Spanish MotoGP rider Dani Pedrosa of Repsol Honda competes in the third free trainning session ahead of the Catalonia Motorcycle Grand Prix at the racetrack of Montmelo in Barcelona, Spain, 10 June 2017. The Catalan motorcycle Grand Prix will be held on 11 June 2017. (EPA)

Spain: Dani Pedrosa claimed pole position for Sunday’s Catalan MotoGP after a qualifying session to forget for leading championship contenders Maverick Vinales, Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez on Saturday.

Pedrosa banked his second pole of the season with a best time of 1min 43.870 to start ahead of Ducati pair Jorge Lorenzo and Danilo Petrucci on the front row.

“I am very happy today because normally in qualifying I struggle a lot,” said Pedrosa, who is fifth in the championship standings despite failing to finish two of the six races so far this season.

“We were trying a lot of things today because it was an important day and the heat was very high, testing tyres and testing settings.

“We manage to improve, but we hope tomorrow the bike is well for the race.

“At the moment very happy. Second pole of the year is super.”

Pedrosa’s Honda teammate Marquez endured a far more difficult day as he struggled for grip under the baking Spanish sun with track temperatures close to 50 degrees Celsius.

However, the three time world champion still managed to salvage the fourth best time despite crashing twice in qualifying and four times overall on Saturday.

Championship leader Vinales starts down in ninth after having to edge out Yamaha teammate Rossi by fourth hundredths of a second just to qualify for the second session.

That left Rossi 13th fastest as he continues to battle back from chest and stomach injuries that saw him hospitalised in a motocross training accident last month.

Andrea Dovizioso, Vinales’s closest challenger for the title after his win at the Italian Grand Prix last weekend, starts from seventh.

The Yamahas struggles opened the door for Lorenzo to have a rare good day since he controversially left Yamaha behind to join Ducati.

Lorenzo has been outperformed by teammate Dovizioso so far this season as he languishes down in eight in the title race.

However, he is confident of delivering his first win for the Italian team after qualifying on the front row of the grid for the first time this season.

“Today is the first front row with Ducati so I am satisfied,” said Lorenzo.

“I think finally we improve the bike a lot in the free practice four so we have great pace for the race tomorrow.

“Tomorrow for sure will be a very hard race, but little-by-little we are demonstrating some things that show that we are coming (up).”

Petrucci trails Lorenzo by just four points in the championship standings after netting a podium finish on home soil at Mugello last weekend, but believes matching that feat could prove a step too far on Sunday.

“We will see tomorrow, hopefully top five will be possible,” he said.

“I don’t know (about) the podium. It will be very, very difficult.”-- AFP

117 reads