Jorge Lorenzo set himself up to extend his championship lead after grabbing pole position in dominating qualifying yesterday for today's Dutch MotoGP. The Spaniard held off the fierce challenge of Randy de Puniet to take the top spot on the grid for the race in Assen with a fastest lap of 1min 34.515secs. The Spaniard is the overwhelming favourite to triumph today in the continued absence of Valentino Rossi, his Italian teammate, who broke his leg at the Italian Grand Prix last month.
But coming on the back of a dominant display at the British Grand Prix last weekend at Silverstone, where he won by more than seven seconds, Lorenzo is playing down expectations and is targeting just a podium finish from today's race. "We can afford to be very calm because of our lead in the standings but the team and I are still working as hard as we can to keep going at this level; we're not relaxing," he said in his post-qualifying press conference. "I will try to escape [into the lead at the start] but if I can't I will fight for the podium."
De Puniet finished second on his Honda bike, with Casey Stoner, the Australian former world champion, third on a Ducati in a tight qualifying session that saw the top ten within a second of each other. After pushing Stoner off provisional top spot with a seventh lap effort, Lorenzo then had to push his Yamaha to the limit to beat de Puniet's best time. Lorenzo's triumph at Silverstone, his third in five races, took his points tally to an impressive 115 for the season.
Andrea Dovizioso, the Honda rider, is second in the standings on 78 points and Dani Pedrosa, his Spanish teammate, is a further five points back in third place. * Agencies