With just the MotoGP class to be run here in the USA, it was Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) who secured pole from Colin Edwards (Yamaha) and third fastest qualifier Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V) in searing heat at this dusty yet undeniably spectacular California track.
Casey STONER (Honda LCR)
Dani PEDROSA(Repsol Honda Team)
It was clear this would be a Honda show from the free training session this morning when Hayden, Pedrosa and Casey Stoner (LCR Honda RC211V) were fastest during that hour, with five Honda men in the top five places. This final hour of timed qualifying would merely confirm the superiority of the RC211V and its riders here in Germany.
This is now Dani's fourth pole of the season making him the best qualifier in the premier class so far - and all in his rookie year. That he has also produced two wins from those poles bodes well for the race. But he's fallen here this weekend in his efforts to tame this bumpy track.
Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V) qualified sixth fastest, Stoner will start from eighth on the grid, with Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) tenth fastest and the injured Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V) managing the 16th best time.
Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) was the fastest man on track during the opening minutes before Loris Capirossi (Ducati) levered the Japanese off pole with a time of 1m 23.246 seconds. Then at the halfway point Nakano pulled out a time of 1m 22.772s to snatch pole back from the Italian.
Elias, riding for the first time since breaking a shoulder in Holland, was unlucky today. He was forced to ride his number two bike after problems with his first choice machine and those two troubles - lack of fitness and no number one bike for qualifiers - hampered his progress here.
With 20 minutes of the session remaining, Melandri had put himself on the front row, before Sete Gibernau (Ducati), another rider still suffering the effects of a crash with a broken collarbone, put his machine on the front row as second fastest man.
Riders are opting to use qualifying rubber earlier in these timed sessions, either to make best use of a relatively traffic-free track, or to put a marker lap time down, in case track conditions deteriorate in any way towards the end of the hour. The fluctuations today suggest tyre choice for Sunday will be doubly critical.
Stoner was a rider who went early with a qualifying tyre taking pole with a 1m 22.588s lap before Pedrosa relieved him of that number one slot with a 1m 22.521 tour with a full 14 minutes remaining. Nakano then topped that with 1m 22.273s time.
As the final 10 minutes approached the order was Nakano, Pedrosa, Gibernau on the front row, then Melandri, Stoner and Hayden making up row two. As Hayden then moved up to third, less than 0.2 seconds covered the top five riders. This was always going to be close.
But Dani had the measure of this sinuous track. He showed it in the final five minutes with a blisteringly quick lap of 1m 21.815s to take pole. It looked highly likely then that this would be a Repsol Honda benefit with Nicky second on the grid. But that was to reckon without Roberts.
The 2000 premier class World Champion has shown this season just what a talent the front of the grid has been missing. Now with Honda power, he has shone again and when he fired his 211V-engined KR machine to a 1m 21.907s lap to claim second fastest time and push Capirossi onto row three, it was no longer a surprise, after his podium in Catalunya.
Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) could only manage the 11th fastest time, more than a second shy of Dani's pole mark.
Dani said, "I'm happy to get on pole position but the most important thing really was to get on the front row because the track is very tight at the beginning and there are only two or three passing points here. I'm fine after the crash this morning, but the bike was not so lucky. The mechanics worked very hard through lunch to have the bike ready for qualifying and first of all this afternoon I just tried to run-in the bike and check everything. Then I pushed harder and my lap time was good."
"When a lap looks slow and easy," said Kenny. "It's usually fast. The bike is coming along. We have had no test to work on improving it, just in trying a few different settings, mainly riding position and to try and get the bike to work better on qualifying tyres. The bike felt well balanced. I could have tried to get more out of it if I had pushed harder but I'm more than happy and the front row is a definite bonus. I have to get a good start and try to stay with the top Honda guys."
Nicky said, "I'm happy to be on the front row and this is the best I've qualified for a while, so it's been positive. We've been close out of the gate and we haven't had to make a lot of big changes to the set-up, we've just been sweetening it up, and I think we've got a pretty strong package this weekend. It's been one of the better weekends so far this year. We'll try and find a little extra pace in the warm-up and then I'm looking forward to a dogfight tomorrow in the race."
