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Stoner claims pole position in Qatar

Casey Stoner takes pole position for the Qatar MotoGP, the first round of the 2011 season.
Casey Stoner will start his first race for Repsol Honda from pole position, after emerging triumphant from a private duel with team-mate Dani Pedrosa during Saturday's qualifying session in Qatar.

Stoner and Pedrosa had been first and second respectively during all three practice sessions and, although beaten once again, Pedrosa put up stern opposition during qualifying.

Provisional pole belonged exclusively to the Repsol riders from the fifth minute of the one-hour session onwards - Stoner bringing the lap times into the 1min 54sec for the first time this weekend just before the halfway mark, with Pedrosa taking over at the top with 20 minutes to go.

Stoner soon responded, but needed a further improvement in the closing minutes to stay 0.205sec in front of Pedrosa at the chequered flag.

For Stoner it was his fourth pole at Qatar, following his first ever MotoGP pole for LCR Honda in 2006 and then two further first-place starts for Ducati in 2009 and 2010.

Pedrosa meanwhile insisted he was just pleased to claim his first front row start in any class at Losail.

Jorge Lorenzo will start his first race as reigning world champion from the outside of the front row in third. The Factory Yamaha rider was delighted with his lap time, but still 0.8sec from Stoner.

Gresini Honda's Marco Simoncelli came within 0.041sec of making it a Honda 1-2-3 as he split the factory M1s, with Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies qualifying in fifth and the last rider within one-second of Stoner.

Two stand-out performances from satellite riders came from Hector Barbera and Cal Crutchlow, who qualified either side of third Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso.

Barbera, starting his second MotoGP season, was once again the top Ducati rider, in sixth place (+1.086sec) for Aspar, while Crutchlow shunned the pain from his injured finger to qualify in eighth place on his grand prix debut.

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