Casey Stoner takes pole for Italian MotoGP at Mugello

Casey Stoner will start on pole for Sunday's Italian MotoGP at Mugello.

The Australian Honda rider, who leads the championship standings, led home American Ben Spies, the winner of the Dutch MotoGP in Assen last weekend.

In qualifying fastest, the 25-year-old Stoner set a new lap record of one minute 48.034 seconds.

Italian Marco Simoncelli, quickest in practice on Friday, will start from third on the grid, while Britain's Cal Crutchlow qualified in seventh.

It is the fifth pole position of the season for Stoner, who will aim to turn it into his fifth race win this campaign and extend his 28-point lead in the standings.

Stoner's closest overall challenger, defending champion Jorge Lorenzo, appeared on course to keep the pressure on when he set a lap record of 1:48.080 in early practice on Saturday.

But the Spaniard could qualify only fifth, unable to compete with his rival Stoner who went on to post a new record time on his ninth lap during qualifying.

Stoner said: "We made one change on the bike from this morning and it worked out really well.

"To set this time with tyres that had already put in 10 laps is very encouraging for the race."

Yamaha's Spies is also in good spirits for Sunday's race.

"We've got a good bike, but not yet good enough," he said. "Everyone expects a lot of me, I'm aiming for a podium finish."

Fellow-front row occupant Simoncelli, commenting on the rain that fell during qualifying, said: "The conditions were very delicate this afternoon."

Italian Valentino Rossi was one rider affected by the wet conditions as he nursed his Ducati into 12th place, almost two seconds behind Stoner.

Italian MotoGP qualifying times:

1. Casey Stoner (Australia) Honda 1:48.034

2. Ben Spies (US) Yamaha 1:48.479

3. Marco Simoncelli (Italy) Honda 1:48.485

4. Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Honda 1:48.694

5. Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Yamaha 1:48.756

6. Colin Edwards (US) Yamaha 1:48.974

7. Cal Crutchlow (Great Britain) Yamaha 1:49.021

8. Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda 1:49.398

9. Nicky Hayden (US) Ducati 1:49.509

10. Hector Barbera (Spain) Ducati 1:49.663

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