Melandri, sixth fastest, said, "I'm very satisfied. I got into a good rhythm and I'm confident for the race. I'm happy being on the second row because the front two rows were the objective here. The bike is working well and Honda has a good base setting for us here. My physical condition has improved a lot and so many left turns here are good for my right shoulder."
Stoner, who qualified eighth fastest, said, "I'm using the update chassis and it feels really good. The team had to change most of the settings from the standard RCV, but the front-end feels really positive and on my first qualifying run it was very good. Then we changed to a different rear tyre and it started to push the front on the second run. The race will be very difficult from row two as there aren't many places to overtake."
Tamada said, "We're just a little better today than yesterday. We've been trying some things on the suspension, working with different springs. Now my capacity to control front-end slides has improved and I am getting more confident with the bike. Tomorrow in the warm-up we'll try some different rear tyres because we have to be ready for different track temperatures. The track was very hot today."
Elias said, I'm very tired and suffering a lot now. I'm really starting to feel the effect of these four sessions, but it's important for me to be back on the track. My target for tomorrow is just to finish the race."
In the 250cc class Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia) scored his seventh pole of the season here, Yuki Takahashi (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) qualified second fastest, just 0.078 seconds shy of Lorenzo's time. Hector Barbera and Roberto Locatelli (both Aprilia) qualified third and fourth fastest.
Andrea Dovizioso (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW), the current overall points leader could do no better than eighth fastest, just less than half a second away from the pole time.
Shuhei Aoyama (Repsol Honda RS250RW) qualified tenth fastest while his team-mate Martin Cardenas (Repsol Honda RS250RW) managed the 16th fastest time.
Takahashi said, "I'm surprised about today's last lap. The final part of the qualifying session has been difficult, because I was in the middle of a group of riders and I couldn't push as I would have liked. This morning we found a good set-up, but it will be important to make a good start because it's difficult to overtake here."
Dovi said, "I'm not happy about my position on tomorrow's grid, but we made a step forward compared to yesterday. My pace is good, and more or less at the same level as my rivals so this makes me think positively. I don't like this track but now I feel more confident compared to yesterday and there aren't so many riders faster than me."
Lukas Pesek (Derbi) 125cc secured his second pole position of the season so far with a lap of 1m 27.064 seconds. The Czech rider will line up with series points leader Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) alongside him as second fastest qualifier, Mattia Pasini (Aprilia) third, and Mika Kallio (KTM) completing the front row.
Fabrizio Lai (Seedorf Racing Honda RS125R) is the best Honda qualifier here in sixth place on row two, while Gabor Talmacsi (Humangest Honda RS125R) managed the seventh fastest time affording the Hungarian a start from the second row also. Both, however, are more than 0.8 seconds off the pole time.
The session was stopped in the final seconds when a three-bike crash at the bottom of the steeply downhill penultimate turn left debris on track and stricken riders in the run-off area. This left reigning World Champion Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) unable to improve on a time of 1m 28.215 seconds - only good enough for 13th place on the grid.
Bradley Smith (Repsol Honda RS125R), who scored his first points at Donington Park two weeks ago, qualified 14th fastest, only 0.077 seconds shy of Luthi's time. Sandro Cortese (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) qualified 11th fastest and will start from row three in tomorrow's 27-lap race.
Lai said, "The bike is OK and I like the track. I made the lap time without a slipstream but it's not enough. I'm sixth and eight tenth of a second from the poleman - a lot on this track. For the race it's important to have a good and constant pace. I hope tomorrow won't be too hot, we are the last to race and Honda engine suffers more than the Aprilia and KTM in the heat. And tyre choice will be very important."
Talmacsi said, "This is a tough track and it's not easy to find the best chassis settings. We've made some steps forward compared to yesterday, but still I am slow turning-in and the bike feels heavy and slippery. I struggled in the first corner, while in some points, the track is bumpy and this complicates the situation. Anyway, I'm happy and if we can make a further improvement during tomorrow's warm up, I think I can do a good race."
Cortese said, "I am very happy now. We had some front-end chatter problems early in the qualifying session, but we changed the suspension settings and tyres and it's better. In fact even with the chatter I was really fast from the beginning. The engine is really good and I feel I will have a good race - if I get a good start."
