Simoncelli swoops late to claim first Moto GP pole

Marco Simoncelli made a late dash to deprive Casey Stoner of pole position for today's MotoGP at the Catalunya Circuit in Spain. The Australian Stoner had been 0.122sec clear of his nearest challenger, Jorge Lorenzo of Spain, after the morning session, with Simoncelli a further three-tenths back .

But the Italian, whose collision with Dani Pedrosa in the French GP left the Catalan with a broken collarbone, burst through on his San Carlo Honda Gresini in the last 30 seconds of qualifying with a lap of 1min 42.413sec to earn his first pole since graduating from the 250cc class to MotoGP two years ago.

Repsol Honda's Stoner was only 0.016sec behind, with Lorenzo completing the front row in 1:42.728 on his factory Yamaha.

Ben Spies, Lorenzo's American team-mate, narrowly missed out on a front-row position and will join the Italian Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha) on row two.

The Ducati pair Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden had to settle for places on row three, the Italian edging ahead of his American team-mate for the first time all weekend.

The Czech rider Karel Abraham returned after an early crash but finished 15th and last, while Monster Yamaha's Colin Edwards was absent after crashing out in the second practice session and suffering a similar injury to Pedrosa, who has played no part in the weekend.

Edwards underwent successful surgery which saw a metal plate inserted in the injured joint, and his rookie team-mate Crutchlow said: "It's a shame Colin is not here because I can learn a lot from him. He sent the team a text saying he wanted to see me 'kick some ass', so hopefully I can do that for him."

Grid positions

1. M Simoncelli (It) Gresini Honda 1min 42.413sec; 2. C Stoner (Aus) Repsol Honda 1:42.429; 3. J Lorenzo (Sp) Yamaha 1;42.728; 4. B Spies (US) Yamaha 1:42.742; 5. A Dovizioso (It) Repsol Honda 1:42.749; 6. C Crutchlow (GB) Tech 3 Yamaha 1:43.202; 7. V Rossi (It) Ducati 1:43.223; 8. N Hayden (US) Ducati 1:43.228; 9. A Bautista (Sp) Rizla Suzuki 1:43.447; 10. H Barbera (Sp) Aspar Ducati 1:43.656; 11. H Aayama (Japan) Gresini Honda 1:43.734; 12. R de Puniet (Fr) Pramac Ducati 1:43.764; 13. L Capirossi (It) Pramac Ducati 1:44.068; 14. T Elias (Sp) LCR Honda MotoGP Honda 1:44.510; 15. K Abraham (Cze) Ducati 1:45.661.