.

Ducati Team rider Valentino Rossi made some big improvements in the second half of the session to his GP11.1 machine to make it onto the third row with the seventh fastest time, one second off of the quick lap posted by Lorenzo. Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team ) now has two of the same version of the Desmosedici on his side of the garage and has decided to stick with the GP11 version for the rest of the weekend after he rode both the GP11 and GP11.1 in yesterday’s sessions. He crashed in Rainey curve (turn 9) then ran all the way back to the pits after the crash truck picked up his Ducati. He swiftly re-entered the session to post the ninth fastest time. Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) found some speed, moving up from 13th in the morning to the tenth spot on the grid ahead of his team mate Colin Edwards in eleventh. American wildcard Ben Bostrom on the LCR Honda improved his time over half a second again, though still remains 18th in the timings, one second behind team mate Toni Elias and four seconds off the pole position time.

Other incidents in the qualifying outing were the crashes of Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) and Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing). Bautista lost the front end in turn 3 and had a high speed tumble across the gravel, though was unhurt and immediately up and running to his box, while De Puniet slid off slid off in turn 5 and while he was able to walk away suffered fractures to the L3 and L5 Transverse Processes in his back and a suspected crack to the iliac bone in his hip.