Luthi said, "Not good - but a little better than yesterday. I was following Bautista on my fast lap but going into a slow corner, I started to get front wheel chatter, and he was away. We have to fix this tonight because it'll be very difficult to race with this problem. The engine is fine - all we had to do was to make small changes to the gearbox. We'll see what we're able to do tomorrow."
Casey STONER (Honda LCR)
Marco Melandri(Fortuna Honda)
Kenny Roberts Jnr, KR Honda: 3rd.
"I feel a heck of a lot better on race tires, because I know we're all on the same stuff. It's hard in the qualifying session to know who's on what at what time and what fuel levels and stuff. As far as race set-up goes, we'll be alright. And the most important thing is starting from the front row. On the qualifiers I struggled. I just struggled mentally. I was overriding it. I think we all struggled. I think maybe we didn't have the right combination for qualifying tires. I said yesterday I'd be happy with the front row; I would have been happier with the front row if I would have been in the groove easier and crossed the line and gone, 'OK, I made a tiny mistake here and there, not like out of control.' Colin (Edwards) felt the same. Just the nature with today with the weather and the circuit."
Team owner Kenny Roberts:
"I thought he'd get pole, but we have struggled with qualifiers all year. It's nothing really new for us. You get a short window to try it. It's just one of those things that we've got to keep working at. Race pace, we're right there, better than everybody in our opinion. but when you start throwing qualifiers and bending it over to touch the ground and gassing it, we're still not there yet. We're still on the front row. But we were on the front row in Barcelona, so now we're getting greedy. We want to be the first one on the front row. But it's real important here right now. I think the passing's going to be really pretty tough."
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 4th.
"I think today went ok and my position is quite good, though the conditions were strange this afternoon. We couldn't really work on choosing a race tyre as usual this afternoon because it was so slippery and there was something strange about the grip - perhaps because it was so hot. The lap times were much slower. Even with the qualifying tyre I couldn't improve on this morning's time. However, I think the position is quite good, so let's see if I can get a great start because until this afternoon everything was quite good. In free practice one, two and three everything was just about perfect."
Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda: 6th.
"I'd have liked to have been on the front row for sure and my split times were quite good this afternoon. My ideal time had me in second place, but I just didn't put one clean lap together and on my last lap I had to pass someone. The bottom line is that I've struggled a little bit all weekend and I'm not that comfortable in some parts of the track. I can get one of two quick laps here or there, it's the consistency I missing at the moment. But tomorrow's when it counts and I'm excited about the race. If we can make a few adjustments overnight we'll come in here ready and I'll be looking to get an awesome start and just give it all I've got. It's going to be a tough one no doubt, but I feel like I'm a stronger rider than last year so I'm looking forward to it."
Casey Stoner, LCR Honda: 7th.
"Not much to say really. I put in some really good laps on race tyres. But when I put in the qualifying tyres everything changed and I'm not to happy running qualifiers. We tried a few combinations but I was not comfortable them, like a lot of riders here. The engine is always good so I have no problems there. We just have to sort out the chassis to cope with the bumps round this place is but we have a pretty good idea of what we need to do. There is so much chatter round here that I have had to tape up my hands to try and stop them from blistering up!"
Marco Melandri, Fortuna Honda: 9th.
"This morning we worked a lot on the suspension set up of the bike and it was quite good and I felt comfortable on the bike. But in the qualifying session I got something in my eyes that made them water and I had problems seeing where I was going. From that moment on everything seemed to go wrong and the settings we used did not feel good at all. We will go back to the set up we had this morning and I am confident that they will work in the race."
Toni Elias, Fortuna Honda: 12th.
"The higher temperatures for qualifying this afternoon changed the condition of the asphalt a lot. I suffered from a lack of traction and was slightly slower on qualifying tyres than I was on race tyres this morning. The pain from my injured shoulder is quite strong and I will start the race with some medicine to dull the pain and see how it goes."
Makoto Tamada, Konica Minolta Honda: 14th.
"Basically we are running the same bike set up as we did at Donington Park and the Sachsenring with the 16.5 inch tyres. I did not get the best out of my qualifying tyres but we have a good race set up, I think I was about seventh on race set up at one point. We have a good have been working on is the suspension to get the bike to work over the bumpy track and we have a few little things to do in the warm. I was very fast in the first two sections today. My knee is still giving me a lot of pain but I will be OK for the race.