Stoner on pole for Valencia finale.

  Casey Stoner will start the final round of 2009 as he began the season, on pole position, after claiming his third pole of the year during qualifying at Valencia. 

    Fastest in free practice, Stoner pushed his Ducati to the limit with a series of perfectly controlled slides as he dominated the one-hour qualifying session - which he finished with an advantage of 0.263sec and 0.281sec over home Spanish stars Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha). 

    Stoner, who won from pole at Valencia last year, will be fighting for his third race victory in a row on Sunday having been classified second, first and first since his comeback from a three-round break to treat fatigue problems. 

    Newly crowned seven time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi spent much of the session in the lower end of the top six, before making late progress with his factory M1. 

    The Italian took third place with ten minutes to go, but then lost out on a front row start when Pedrosa improved. Rossi qualified 0.666sec behind Stoner, but still won the 2009 BMW Best Qualifier award. The Italian has taken seven poles this year, more than any other rider. 

    Completing a Yamaha three-four-five on the grid will be Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards, who put himself on course to bridge the four-point gap to fifth in the championship Andrea Dovizioso by qualifying five places in front of the factory Honda rider. 

    On the outside of the second row will be fellow American Nicky Hayden, who was the final rider within one-second of team-mate Stoner. 

    Randy de Puniet put on an excellent display for much of the session, but fell from his LCR Honda while holding fourth with 18 minutes to go. The Frenchman then lost further positions to Rossi, Edwards and Hayden and will start from seventh, just in front of Gresini Honda's Toni Elias. 

    2009 World Superbike champion Ben Spies - who had been 15th and 2.239sec from the top in Friday practice, then 12th and 1.377sec on Saturday morning - qualified in a commendable ninth (+1.283sec) for his Yamaha MotoGP race debut. 

    The American languished back in 16th for the first half of the qualifying session, then leapt spectacularly forward to seventh just after the midway point. 

    Rossi: Big question mark for the race. 

    Valentino Rossi claims a 'big question mark' is hanging over his Valencian Grand Prix hopes, after grip problems left him at the tail end of the top six for most of Saturday's qualifying session for the 2009 season finale.

    The Italian, who wrapped up his seventh MotoGP crown last time out in Malaysia, later improved to fourth with the softer tyre option - but was still 0.666sec behind pole sitter Casey Stoner and isn't feeling confident.

    "Today was not the best day for us,” began Rossi. “We haven't found the right setting for the bike yet, we've tried hard but we don't have enough grip yet to allow us to go fast. I have to start on the second row and we have quite a big question mark for tomorrow's race. 

    “At the end of the session I was able to do some better laps with the softer tyre but unfortunately with these conditions we will have to use the harder tyre tomorrow,” he continued. “We will work tonight and again in the morning warm-up and hopefully we can find a way to improve so that we can race as we would like to.”

    “We've got quite a lot of work to do at the moment and we haven't yet been able to find a good solution,” confirmed Fiat Yamaha team manager Davide Brivio. “The problem is that our bike still isn't able to put enough grip on the tyres and so it's a struggle for Valentino to ride like he wants to.”

    But it wasn't all bad news for Rossi on Saturday, since he sealed the 2009 best qualifier award and with it a new BMW road car. “I'm happy about the qualifying award, at least we have one positive thing to take from today!"

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