It was a battle between JORGE LORENZO/Fiat Yamaha and CASEY STONER/Ducati for MotoGP qualifying Saturday afternoon at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, each leading for a long time. Near the end of the session they took turns besting each others laps, and it was down to the wire before Lorenzo took the pole with a lap of 1:20.978. It was his fifth straight MotoGP pole, and he leads the BMW M Award MotoGP Best Qualifier standings. The Spaniard was the only rider of the session or all weekend to make it into the twenties, and it was on his second to last lap.

Lorenzo said “It is not so important the pole position, but it is good. The less positions you can lose at the start of a race, it’s much better.”

Stoner’s best lap was 1:21.169, and he will start second. He said “It was more fun than last week. We definitely did better. I was happy to get the time I did, but had hoped to be a bit quicker. I am definitely happy to be on the front row.

“We lost some time changing a setting, tried a few things, which weren’t working. We wasted a little bit of time there. We went faster than in the morning, and I think we could go even faster.”

Third was ANDREA DOVIZIOSO/Repsol Honda.

The second row consists of DANI PEDROSA/Repsol Honda, Rookie American BEN SPIES/Monster Yamaha Tech 3, and VALENTINO ROSSI/Fiat Yamaha. Pedrosa said “I think we are fast and that we can improve for the race.”

Americans NICKY HAYDEN/Ducati and COLIN EDWARDS/Monster Yamaha Tech 3 start seventh and eighth, respectively.

Rookie for the weekend, American ROGER LEE HAYDEN pulled off at the top of the Corkscrew and then went back on course. He ran almost as many laps as the other 17 riders, but ended up in last place.

Again, MIKA KALIO/Pramac Racing Ducati went down, this time harder, in the middle of the Corkscrew. He is alright.

The weather was sunny and dry – 77 degrees F/25C.

There is still no decision on Suzuki’s request for an engine waiver – for another engine to supplement the mandated six sealed engines per season. The unanimous decision has to come from the Grand Prix Commission, and they are scheduled to meet in two weeks at Brno. The Commission is comprised of an alphabet soup of organizations – FIM, DORNA, IRTA and MSMA

Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S. has extended its sponsorship of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix and as Official Motorcycle of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The MotoGP sponsorship extension coincides with the DORNA extension for the race. The new Yamaha extension includes Yamaha Parts an Accessories, specifically the Yanalube and GYTR brands.

According to three-time Motorcycle World Champion, KENNY ROBERTS, Yamaha’s sponsorship at the 53-year old race track goes back at least to the seventies, and probably as early as 1948. Yamaha stepped up to the plate with $2 million in 2005 for track upgrades necessary to meet FIM specifications, and another $7 million the next year for further FIM requested track safety modifications and improvements.

The cost to put on a single MotoGP is $10 million, according to GILL CAMPBELL, CEO/general manager for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. As the track is a 501 C(4) not for profit facility, the only income to stage the event comes from sales – tickets, vendors and hospitality.

The track has thirty paid employees, and approximately 200 SCRAMP (Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula) volunteers including its Board, Directors and Assistant Directors. Augmenting this at events are thousands of clubs, such as Scouts, Pacific Grove Fire, and Disabled American Vererans, who help out in a wide variety of positions. At the end of the year, all net proceeds are donated to all those volunteer groups.

As for any changes in the support groups, such as other FIM classes in addition to/in lieu of the current AMA groups, Campbell said that depends on dollars, logistics and scheduling. “Stay tuned.”