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Hayden clinches first pole for home Grand Prix

Hayden clinches first pole for home Grand Prix

Hayden clinches first pole for home Grand Prix

Nicky Hayden will start the Red Bull US Grand Prix from the front of the grid on Sunday after setting his first ever MotoGP pole position in today's sell-out qualifying practice at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Honda rider dominated the morning free practice and set a scorching pace throughout the afternoon before knocking over a second off his best time with a stunning late lap of 1'22.670.

"It's a great feeling after all these years to be first when it counts," said Hayden. "It's been a frustrating couple of years for me because I was used to being on pole and winning races before I arrived in MotoGP and since then it hasn't happened. The weekend just keeps getting better and better and it's great to give my people something to cheer about, I just hope it keeps going that way tomorrow. The whole team has done a great job and the bike feels so good. I'm not really worried about the race - I just want to enjoy it."

Hayden's effort left the rest of the field reeling, with reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi the only rider able to get close in the final stages but still some 0.354 seconds adrift of the 2003 MotoGP Rookie of the Year. Whilst Rossi's late effort secured a place on the front row after spending much of the session outside the top five positions, Alex Barros made a similar charge to clinch third at the expense of his Honda team-mate Troy Bayliss. However, fourth place for Bayliss represents his best grid position so far this season and the Australian will start from the second row for the first time since the final race of 2004 at Valencia, when he also finished on the podium.

Colin Edwards will start alongside Bayliss in fifth place as the pair chase a repeat of previous victories here in the World Superbike series, with the American also looking to score consecutive podium finishes for the first time in his MotoGP career after finishing third in the last round at Assen. John Hopkins joins Edwards and Hayden as the third home rider to qualify on the front two rows after lapping sixth fastest on the Suzuki.

With Marco Melandri qualifying eleventh fastest after crashing for the second time this weekend in this afternoon's qualifying practice, Max Biaggi will be aiming to close the gap to second place in the championship as he starts from seventh. The Italian currently lies twenty points adrift of his compatriot and a further 63 points behind series leader Rossi.

Biaggi is joined on the third row of the grid by Ducati's Carlos Checa and Honda rider Makoto Tamada, who was the fastest rider other than Rossi to have no previous race experience at this circuit - despite the fact that he underwent an arm operation just nine days ago. Shinya Nakano completed the top ten ahead of Melandri, Kenny Roberts and Sete Gibernau, whilst Loris Capirossi recovered from a bout of gastroenteritis to qualify fourteenth.


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