Marco Simoncelli snatched his first ever MotoGP pole position by just 0.016sec from Casey Stoner in the final minute of qualifying in Catalunya.

The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider, embroiled in controversy since his clash with Catalan hero Dani Pedrosa last time at Le Mans, let his riding do the talking as he unseated the seemingly unstoppable Stoner.

Simoncelli - still without a MotoGP podium - saved a near lowside as he tried to go even faster on his final lap, but in the end his previous time stood unbeaten as Stoner didn't improve in the closing stages.

A visibly disappointed Stoner, who won his second race of the year for Repsol Honda at Le Mans, had led every session leading up to qualifying.

Points leader, local star and 2010 winner Jorge Lorenzo put his Yamaha on the outside of the front row in third, 0.315sec from Simoncelli, with team-mate Ben Spies heading row two.

Starting alongside the Texan will be Stoner's team-mate Andrea Dovizioso and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookie Cal Crutchlow. The Englishman continued to impress on his first visit to Catalunya and ran as high as fourth heading into the final ten minutes.

Valentino Rossi just edged out team-mate Nicky Hayden to be the top Ducati rider, in seventh, but was 0.8sec from fellow Italian and friend Simoncelli.

Alvaro Bautista will start his home race from ninth for Rizla Suzuki, with countryman Hector Barbera completing the top ten for Aspar Ducati.

The MotoGP field has been reduced to just 15 riders after Colin Edwards joined Pedrosa on the sidelines. Pedrosa broke a collarbone in the clash with Simoncelli at Le Mans, while Edwards suffered the same injury during Friday practice in Catalunya.

It looked like Karel Abraham might also join the list of non-starters when he was taken to the Medical Centre with a suspected left wrist injury, after a fast fall in the opening minutes of qualifying.

However, the Czech rookie returned to the track and completed a total of 18 laps, although he remained 15th and last.


1. Simoncelli
2. Stoner
3. Lorenzo
4. Spies
5. Dovizioso
6. Crutchlow
7. Rossi
8. Hayden
9. Bautista
10. Barbera
11. Aoyama
12. de Puniet
13. Capirossi
14. Elias
15. Abraham


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