Champion Stoner sets the pace in Catalunya qualifying

    Australian motorcylist Casey Stoner in action at the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, near Barcelona, on Saturday.

    Story highlights

    • World champion Casey Stoner tops qualifying times for Sunday's Catalunya Grand Prix in Spain
    • Australian Honda rider heads off series leader Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow of Britain
    • American Ben Spies will lead the second row after qualifying fourth ahead of Honda's Dani Pedrosa
    • Seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi back in ninth position for Ducati
    Casey Stoner is comfortable racing in Spain. So much so, the MotoGP world champion used Saturday's qualifying run for the Catalunya Grand Prix as an extended practice session.
    Nonetheless, the Australian still topped the timesheets and will start Sunday's race from the front of the grid. He heading off championship leader Jorge Lorenzo to claim the 36th pole position of his career in motorcycling's elite division.
    "We used the qualifying as an extended practice session as we don't always have enough time to do everything during the 45-minute sessions," said Stoner, who won the race last year before also triumphing at Valencia in November and then at Jerez in April.
    "This morning we did a lot of work with the hard tire, so in the afternoon in these hot conditions, we worked more with the softer one to get a clearer understanding if we can run with it for race distance.
    "We were in and out a lot during the session trying a few different things, hoping to reduce the chatter which is still proving to be a problem. Towards the end of the session we managed to improve it slightly but I think we need to make another step before the race.
    "Tomorrow, for sure tire degradation is going to play a role so we're going to have to wait and see, but I'm happy to start from pole."
    Last month the 26-year-old announced he will quit the sport at the end of this season, then finished third at the last race in Le Mans.
    The Honda rider set the fastest time on Saturday of one minute 41.295 seconds -- the equivalent of 334 kmh.
    Lorenzo, who won in France, clocked 1:41.441 and Spain's 2010 world champion was joined on the front row by another Yamaha rider -- Cal Crutchlow of Britain.
    Lorenzo's American teammate Ben Spies will lead the second row on Sunday after qualifying fourth ahead of Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Italy's Andrea Dovizisio.
    Former world champion Nicky Hayden was seventh, while the veteran American's Ducati teammate Valentino Rossi was ninth.
    Rossi had hinted at a return to the form that won him seven world titles when he finished second in wet conditions at Le Mans, but the Italian was 0.88 seconds off Stoner's pace in the Spanish heat.
    Veteran American Colin Edwards was 14th on his return to racing after a month out with a broken collarbone.
    "It's still a bit tender to touch but when I put my leathers on today I honestly didn't feel it. I don't have any pain, no problem there," the 38-year-old former Superbike world champion said.