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Stoner on pole for Portugal MotoGP race

May 5, 2012 -- Updated 1536 GMT (2336 HKT)
Australian motorcycle rider Casey Stoner is second in the MotoGP standings after two races this season.
Australian motorcycle rider Casey Stoner is second in the MotoGP standings after two races this season.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Casey Stoner will start first on the grid for Sunday's MotoGP race at Estoril
  • World champion sets the fastest time in Saturday's qualifying session
  • Australian heads a front row of teammate Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow
  • Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo is fourth while Valentino Rossi is ninth

(CNN) -- World champion Casey Stoner has given himself the perfect chance to return to the top of the MotoGP standings after qualifying in pole position for Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix.

The Australian set the fastest time of one minute 37.188 seconds at Estoril on Saturday to head off Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and British rider Cal Crutchlow.

It was Stoner's second pole position this season and the 35th of his top-level motorcycling career as he bids to close the four-point gap on series leader Jorge Lorenzo.

The Spaniard failed to qualify on the front row of the grid at the circuit for the first time in his career, with Yamaha's 2010 world champion finishing fourth fastest ahead of American teammate Ben Spies and San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alvaro Bautista.

Crutchlow's Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Andrea Dovizioso headed the third row in seventh ahead of Pramac Racing's Hector Barbera, who finished in front of seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi to be the top Ducati rider.

Rossi's Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden was 10th, with the American failing to follow up his third-place qualifying effort at the last race in Spain.

Stoner won that event in Jerez, having started fifth on the grid, but finished third in the season opener in Qatar despite claiming pole position.

Saturday's session was marred when French rider Randy de Puniet crashed into Colin Edwards, leaving the 38-year-old American with a broken collarbone.

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