MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner admitted he was as surprised as anyone to snatch pole position for Saturday's Dutch TT at Assen.

The Repsol Honda rider came into qualifying on the back of a tenth place in FP2 and then 'one of the most painful accidents of his career' in Friday morning's FP3 session.

A sudden rain shower had caused Stoner's morning highside and brief rain flurries were again a factor throughout qualifying.

Stoner didn't trouble the frontrunners for much of the hour, as he continued trying to find a set-up for the harder rear tyre, but his pole challenge came dramatically to life in the closing minutes.

After leaping from ninth to third, Stoner posted pole on his 14th and penultimate lap. Team-mate Dani Pedrosa then closed to within 0.115s, while Yamaha's title leader Jorge Lorenzo forced to settle for third (+0.288s).

"This morning we didn't even get a couple of laps before we had a huge off, one of the biggest in my career and certainly one of the most painful," reflected Stoner.

"The crash really knocked the wind out of me. I hurt my head, neck, wrist, knee and shoulder. It was a bad one for sure.

"The shoulder isn't too bad, in some of the faster corners it's tricky, but my knee is the worst on the change of direction in the chicane and a few other places."

Rather than do the bare minimum in qualifying to rest his injured body, Stoner needed to make the most of the track time available.

"We knew we needed to use this afternoon to get as much data as possible," he explained. "Everybody else is dealing with the hard tyre quite well and there is a good chance we have to use it in the race, but unfortunately we haven't been able to get it working.

"We stuck with it all the way until near the end of qualifying. Then we just thought 'right let's put the soft tyre on and see what we can do'.

"It was certainly a lap that surprised us as much as everyone else. We didn't realise we had that much pace in us because we haven't been able to get the hard tyre working. So the pace is there [on the soft tyre], we just need to make sure we can last the race."

For that reason, Stoner believes further set-up improvements will be needed if he is to fight for victory.

"As far as race pace, we're still struggling and we need to work on this and make some decisions before the race," Stoner confirmed.

In terms of race tyre choice, Bridgestone's Shinichi Yamashita expects "the field to be split fairly evenly between the softer and harder rear slicks, matched with the harder front."

Stoner will start Saturday's grand prix 25 points behind Lorenzo and seeking to halt a three-race winning streak by the Spaniard.


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